From building some of the first snowboards nearly thirty-five years ago, to ending production almost ten years ago, Chuck Barfoot has seen a lot. He’s been around long enough to know the difference between what makes a good board, what makes a mediocre board, and what makes a great board. In re-entering the world of snowboard manufacturing, one thing is certain, Chuck Barfoot is fully committed to crafting great boards.
Beginning in the 2013-14 season, we will once again have the opportunity to ride brand new Barfoot snowboards. The boards will be produced in small batches, not in lots of 10,000, to ensure quality. The boards will also be hand made right here in the USA, in the factory Chuck’s board-building partner, Ernie Delost, owns in San Diego, California.
The benefits of producing at a factory close to home are many, but I say it really comes down to just two, quality and control. Barfoot described it to me in terms of red tape; “We can be building that board and have a few people go, ‘You know what? We’d like to have the flex changed a little.’ And we are able to make that change within minutes, versus months and months of people freaking out. There’s a lot less red tape because it’s Ernie and I making decisions and we can make them on the spot.”
To many, this will come as a relief. A lot of riders (and skiers) out there are simply fed up with cheaply produced (but still expensive) boards and skis that are made in a factory several thousands of miles away, oftentimes in China. But those are big brands that pump out dozens of models of boards, and sell thousands of them worldwide. Luckily for us, that’s just not the Barfoot way.
Next year, Barfoot will have two boards available to the public. One is a cambered, all-mountain slayer, and the other is a rocker-camber hybrid freestyle board. The all-mountain board will feature a low profile camber and a longer than standard transition between the camber and the nose and tail lift. The freestyle board will feature a slight rocker between the feet, a little bit of camber underfoot, and be coupled with an early-rise nose and tail. Barfoot has two design features for us that will really set these boards apart.
First, every board at every length will come in a narrow, standard, and extra wide width. Barfoot explained why; “So that we can have people who have a size thirteen versus a size seven, but still ride a 158, ride the same board. They can have a board that fits them, rather than have something that they have to wrestle with, or a board with toe and heel drag.”
Second, Barfoot’s binding inserts will feature an extended width design. This pattern will allow for a rider’s bindings to be mounted with two to three extra inches of variation, which leads to a board that fits each rider better. Barfoot explained his reasoning to me again; “Because you know, if someone has a 20-inch stance, someone has a 22-inch stance, someone has a 24 inch stance, they can all ride that same board. It offers a lot of adjustability for your stance, more so than other boards that are on the market.” This will also let riders push their bindings way-way back for powder days and re-center them for days when the snow is not as deep.
I tried to get Barfoot to go into detail on the materials he will be using. But that is something he wants to keep secret for now. He assured me that all materials from the base, to the cores, to the top-sheets will be of the highest quality, and like I said earlier, will be hand built in Ernie Delost’s San Diego factory.
One thing that long-time Barfoot fans, and those looking for the best performing snowboard possible, will be interested in, are custom-made boards. Sadly, Barfoot isn’t quite ready to open the custom-shop to the public. But he did say, “Making custom boards available to the public is something we want to do. We do make custom boards for some of our riders now.” So all hope isn’t lost, especially considering that this man truly loves building boards.
“It’s something that I love doing, because we’re making a board that fits you like a glove.” Barfoot went on further; “It makes me happier than hell when I’ve got somebody on one of my boards going, ‘Damn! There’s nothing that rides like this.’ Or, ‘This board is so perfect for me!’ Then you hear them talking about pow days or whatever they did, something outrageous, and they landed it, and the board worked perfectly and you’re like, ‘Yeahh!’ It’s like you did it yourself."
Photo Caption: Barfoot building one of his first snowboards, December 1978.
Photo Credit: John Roskowski