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What up shredder?
There comes a time in every snowboarder’s life when it’s time to learn how to hit a jump.
Yes, the one thing that is sure to strike fear into almost every new snowboarders' heart, and get them excited at the same time. The key to getting high off adrenaline.
The stepping stone to grabs, 180’s, 360’s, 900s and backflips.
The first step to ripping the park.
The only problem is, most of us are terrified, and we don’t want to wreck ourselves and end our season just to catch a little air.
Today, we’re going to talk about how to safely hit jumps, even if you’ve never hit one before.
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How to Start Snowboarding
I’ve seen my Dad in his 50’s who just started snowboarding learn to hit jumps. I’ve seen my girlfriend her first year riding crush it off jumps. All kinds of people can hit jumps if you just start small, and work your way up.
Don’t roll up to the biggest jump in the park and “go big or go home,” that’s how you go home on a stretcher. And never want to hit a jump again.
The Key to hitting jumps is in safely working your way up from the smallest possible jump, to the 80 footer you’ve been eying up in the park.
Now, Hitting jumps could encompass anything from hitting a side hit, to launching off a cliff, or sending it over a huge park jump.
The good news is, they’re all relatively the same, and once you start to learn one of these, they will all come more naturally.
Snowboarding Jump Tips
FIrst, let’s talk about some key terms you need to learn.
A side hit or as we used to call it a “cut up” is a jump on the side of the run, usually that has been formed by riders cutting in and out of the run.
A park jump is located in the terrain park, and usually has a takeoff (also called a kicker), a table (the flat part in the middle of the jump and the landing, where the jump slopes downward.
The very edge of the takeoff is called “the lip” which is where a lot of mistakes happen.
Most of the time we want to jump from the lip of a jump to the landing, and “clear” the jump, which means, we aired over the entire “table” or deck, the flat part up top.
If we go too slow and we land just before the landing, we say we “cased the jump”, or we undershot the jump” If we land on the very edge between the table and the landing, we land on the knuckle, or saw we “knuckeld” the jump. We might also say we “came up short” landed on the deck, or decked out. Depending on how far up the knuckle we land this could be a minor inconvenience, or completely devastating.
What we’re aiming for is to clear the jump, to “hit the tranny, the sweet spot, or the landing of the jump.”
Transition or “tranny” refers to a downward slope that will disperse our momentum safely after coming down from our airtime.
If we go too fast and go past the landing, we saw we “overshot” the jump, or “bottomed out.” Depending on the size of the jump this can be very dangerous.
Getting the speed right is crucial to staying safe on jumps. We’ll dive into that in a minute.
Lastly, a “straight air” means we’re going straight over the jump and not spinning or flipping.
OK, now that we understand the terminology, let’s dive into HOW to hit jumps.
How to Jump on a Snowboard
There are a couple prerequisites.
The first reason most people suck at hitting jumps is they never learned to ollie. This teaches us the proper way to “pop” off a jump with our tail leaving the lip last.
If you skip the ollie, you’re going to “hop” off jumps, and eat shit.
Learn to ollie first and jumps are going to be so much easier. If you haven’t learned to ollie yet, go watch the video on Shred School on how to ollie.
The second thing you need to learn BEFORE hitting jumps is how to ride in a straight line.
Some of us have never ridden down the hill without being on an edge before, and the minute we start to go fast in a straight line we freakout.
This is going to cause all kinds of problems with jumps, so before you even get started on this, learn to ride in a straight line, then come to a stop, ride in a straight line, and stop.
This is going to get you comfortable riding up to the jump, and landing straight off the jump.
Next, before we ever hit a jump we next want to get comfortable with changes in pitch. A jump is kinda like a roller coaster, going up steeply, and then down steeply. If all you’ve ever ridden is flat terrain, this is going to be weird.
Luckily, we can get comfortable with this before ever hitting a jump. The first step is to start riding Blue squares and black diamonds with rollers on the run.
After riding straight over the rollers a few times, we can start to ollie off the ollers and even throw in a grab if we want. This is great practice for the pitch changes on an actual jump. You can substitute side hits for rollers here and get the same affect.
Once you’ve practiced riding straight, learned to ollie, and practiced jumping off rollers and side hits, it’s time to head into the park.
Good Snowboarding Jumps
The first thing we want to do is scope out the jumps before hitting them. We don’t want to mess around with jumps as they have very real consequences.
We’re looking to see how big the jumps are, make sure we understand each feature, and get a feel for the speed. You can roll over the jumps and stop on the knuckle, and look at the jump.
Watch a couple people hit it from the deck, just be sure to stay off to the side so no one lands on you.
Next, we roll over the jump and throw a little ollie over the knuckle. This will give us the feeling of hitting the jump without taking any risk.
If you can confidently do that, it’s time to hit your first jump.
How to Safely Hit a Jump When Snowboarding
Next run through the park, roll up to the drop in of the jump. Spot someone who looks like they know what they’re doing, and ask them what the speed is.
