Freebording vs. flowboarding vs. snowboarding? What’s it all mean and who comes out on top?
At first glance, it’s easy to confuse Freebords with Flowboards.
- They’re both variations on traditional skateboard models
- They both try to replicate the feel of riding a snowboard without the snow (though only one actually comes close)
- They were both created in the mid 1990s by pairs of forward-thinking snowboarders
But when you look a little closer, there are actually several huge differences between Freebords and flowboards.
A Quick History of the Flowboard
In the mid 1990’s Pieter Schouten and Mike Simonian were both attending the Art Center College of Design in Vevey, Switzerland when they decided that there had to be a way to bring the fun and excitement of the snow-covered slopes to the hard and unforgiving urban terrain of asphalt and concrete. They took a hard look at the mechanics of traditional skateboards and knew that in order to replicate the feel of a snowboard on pavement they had to overcome the skateboard’s inability to carve hard turns on an edge.
They spent several months in a garage working on a design that incorporated a pair of “angled axles”—essentially curved rods that feed through the center of 7 skateboard wheels. By rocking forward or backward on these curved axles, riders could replicate the edge of a snowboard and carve hard into the asphalt like no skateboard could.
For all the innovation and experimentation that went into the product, Mike and Pieter failed to recreate the “gliding” perpendicular motion of a snowboard across the fresh powder. That’s something that only Steen Strand and Bayard Winthrop have been able to do with their revolutionary six-wheeled Freebord design.
(Read The History of the Freebord if you want to learn more about the board and the sport’s development.)
Freebording: Accept No Substitutes
Freebords easily replicate the carving or edge riding of snowboards because their front and rear hangers extend the edge wheels out to or beyond the edge of the Freebord itself. However, it’s their rotating center wheels (placed on casters slightly behind the two pair of edge wheels) which easily allow the Freebord to “glide” sideways.
Also, thanks to an inventive young cancer survivor and Freebord enthusiast named Tim, Freebords have adopted a fixed binding system—much like modern snowboards—that allows Freebord riders to ensure their feet won’t leave the Freebord unless they want them to. This allows for more gnarly tricks and greater control.
There are a number of additional factors that make Freebords better or more authentic to snowboarding than flowboards.
- Freebords have dedicated edge wheels to help correct over rotating (flowboards tend to be “tippy”)
- Freebords go faster (though they can be kept at manageable speeds by carving and bleeding off momentum just like on a snowboard)
- Freebords require fewer replacement parts (depending on use of course but flowboards each have 14 wheels—and 28 sets of bearings—while Freebords only have 6)
- Freebords are more customizable with truck, wheel, and board variations to make your ride your own
Freebords vs. Flowboards: The Final Showdown
When choosing a Freebord or flowboard, it comes down to the rider’s personal choice: do you want to truly replicate the snowboarding experience or do you just want a new way to skateboard?
What do the pros think? A majority of current snowboard riders agree that Freebords give you a more authentic snowboard feel on asphalt than flowboards. While both board sports are great and take the excitement of skateboarding to a whole new level, Freebording comes out on top.