|Tom Buchanan, Okemo Resort|
Question from Reader Chris
hey well i have a question im not sure you can help with but i appreciate any an all advice. i had a old set up a burton royal board an k2 bindings its what i learned on an it was good .i had it for roughly 4 years i recently upgraded to a lib tech banana magic board with burton malativa bindings.....i understood the setup would need adjusting however after rougly 2 runs down the mountain my back left thigh into my knee was beyond pain. it feel like the worst cramp i have ever felt in my life .it starts in my lower thigh an hits my knee it feels all muscle no joint or bone pain from bearing my weight. i tried to widen my stance an played with my bindings it got better but never felt ok i understand some level of this is conditioning an muscle fatigue . i dont know what to do also my right (front foot) was getting sharp pressure point pain i think my boot is to big honestly because i feel like the foot is able to move around to much inside the boot but the heel is secure .im at a loss an would appreciate any help/advice thank you
Answer and Ideas from Snowboard Instructor Tom Buchanan and His Crew at Okemo
Lauren Traub Teton (at SnowboardSecrets.com) sent me your email with a request that I offer some thoughts about what might be causing your leg pain.
I am a snowboard instructor and staff trainer at Okemo in Vermont, and have been teaching for 10 years. I actually used your question as the foundation of a training session this week, which got some of our staff thinking about different ways to assess equipment and movements. So, thanks for giving my morning session some direction!
While it’s not possible to provide a definitive solution to your leg pain without looking at your equipment and seeing you ride, I can give you some things to think about. My general impression is that the problem is probably related to your riding style rather than the equipment itself, but the way your gear is set-up might be contributing.
It would help to know how many days you have been riding this season, what your stance width and angles are, and how you are using your body to turn the board. Absent that detail, I suggest you place your bindings at the reference positions on the board (probably the centered screw holes), and then use duck angles of about 9 and -9. That’s a pretty good start point, and from there you can change things up as needed.
A duck stance is sweet because it helps center your hips and allows you to easily move your center of mass from edge to edge while remaining balanced with hips and shoulders over the board. The duck stance also helps in using your ankles to efficiently pressure the board, and to ride with small muscles in a relaxed body position.
Often we see people riding in an old-school skateboard or surf style with twisted hips while leaning back toward the tail, and then kicking the board around with the back foot. That’s most visible while riding on the toe edge and is easily spotted because the riders back arm ends up over the toe edge. Twisting and tail lean is usually aggravated by bending at the waist. That riding style tends to place a whole lot of pressure on the backleg just above the knee, and it often twists or torques the front foot causing pain to the side of the shin. It may be your old set-up allowed you to get away with that, but the new set-up with reverse camber has reduced your feeling of stability which is increasing big-muscle torque. If that’s the case, the solution would be getting centered on the board in a neutral reference stance, then using gentler movements to turn the board.
You also mentioned that your boots might be too big, which could reduce foot control and thus require big muscle movements when smaller movements would be more efficient.
Finally, as a super-long-shot, there may be a canting issue with the Burton binding on the banana board. If the camber of the board is opposed to the cant of the bindings it may create a weird pressure dynamic. I think your bindings have a removable canting bed, so that might be something to look at, but honestly, I think that's a pretty big reach. I checked with Burton to learn a bit more about their canting system and they say it's just a couple of degrees and it relieves pressure because the knee can bend as it was designed, and that in any event when the rider is on a board the camber/reverse camber flattens so the type of camber shouldn't matter. Burton says they haven't heard of a leg pain issue associated with the canting in the Malavita binding. Of course the canting is foot specific, so if the right foot is in the left binding (and vice-versa), it might create a problem.
The overall pain issue sounds sudden and extreme, and that leaves me a bit puzzled. I'm wondering if you rode at all this year before switching to the Banana Magic board and the Malavita bindings, or if you just started your season with the new gear. I hate my first day of riding because there is always some kind of pain, and my riding generally stinks. Plus I'm usually on new gear so I'm confused and struggling to find a comfortable stance. My solution is to just ride and deal with the general fatigue, while working on riding movements to improve my position on the board and reduce torque. I’ve felt shin pain on the front foot a few times at the beginning of the season, and usually handled it by shifting that binding angle a bit more toward the nose. This year I actually did the opposite and shifted the back binding toward the tail hoping it would help me stay centered on the board, and not try to cheat the turns by torqueing my body. Being able to ride centered really helps as a foundation from which to move through and around. The muscle fatigue and small pains go away after a few days of riding as my body adjusts to being on the board.
In any event, I'm guessing your problem is primarily a rider issue, rather than an equipment issue, and that a couple of hours with an instructor would sort it out. Most major resorts have instructors that can identify and address issues like this, but of course not all instructors are created equal. Naturally I'd suggest a private lesson, but if cost is a concern upper level group lessons don't usually have many people in them, and if you let the resort know that you are looking for an experienced instructor who can sort out a technical problem you’ll get a good hook-up. If that's too much of a mouthful, simply asking for an AASI certified level 2 or level 3 instructor will get a qualified instructor who can think in tech-terms.
I hope this helps. Snowboarding shouldn’t hurt, and while there may be some fatigue and minor pains on the first day of the season, it sounds like your situation is more extreme. The gear you have is top notch, so I hope you can adjust your riding style to reduce those weird pressures and make it fun and easy.
Tom Buchanan is an instructor and staff trainer at the Jackson Gore base of Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, Vermont. He teaches group and private lessons for all age riders. In the summertime he guides and teaches fly fishing for Orvis in Manchester, Vermont. He taught skydiving for 25 years and is the author of “JUMP! Skydiving made Fun and Easy” published by McGraw-Hill.
PO Box 261
Londonderry, VT 05148
See Tom Weiss on his Burton Malavita riding the Park from Top to Bottom at Mountain Creek, Vernon, NJ.