There’s nothing wrong with asking what the speed is, even pro riders do this. It’s one of the most important parts of hitting jumps.
That’s because, our best bet of never getting hurt on jumps is to get our speed right. Even if we wreck, if we land on the “sweet spot” on the landing, we’re usually going to be ok.
People get hurt when they undershoot and land on the knuckle or overshoot and land on the flat. That's Because there is no pitch to disperse all the force of us coming down from the air.
If you remember one thing to stay safe, it’s this: land in the actual landing with your board hitting the ground first at all costs. Most injuries can be prevented by following these two rules.
How to Approach a Snowboarding Jump
Now a couple more terms you need to know.
A setup carve refers to taking a carve into the jump, like a heel to toe approach on a backside three or a straight air.
A setup carve slows you down a little, but not much. Now, a “speed check” is where we intentionally slash a little bit of speed by pushing out our edge a little more on a setup carve to slow down.
An answer you might expect to get for “how are the jumps” is “setup carve in to jump one, speed check for jump number two, and point it for jump three”
This means you can turn in to jump one, turn twice in to jump two, and you better not scrub any speed for jump three or you won’t make it over.
Our goal is to land in “the sweet spot” which is just past the knuckle, giving us the softest possible landing, and keeping our speed up as fast as possible for the next jump.
The key to this is using the right approach. Generally I take a heel to toe approach for a straight air over jumps, which means I come in slightly on the right side on my heels and switch to my toes to go straight up the jump on my edge.
This makes it easier to pop and maintain m y balance off the lip.
If you have the wrong approach to the jump, you may start to feel squirrely or slide around, so it’s important to get this right so you can grip your edge going straight up the jump.
How to Pop Off a Snowboarding Jump
Once we start to ride up the ramp of the jump, we want to pre-load our legs by bending slightly more than in the approach, and “popping” just as our board is leaving the lip.
This is kind of like an ollie but less exaggerated than an ollie you would do on flat ground. If we watch it in slow motion, we’ll see that our tail is still the last thing to leave the lip, and is propelling us into the air.
Depending on how much air we need to get to the landing, we can pop harder or softer to get more or less airtime.
When I’m taking off I'm staring directly at my snowboard, to make sure it goes straight off the lip, and that I'm popping at the right time. I’m not looking far ahead of me in the air.
It’s kinda like jumping on a trampoline. Imagine doing a small bounce vs. a large bounce. If you want to go higher, you’re going to need to push off the trampoline a little harder. Jumps work the same way.
If we just ride right off without popping we might not go very high, but if we load up our legs and pop hard, we’re going to go a lot higher.
Now off a jump, it feels almost like a pump, with a snap at the end. I don’t care if I’m straight airing, frontside 360ing, or doing a cab 900, I’m going to ollie, I’m snapping that tail off the lip.
When you start to do spins and hit bigger jumps, a lack of an ollie is going to cause you to scrub off the lip, lose speed, and eat shit a lot more often.
Now, the moment you pop, you don’t want to start thinking about the landing. This is what most beginners do and they freak out in the air, go over the nose of their board, or otherwise ruin their airtime. I know because I've been there.
How to Get More Airtime
We want to focus on “landing” at the peak of our airtime, which means we level out in the air at our highest point if we’re doing a straight air. If you can do this, you’ll naturally float down to the landing ready to land.
In my experience it's all about being completely centered and balanced when you come off the lip – otherwise even a small tilt to the right, left, front, or back can cause you to twist while in mid air. Level out in the air trick.
Depending on the size of the jump, adding a grab here can make it a lot easier to stay stable in the air. It also helps to keep our shoulders in line over our snowboard to stay straight in the air, ready to ride straight out of the jump.
Once you’re stable in the air, look at the landing. Assuming it looks like you’re going to land in the landing, you can slightly extend your legs just before you land and then bend them on impact. Make sure not to straighten out your legs too early in the air. Which is a common mistake.
How to Land a Snowboarding Jump
Bending your legs def helps the most. My first few jumps I’d have my legs straight in the air and it killed all my control and stability and sometimes my landings would result in a spin out or carve or slipping out or just straight crash and also sending my body out of alignment in the air
Land slightly on your tail to absorb the impact, and ride straight out of the jump before setting up for the next one. You want to aim to land flat base as landing on an edge can scrub your speed or cause you to spin out. Keep your shoulders over your board, look ahead of you and make sure you’re confident riding in a straight line.
I constantly land on my toe edge hard when I land, possibly from playing basketball so much. I'm just used to it, but I veer off as soon as I land and it's all bad. Any tips?
Congrats, you just landed your first park jump!
Dangers of Snowboarding Jumps (aka Snowboarding Fails)
Now, there are a whole host of things that go wrong.
The first thing I recommend to prevent anything going wrong is, start on the smallest possible jump, and MASTER it before moving up to a bigger jump. I don’t mean hit it a couple times and then go hit the big jumps. I mean, get very very comfortable hitting the jump over and over again. You should be able to land it clean 9 out of 10 times before thinking about moving up to a bigger jump.
