A beautiful ‘Western-size’ all mountain deck from Japan’s premiere boutique snow surf board maker.
From Gentemstick, the biggest name in snow surf in Japan, comes the XY, Jackson Hole turn aficionado Alex Yoder’s pro model. The name of the board comes from the last letter of his first name (Alex) and the first letter of his last name (Yoder). This is the second year for the XY and while the specs haven’t changed, the graphic is evolving following a theme of “the natural elements”. Last year the topsheet was tree-like with greens and browns, while this year’s features vivid blues from the ocean. The Gentemstick XY slots in size wise between the 155 Stingray and the 157.5 Independent Stick, but is closer in concept to the 159 Giant Mantaray, and similarly is a board made with a larger rider in mind. Alex Yoder is, after all, 6′ and 160 lbs. Being a Gentemstick, there’s no hiding from the price tag: 116,640 yen (+tax) or $940 USD makes it quite a bit more expensive than your run of the mill all mountain board. Would it be that much better?
The XY is part of Gentemstick’s Independent series, which is mostly made up of Mantaray and Stingray variations. They are recognizable from their blunt noses and tapered shape, which have been widely copied and similar-looking boards can now be found in the board lines of most snowboard companies.
The XY features ‘Accel Camber’.
It only comes in the one 157.3cm size which, due to the blunt shape and wide width, packs the surface area of a much larger board. Riders who ride 160cm+ boards would feel totally at home on it. The waist is a fat 270mm, but for my size 10 boot, it’s a manageable width. For riders with smaller boots the XY might be sluggish, and a narrower Mantaray or Stingray more appropriate. The XY’s setback of 18mm and taper of 11.35mm help with turning and powder float.
The best part of the specs for me personally is the max stance of 60cm. For larger Western riders like myself with wider stance widths, many boards in the Gentemstick line have inserts that are set a little too narrow. If you are considering a Gentemstick, always check the max stance width to avoid disappointment.
Finally, the topsheet is absolutely beautiful. The nose and midsection of the board are a deep rich uneven blue that mimics the depths of the ocean. Even after riding the XY for four months now I still stop and stare deep into the topsheet whenever I walk by the board at home. Yes, the XY totally works as an art piece display when I’m not riding it!
The 2019 XY is a Gentemstick 20th anniversary version
How does it ride?
First off, a word of warning. Gentemstick strongly recommends a professional pre-tune and wax before riding, to allow their customers to get their new boards tuned to their own personal preference. In Japan, it’s common to spend over $100 USD to get a new board tuned up with a base grind, hotwax, edge detune and sharpen. So if you’re expecting to pull your new Gentemstick board out of the bag and get the first day done ‘au naturel’, it’s not going to ride so well. My first time on the XY was pretty scary – the edges were catching on everything and I couldn’t get to the car fast enough to switch boards. However, after beveling the base edge and putting in an edge angle, the XY was ‘fixed’. My proper first impression of the board was a feeling of quality. It’s nothing that really jumps out at you on the first run, it’s a smoothness that you start to notice after riding the board a while. It just feels like the edges are sharper, the carves are cleaner and the turn initiation requires less effort. Other boards just feel a bit ‘rougher’ after riding the XY, but it’s nothing substantial enough to lessen my enjoyment of those other boards. But who knows? Maybe it’s a mental bias playing its tricks to justify the high Gentemstick price tag.
Speaking of the price tag, it does influence when I choose to ride the board. Early or late season, or even over the New Year’s break when there are lots of punters in the lift lines mean I’d rather leave the XY at home than risk getting it beat up. I nearly had a heart attack one day when a little kid on skis nearly stabbed the nose with his pole in the lift line. In the end, I chipped the nose when I hit a friend’s edge just getting off the lift. It was a sad day. I would definitely appreciate a tougher topsheet to better withstand normal wear and tear.
The cool thing with the XY is, I don’t notice the huge nose, which doesn’t flap around at speed. If I look down, I can see it vibrating a little but not enough that I can feel it. What I did notice though, was the 270mm waist, but getting used to it only took a couple of runs before it felt normal. That adjustment period was all about gaining the confidence to really lay into deep carves. Once it clicked, it felt amazing (and a little scary – you can really push the board hard). The XY carves trenches in a way I’ve only felt before on a much longer Dupraz D1 – that sits at 178cm long! If I have the choice of having that carving power in a 157cm or a 178cm deck, I’ll choose the 157 nearly every time for versatility in tight trees or for freestyle. On wide open groomers you can really get low on screaming turns without the fear of booting out. It really feels like it takes less effort to leave beautiful carve lines in groomers than with other boards. This is a snowboard that really makes you happy to be just doing turns on flat terrain, no matter the vertical of your local resort.
The tail shape is based on the Gentemstick TT model, and is on the softer side. It’s more of a medium stiffness but it’s noticeable as it’s softer than the body. I actually quite enjoy it as it gives the board a playful feel, and it’s still good for ollieing ropes… erm, so I’ve heard.
Where to start? The Gentemstick XY looks like it was made for powder riding. The wide waist and large nose provide a massive surface area which instantly guarantees float. Add to that the accel camber, which causes the nose to lift when weighting the camber underfoot, and you have an unbeatable combination. Even on the “50cm overnight and still snowing” days, the XY makes a great choice. While it’s hard to describe exactly, in powder, the XY has a silky feeling underfoot. As the board is on the stiffer side, it isn’t bouncy and playful like a rocker board. However, it goes fast, is a very stable and let’s you focus on the terrain. Obviously, rear leg burn is not an issue. A bonus was the solid performance in the end of day chop that a rocker board or a tail-less fish shape wouldn’t be able to handle.
There’s a reason why the Mantaray/ Stingray line has been so widely copied – it is a shape that is very versatile. The blunt nose means a shorter length and more maneuverability, while the wide width and accel camber bring stability and powder float to the table. Add to that the Gentemstick x-factor carving experience, and you have a very solid package. It’s a beautifully-made board that carves deep and floats like a porpoise.
As for whether it’s worth its price tag, well, that’s boils down to a personal judgement. In the past, I’ve owned expensive boards and eventually sold them as I felt I could get something similar or even better for more reasonable prices. To be honest though, I totally expected to sell it off quickly… but the good days on it just kept coming. After ten sick days I realized that there was no way I wouldn’t keep it as part of the permanent quiver. I don’t “want” such an expensive board, but it rides so well that I just have to keep it.
For many Japanese riders I’ve spoken to, the XY is a bit too much board, and the Mantaray and Stingray get more attention. However, for larger Western riders, the XY is a godsend. It makes for a slightly more playful version of the Giant Mantaray, mainly due to the softer tail. It’s a powerful carver while still being fun enough for sidehits and mobbing with friends…and makes a stellar powder board too. Maybe it’s time to start saving up for one?
Get more information on Gentemstick snowboards at their official site.