Here’s something for you to mull over on this friday morning.
A common area that people struggle with when hitting kickers is not knowing where to drop in from, how to drop in, when to get low, how low to get, when to pop and if this all goes to plan, why doesn’t the next hit go as good?
In the following article I am going to illustrate a simple structured approach that you can take into every kicker with a couple of self checks to keep you safe.
These being: Where to drop in from? | Taking off | Up and down Movements | Tips
Please Note: This article is written for those working towards or perfecting basic straight airs, no spins.
Before doing anything, inspect the feature. Make sure the coast is clear and ride down, stopping in a safe place visible by others (not on the run in or on the landing – to the side of the feature is best). Take note of the run up, distance to be covered and landing. Only now should you think about hitting the feature.
Where to drop in from?
This is the first aspect of hitting kickers that I like address when coaching and can’t stress how important it is to get right. If you don’t have the correct speed, you can forget the rest…
A couple of ways you can ‘test’ your speed:
- Watch where other riders are dropping in from. Caution though, as each riders weight, board, wax (if present..!) and any speed they may already be carrying, will differ.
- If there is space and its safe, choose a drop in point (similar to where you observed others dropping in from) but off to the side of the feature. Point the board straight and run in parallel to the kicker line. This way you will get an idea of the speed required and brush off any nerves.
Vary the drop in point so you have the correct speed, always making a note of where you are going from. Choose a fixed object (a piste pole, a sign or similar). This is ‘your’ marker!
The importance of having your marker, is it’s one less thing to think about when you are dropping in. Get the speed set, clock your marker and drop in, now you’re totally focused on the trick at hand and not thinking,, oh is my speed ok…?
Personally when I’m riding, I like to come to a momentary pause inline with my drop in point, then point the board straight
NO TURNS – Turns slow you down, messing with you speed and when you turn you go from one edge to the next.
Who knows what edge you’re going to take off on and chances are, you’re going to hit the knuckle now as you’ve brushed off speed needed to reach the landing.
This brings us nicely onto the next section.
Taking off – off my toes, heels or flat base?
With the above in mind, on the run in and when taking off, try to keep the board flat base, weight slightly on the balls of your feet.
What I mean by this is very similar to when you skate along one footed, go up a drag lift or ride a very narrow flat section (see the post on riding a cat track for tips on this).
If your board is dead flat it tends to twitch from edge to edge, this is NOT what we want. So, flat base with weight slightly on the balls of your feet bias towards the toe edge of the board. (not tip toes..! not bent over…! but centered over your board with ankles, knees flexed – see posts on centered stance).
Up and down Movements
So, we have our drop in point set and how our board is to be set beneath us, now lets talk about what type of position our body needs to be in to get some height.
Moving up or down on our snowboard while riding allows us to either absorb or apply pressure. In our case here, we are interested in apply a force as we ride the transition and leave the lip of the jump, resulting in height.
Using the diagram below as a visual aid:
- Start tall at point A
- Smallest at point B
- Tall again at C
- Smallest at D in the air
- Extending the legs to prepare to land, riding away small until stable and then back to a normal riding height.
How tall and how small?
Imagine yourself standing on your snowboard as tall as you could go, straight legs. Lets give this height a number, say 10. With the number 1 being the smallest you could get on your snowboard, bum touching the snow!
Now think of standing at about a number 7/8 at point A. Ride in and as you approach point B progressively start to get low, to a 4/5 in height.
A couple of points: you’ll notice that I have used a capital and rather large A to illustrate being tall. You’ll also notice that this ‘A’ is still large half way down the run in and there is a reason behind this.
You want your up and down movements to match as you approach and take off the jump (the getting low and the extending upward). So you don’t want to start getting low 10-12 meters before point B if the transition (distance between B and C) is only 5 meters. This will throw off the timing of your movements and they won’t match.
Think about the movements a basketball player makes when shooting a 3 pointer. First they stand tall, them in one fluid motion they get low, building good posture and energy up, then extend up with the entire body launching themselves straight up into the air. This fluid smooth motion creates that ‘floaty’ feeling in the air, using the entire body to jump and NOT just lifting the legs up under your body.
Take a look at the second half of the video on the following post and watch peoples movements up and down as they approach the kicker – see who has their timming right. Those that do, get the most air time and make it look smooth. link to post
The rate at which you get low will depend on your speed, so again this will take a few tries to get spot on, but always try to think of a fluid motion just mentioned above.
From point B – C actively push away with your legs against the transition extending to a number 7 in height. The reason I mentioned getting down to a 4/5 at point B is if you stay tall you run the risk of extending too tall at point C. Causing you legs to straighten, hitting the high backs and resulting in you leaving the feature on you heel edge. NOT good!
So imagine working within a 4 – 7 height range to start with and as you progress experiment with this height range.
Important! Make sure to push away with your legs getting taller as you ride up the transition from point B – C. DON’T absorb. If you are absorbing the lip of the jump, then you’re probably nervous and should scale the speed or size of the kicker down to prevent you getting into bad habits and more importantly getting hurt!
Bringing your legs up under you in the air will add to stability, but this will only be possible if you get all the above movements done correctly and ARE pushing away as you leave the lip.
Final thought / Tips:
- With your weight already slightly bias towards the toe edge, you not only get stability on the run in as mention before but this also provides grip as you push against the transition and extend up.
- Try to think about flowing through the up and down movements as you ride the feature. In snowboarding there are no fixed positions, there is always some type of movement going on, be it adjustments or shifting in body weight / posture and definitely no jerky movements.
- Each feature will have a different run in and transition, requiring a different rate of movement, allow yourself time to get use to this.
- In regards to the run in, I know a few people like to do a little shift from one edge to the next in preparation and get themselves switched on / focused etc, and you might see this very slightly in the video below. A slight movement is fine as long as it’s not messing with you speed and causing you to think ‘do I have enough speed’. What we want to avoid is massive edge to edge turns.
If you can’t straight line the board for the entirety of the run in without ‘having to’ put in a turn, then you should go and practice this so it’s second nature, for yours and others safety.
A short clip of Donnie Macleod, from Synergy Snowsports, hitting a kicker
in the Davos park – note the straight run in.