Next thing that goes wrong is speed. Now, the more you hit jumps the more you’ll get an intuitive sense of how fast you should be going.
The best thing you can do initially is to ask someone what the speed is, and observe other people hitting the jump before you do.
How high up did they start?
How many turns did they take before the jump?
Did they go straight in or did they scrub some speed before getting to the jump.
You should also make sure your snowboard is waxed and performing so that your speed doesn’t drastically differ from someone else hitting the jump.
Once we get to doing tricks over big jumps, a fresh wax can make the difference between hitting the landing, and hitting your face off your knee on the knuckle
Now, hitting jumps takes 100% commitment. That means you’re either hitting the jump or you’re not. There is no in between.
Don’t do what Ben did here and stop on the jump last second with me riding right behind him. I ended up casing pretty bad.
Once you know the speed, you have to commit to that speed. Deciding at the last minute to give an extra speed check is only going to cause you to “come up short” and it’s going to hurt. Don’t be stupid.
Pro tip: once you’re on the takeoff, there’s no turning.
If you find going up the takeoff that you’re going too slow, you can pop harder to make it over, or abandon ship. If you’re going too fast, you can pop less or absorb the jump and it will cut your airtime so you don’t go too far.
Seriously, I see a lot of people do this, and it only ends in disasters. Another thing people do is they land sketchy on jump number 1, lose all their speed, and still try to hit jump two, coming up short. If you’ve lost your speed, just skip the jump, ride next to it and frontflip off the knuckle.
The way you will break bones is the combination of losing your feet out from under you, and landing on the knuckle or in the flats. This is exactly how I broke my back, I landed on the knuckle, back first.
If you can avoid these two things, always have your snowboard hit the ground first, and always hit the sweet spot in the landing, the chances of you getting hurt are much lower. Even if you get one out of two, your chances of not getting hurt are a lot better.
Now this could be hard to hear for some people, but If you do wreck in the landing… and this is very important. Unless you are paralyzed, get up and ride off to the side of the jump. I don’t care if the wind is knocked out of you, if you broke your wrist, or you are dazed, if you hit your head. Pick your weight up onto your snowboard, and scoot off to the side. Otherwise you risk someone landing on you from 30 feet up which could be a lot worse than whatever wreck you just had.
When I broke my back I was able to pick myself up and get to the side of the jump before collapsing in pain on the ground, but by then I was out of the way of any other rider coming down.
You need to have an instinctual, urgent reaction to get out of the way on jumps. If you are laying in the landing, you should be worried because no one can see you from the top.
The next thing that goes wrong is Hopping/jumping off the lip instead of “popping” off the tail, just don’t do it. I don’t care if you’re on the flat ground or hitting a jump in the park, you should always be ollieing. Don’t hop off a jump.
It causes you to take off all at once, instead of letting the tail or your board finish taking off, losing the “snap” off the lip which sends you into the air, and you’re going to be more likely to come up short, and lose your balance in the air. If you can’t pop off jumps, practice rolling off rollers and side hits over and over again, and you’ll start to get the feel for it.
The kickers where I normally ride are very steep at the top and no matter how hard I try to stay centered I always land flat on my back. I’m really struggling with keeping my weight over the board, any suggestions?
I can almost guarantee this person hasn’t practiced popping off rollers and side hits over and over again. The other thing you can do here is absorb with your knee, and even practice skateboarding to get used to tranny.
Snowboarding When the Weather is Bad
The other thing to watch out for is changing conditions. Snow, wind, sun and ice all change the speed of the jump.
To talk about my back one more time, the reason this happened was the sun went behind the clouds, it got colder, and the slushy take offe froze and created ruts.
I’ve lost contests before because the sun went down and the jumps sped up and I overshot the third jump.
In general, we only ride big jumps if it’s sunny, clear visibility and low wind. The exception to this is riding contests, where i find myself casing a jump on a cab 9 because it’s snowing, and cursing myself for even showing up.
Final Notes on How to Hit Jumps on Snowboards
Now I don’t want to scare you, jumps are amazing and fun and safe if you approach them correctly. I just want to make sure you’re prepared and acting responsibly. I see far too many people NEVER learn to hit jumps because they don’t work their way up.
Start in the small park, hit the smallest possible jumps over and over again. Only after you’ve mastered them, move up to the next size jumps. Again master those. By practicing over and over again, we can move the whole way up to big jumps and hit them with confidence.
I should mention that “Straight airs” once you’ve mastered jumping, are actually harder than spinning over a jump. It’s easier to go off balance in the air with all that time just staring at the landing. I prefer to spin over big jumps.
Jumps are pure adrenaline. They give you a power up meter, and often hitting one jump can give you the confidence to try that trick you’re scared of on the next one. I know my entire attitude changes once I get some adrenaline flowing, and it’s on. I get in to beast mode, and you c an too.
Go out there, hit your first (small) jumps, work your way up and let us know how it goes. Grab a shot for the gram, and keep going.
Until next time.
Peace out shredder
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