The barracuda is a large fish known for its ferocious behaviour. Does the Grassroots version bring the same predatory instincts to powsurfing?
Powsurfing, as the name suggests, brings surfing to the mountains by means of powsurfers, smaller boards specifically designed for bindingless riding in powder. Riding a powsurfer certainly has a lot going for it: you get to ride powder in the purest way possible, with nothing but your skill keeping your board underfoot. Powsurfing will make you a better snowboarder as you’ll rely less on your bindings and more on proper technique. It will make you read and understand terrain better. With bindings if you don’t pump a bump, nothing happens. On a powsurfer, if you don’t, you’re going to find yourself and your board buried in different locations! It’s quite accessible – as soon as kids are standing up on their sleds, they’re ready for a powsurfer. You will find your love of going sideways renewed as powsurfing takes you back to beginner status, where linking turns becomes a thrill again. Finally, you get to avoid the crowds fighting for powder that gets shralped by 11am at resorts.
When choosing a powsurfer, one of the most respected names is Grassroots Powdersurfing. Grassroots owner Jeremy Jensen has been instrumental in making powsurfing a ‘thing’ since starting powsurfer prototypes back in the year 2000. Since those early years he has been tirelessly promoting binding-free riding through Grassroots Powsurfing, and showcasing his envelope-pushing riding in his self-made video edits. He’s even made a must-watch documentary called White Waves which features some big names like Terje Haakonsen and Japanese yuki-ita shaper, Atsushi Gomyo. At the time of writing Grassroots has a huge lineup of eighteen shapes available covering all soft snow conditions for all types of riders, including kids. It was tough narrowing it down to one shape for this review, but choosing a Grassroots Barracuda turned out to be a good choice.
The Grassroots Barracuda comes in two sizes: 140cm and 150cm. The 150 is designed for bigger riders (150-260lbs) and for those who want a bit more float and more drawn out turns than with the 140 (130-230lbs). This review is for the 150cm Barracuda. It has a long drawn out nose and a setback medium radius sidecut. A cutout tail helps with float and reduced turn resistance.
The Barracuda comes with Grassroots’ CDC 3-dimensional base tech which improves directional powsurfer performance. A slightly convex nose combined with two channels in the base funnel snow, providing stability, and enhancing the edge response and grip. The edges have more bite which really lets you lean more into turns and keep an edge in shallower snow. Additionally, the Barracuda is blessed with a ptex base (as is the entire Grassroots line). Not only does it obviously help with speed and glide, the ptex helps with durability too. On wood-based yuki-ita, splinters in the base are common and it’s a constant work in progress to sand them out. It’s nice to be able to treat your powsurfer like a snowboard and wax it up for a better riding experience.
On the topsheet, there is a 3d traction pad with raised sections on the edges for maximum boot hold and leverage. The concave trough keeps your feet on the board and provides quicker power transfer in your turns. In the wet Japanese powder, we had constant snow buildup on the traction pad which reduced its effectiveness, however we were able to kick it off easily enough before dropping in.
Compared to snowskates, where the leash attaches to the tail or the nose of the deck, on Grassroots powsurfers the leash clip is located between the feet. The reasons for this are practical and come from experience. First, when doing shuvit-type tricks, having the leash in the middle of the board reduces the likelihood of it getting entangled around your feet. Second, if you have the leash attached to the tail, it ends up dragging behind slowing you down, and more importantly it can hook on branches or rocks, causing instant slams.
While 150cm doesn’t seem very long, in the powsurfer world it’s massive. The surface area is equal to that of a 165cm snowboard, which explains the unsinkable float you get with the Barracuda. Even on the deepest days here in Japan, worrying about keeping the nose up isn’t even a consideration. I had so much nose available to me, I’d venture that the 140 Barracuda would have been fine too. It’s surprisingly nimble and quick edge to edge so that tight terrain becomes less worrisome. In anything semi-deep, the Barracuda is a joy to ride and makes you forget you’re not attached to it. You initiate a turn and it turns – things are so simple. You finish your lines with huge smiles thinking that you’ve mastered this powsurfing thing. That is, until you stop paying attention to the terrain, hit an unscheduled bump and the board starts to come away from your feet! After a while though, it becomes a reflex action to bend your knees low in those situations to increase your chances of saving the line. The Barracuda is so big underfoot that even when I lose contact with it I can just trust that it will be there when gravity brings me back to ground. All I have to do is not panic and prepare to land and ride away.
Where to ride?
The beauty of the bindingless phenomenom is being able to ride them absolutely anywhere you have a slope with snow on it. Hit up your local sledding hill, golf course or your backyard setup to start with, then move up to bigger slopes as your confidence grows. Ski resorts are doable if the resort has linkable ungroomed areas, or if you can drop off the side for some sidecountry action. Sometimes to get on the lift you need a touch of subterfuge – like pretending your front foot is clicked in to a step-in binding. Then, when the lift picks you up, just pull the powsurfer up by the leash. There are no guarantees how many times this will work in one day though.
The Grassroots Barracuda is one of the most versatile boards in the Grassroots lineup. While it’s great in deep snow, the design also lends itself to shallow pow and even slush. You get the advantages of a larger board (stability, speed & float) while the setback sidecut makes the Barracuda easily capable of short radius turns, giving you unusually good maneuverability for its size. This makes it ideal for both tight trees and open bowls, deep or shallow snow – in other words, a true powsurf quiver-killing powder predator.
Get more information on Grassroots powsurfers at their official site.
Disclosure: The Grassroots Barracuda was provided by Grassroots Powdersurfing.