The Korua Café Racer gets the Plus treatment for light speed carving
Korua Shapes is an innovative brand from Europe, co-founded by Nicholas Wolken and Stephan Maurer, known for their progressive shapes inspired by the Japanese snow-surf movement. Their extremely popular video series Yearning for Turning has not only gained them a wide following, but helped to bring carving with directional shaped boards into the mainstream.
The Korua Café Racer debuted in the 2017-2018 season and became one of the few shapes chosen for special treatment in the Korua Plus line of boards. Korua explains their Plus line “stands for additional quality and performance. By merging the most premium materials with some of our favourite shapes we aim to build the best snowboards possible.” This sounded great to me and I was excited to put the Korua Café Racer Plus to the test for this review.
The Plus line of boards receive a host of upgrades over the Classic line starting with the nano highspeed sintered base. The wood core is upgraded with the inclusion of lightweight paulownia to complement the standard poplar core material. There’s carbon-enhanced fiberglass to further cut down on weight and increase stiffness. Finally, the brushed polyamid triple compound topsheet rounds out the weight reduction trifecta resulting in a whopping 300 gram diet over the regular Café Racer. Oh and did I mention it’s black? Very black. And very fast-looking. While the traditional white topsheet and red base Korua are instantly recognizable, you can’t beat the tech look of all stealth black.
The Café Racer Plus is described as a softboot carver, ideal for tight aggressive turns. While the majority of the boards in the Korua line come with their hybrid float camber, the Café Racer (Plus) is one of three boards that come with the full camber profile. There is camber from contact point to contact point. However, this isn’t the aggressive camber from years past. Instead the camber height is relatively low and there are generous transition zones at both contact points.
While the Classic line Café Racer is available in four sizes, the Plus version only comes in 159cm, which lucky for me, just so happens to be my size. It comes with a “unique carving specific Korua sidecut” which works out to an average of 8.2m. A wide waist width of 269mm and 31mm of taper round out the key specs.
How it rides
The Korua Café Racer Plus is a very stiff board, listed as an 8 out of 10 on the Korua scale, and I assumed it would be a challenge to ride. Actually, it is much more manageable than the specs and a hand flex would lead you to believe. I had never ridden a board with this much taper so there was a small adjustment period for me at the beginning, but after a few turns it became predictable. With the wide 269mm waist width, I had no problem with toe or heel drag in my US10.5 boots which meant I could fully commit to deep carves with no worries about ‘booting out’.
While the nose is a whopping 324mm, the taper aids turn initiation and the board is very nimble edge to edge despite the wide waist. While the tail length is on the short side, it is very stiff. Korua have added more torsional stiffness to the tail which provides more immediate response to the back foot. This allows you to load up the rear without fear of washing out. On groomers, this board just invites you to go faster. As soon as you add some speed, the flex really comes to life. It has a scarily impressive amount of edge hold and the more actively you push it, the more fun it gets.
I would love to say I spend my whole day on the mountain executing massive euro carves, but sadly that’s not the case. A good part of the time I’m just riding it like a normal board, and this is where you need to be a bit more alert. For the most part the Café Racer Plus is a very fun board to ride. If you get lazy though, it can bite. The aggressive flex which is so fun popping you out of carves is pretty unforgiving when you get sloppy, so you have to pay attention. Side hits are good example of this. Take some speed and carve into them, and it rewards you with satisfying pop and power out of the landing. On the other hand, undercook a mini-shred 360 expecting to cheat round the last few degrees and it will deny you. It’s not rocket science to point out that this isn’t the board to pull out for springtime piste jibbing. It was still fun in spring though, turning slushy moguls into a banked slalom or doing leg-burning speed runs.
The Korua Café Racer Plus is a very light board. As stated above, it’s 300 grams lighter than the Classic version. I tend to dislike lighter boards as they can feel hollow and disconnected. Not so with the Café Racer Plus: It has the stability of a heavier board and a really nice snap. This board is so light, it’s almost unnoticeable hanging from your leg on chairlifts. I’ve been riding this board with a pair of Union Ultra FC bindings, and this combo feels lighter than many boards without bindings attached! I’ve spent hours in the backcountry with this combo strapped to my back and oftentimes I completely forgot it was still on my pack.
Finally, let’s talk about how fast this thing is. It is ridiculously fast. The high speed nano sintered base sounds tech on paper and doesn’t disappoint in real life. The finish on it is beautiful and the wax retention is better than any board I’ve owned. I want this base on all my boards!
Korua gives it a 7 out of 10 on their float scale. They also describe this is as a 70% carver and 30% powder board. It’s fair to say that this is an amazing carving board that does relatively well in powder too. With that big nose, 31mm of taper and a 20mm setback, float is not a concern, but for a dedicated powder board, i found myself wanting a bit more torsional flex to modulate my turns.
The solid flex and big nose make it good for leaning over and drawing lines on big open faces, but if you like to twist and manipulate your board from the feet, the stiffness may be an issue for lighter riders. That stout flex provides a benefit for larger riders though, and those riding in heavier maritime powder. There’s no folding of the nose in heavy snow that you can get with soft-nosed powder boards.
The characteristics that make this board so much fun carving loops on piste make it harder work for tighter turns in powder, so as much fun as it is blasting through open powder, it wouldn’t be my top choice for tight trees. Within the Korua quiver, for a heavy diet of tree riding, the Dart or Stealth from the softer and damper Classic line would be a better choice. You can make it work on the Café Racer Plus – you just need to be ready for the speed and look ahead more! On the plus side, when the pow is getting scarce that stiffness makes it great for smashing through tracked out leftovers with confidence.
With the Korua Café Racer Plus, I was expecting a specialized carving tool. While it checked the getting low and ripping turns box in spades, I soon discovered it’s also deceptively versatile for such a high performance board. The Café Racer Plus is by no means a quiver killer, but the way it rails turns can make any day on the mountain fun. No new snow? No problem. With edge hold like this, it can turn a ‘ho hum’ day on snow into so much more. From euro carves to side hits, to the exhilaration of trying to ride switch on a 31mm tapered board, it was hard to wipe the smile from my face. If you value the way a board turns above all else, but don’t want to be stuck with a speciality board that can only carve, then the Café Racer Plus is worth considering. It is by no means a one trick pony, and will get you plenty of admiring glances with its high end stealth looks.