The TJ Brand Napoleon Fish sounds good for conquering the deepest Japanese trees, but how does this Japanese rocket fly in real life?
The Napoleon Fish is made by TJ Brand, a Japanese board maker based out of Gunma prefecture – home of the Tenjin Banked Slalomand plenty of powder. It is nicknamed the ‘Miracle Fish’ for its ability to do tight radius turns, which sounds perfect for groomer carving hijinks and tight tree runs. On TJ Brand’s own ranking system, it scores a perfect 10 for powder and for carving, and is given a 9 for stability. They don’t rate your chances of getting your jib on though, giving it a 1/10 for switch and 0 points for freestyle.
The Napoleon Fish is made up of three sections: a 3D nose, a flat midsection and a convex raised fish tail. It only comes in three rather small sizes, specifically 142, 147 and 153cm. TJ Brand recommends choosing the board size according to your style of riding, rather than based on your height and weight. The 142 and 147 will be better for tree runs, with the 142 offering ultimate manoeuvrability for men. Women will be able to enjoy the 142 as a powder board. Meanwhile, the 153 will let you better cruise at speed and have a stronger tail. I do recommend checking the maximum stance width before choosing a board as wide stances are not always accommodated.
Here is the Napoleon Fish spec sheet:
Three-dimensional base shapes have been a staple of TJ Brand board design for quite a few years now. Looking closer at the 3D nose we can see a high kick with an exaggerated spoon curve.
The tail has a less pronounced convex rise going on on with its swallow-tail shape. Definitely no tail bite to be found here.
Our friend Valerie rode a 2014 Napoleon Fish last season and gave us her thoughts on this directional pocket rocket:
It was my first trip to Japan for a snowboard vacation and my husband surprised me with the news that he had ordered a Napoleon Fish for me. The idea of having a Japanese powder board waiting for me on arrival was quite enticing! My first impressions though weren’t so promising. With my regular board being a 148.5, the 142 Napoleon Fish is quite a short board (even for a half-pint like me), and has a crazy three-dimensional nose and tail that I thought could be way too squirrely. In spite of these worries, I will gush and tell you why I fell in love with the TJ Brand Napoleon Fish.
First of all, and this goes without saying but this board was perfectly designed for Japanese conditions. Deep powder, shallow slopes and tree runs are child’s play and what surprised me the most was how competent the board was on all the other stuff. It never got sketched out on fast groomers, it skimmed over chunder and crud and it never once felt catchy on flat cat tracks. I thought that the 3D “boat hull” shaped nose would dance around too much but it held a line when I wanted it to. Now granted I had to work a little harder for it but it never felt unsafe due to the healthy amount of stiffness and effective edge. This board was also so fast in the powder that my poor little legs could barely keep up. Putting on the brakes in the deep stuff was no problem because it would fire up again immediately. The Napoleon Fish is also incredibly nimble through tight trees. I barely had to think about initiating a turn, which allowed me to plan my next line while the board glided effortlessly from edge to edge. The convex nose and tail let me easily pirouette into switch for the odd traverse. The only downsides to this board are the qualities that make it a powder board and not a carving or freestyle board. Edge hold is a little tougher, I got bucked around on steep moguls and popping into the air was more difficult because of the short tail. Landings were very stable though, which made lazy pillow drops a breeze.
All I can say is that I’m eternally grateful to my husband for introducing me to my new love and to TJ Brand for getting me stoked on powder boards again. I can’t wait to take this ultimate souvenir home so I can rip up the powder on it in British Columbia and weave through the trees in Vermont. Plus I’m hoping it will turn a few heads with its good looks and the novelty factor (I’m not above a little board vanity) of having an exotic Japanese powder board like this back in North America.
Get more info on the TJ Brand Napoleon Fish and other TJ snowboards at the official site here.