HangBoarding: The Evolution from Skiing and Snowboarding
Christine Goff began writing novels after several false starts working as an ice cream store manager, a ski bum and on "the chain gang" (not that kind of "chain gang!") A former journalist and editor, two of her novels were named finalists for the Willa Literary Award. Her website is at christinegoff.com. She wanted to share the latest fitness innovations with the readers of InventorSpot.com.
Here's her article:
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First came skiing, then snowboarding, now get ready to HangBoard!
HangBoarding is like hang gliding on snow. The "pilot" climbs aboard the HangBoard, which consists of an apparatus bolted to a standard snowboard in place of the bindings. The pilot hangs in a harness below a T-shaped bar, grips the handlebars in front and clamps her feet into rudders at the back. You're not vertical, you're horizontal, and most of the control comes from shifting your weight, with the rudders double as steering and brakes. Push one rudder you turn. Push both rudders, you stop. Or that's the theory .
Made of aircraft aluminum, the HangBoard weighs less than 11 kg (without the snowboard), and measures 160 cm long, 32 cm high (when folded) and 47 cm wide. A limited number of 2008 models are currently available for sale while quantities last. The HangBoard costs around $1495.00, but the last of the 2008 models are available now for $1295.00 (Canadian dollars, plus tax where applicable and shipping charges).
Invented in 2001 by a Canadian named Don Arney, the development process has taken years; but now, according to a report in the Canada West Ski Areas Association October 2007 News , HangBoard SnoFlight, the company developing the HangBoard, is ramping up for its commercial launch. With inflated tow ticket prices at the ski areas and the subsequent decline of folks willing to dish out the cash, the ski industry is begging for something new.
Skiing has been around forever. Rock drawings, discovered in Norway in 1933, hint to the existence of skis 5000 years ago, and the baron of Valvasor wrote reports on skiing activities in the 17th Century. The Norwegian military held skiing competitions in the 1670s, and skis were used in California in the 1850s, with downhill races organized between competing mining camps. The first ski club, then ski school, was formed in 1875 . Growing up in Colorado, I can remember lacing up my ski boots and clamping feet into cable bindings, and the thrill of getting my first "real" equipment-a pair of Head 360 skis with an early version of today's bindings and buckle boots.
Snowboarding began around 1929, and it's impossible to say who first invented the sport. One pioneer was a man named M.J. "Jack" Burchett, who cut out a plank of plywood and tried to secure his feet to the board using clothesline and horse reins. It was a full 30 years later before Sherman Poppen, a chemical gases engineer, invented "The Snurfer" as a toy for his daughter. He tied two skis together and put a rope at the nose. When all his daughter's friends wanted one, Poppen decided to manufacture his idea, and eventually sold over half a million. Then, in 1969, Dimitrije Milovich started making snowboards.
Then, along comes Don Arney from Salt Spring Island in British Columbia. A veteran hang glider, he combined his love for flying with his love for the mountain, enlisted the help of Canadian designer, Peter Brooke, and developed the HangBoard. The first effort was a hand-sized model using "a chip of wood, a few screws, and a coat hanger. Three months later, they had developed a full-sized rig, and found someone gutsy enough to put it to the test-local mountain bike and snowboard champion Everest MacDonald, who made the first run on May 29, 2002.
"The first, old setup was bulky, but it was the foundation. This is how you learn. Each rig had a thousand problems, but something always worked, and so we moved forward."
A few spectacular crashes, another designer (American Charles Buchwald) joining the team, more test pilots, and there are patents pending in Canada, U.S.A., Japan, China, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Now, with a marketing person on board, they're ready to move forward.
HangBoard pilots ride the lifts and descend the slopes like skiers and snowboarders. "Clipping in at the top of a chute you have ridden a thousand times before and knowing that this time is going to be different, that this time you're going to float down that chute a foot above the snow. It gives you that same tingle you get from watching those Warren Miller releases just before opening day...," says Lucas Parker, a Team HangBoard Pro. And Mira Mackey, the person with the most time on the HangBoard than anyone in the world says, "It feels completely different from snowboarding or skiing. On a groomed run, it's like maneuvering a race car. You gain speed really quickly and every lean or touch of the rudder gives a big effect. You feel weightless, yet in control. On fresh snow, it's like a dream. It leaves you with this really vivid, soft feeling afterwards. We didn't expect we would be jumping but that's great, too. Before we knew it, we were flying through the air. Landings were a bit sketchy at first but now they've added shocks to the rig." (Times Colonist, November 2006)
The best news is HangBoarding is much easier on your body than skiing or snowboarding. As a veteran skier, my knees can attest to the abuse taken when you make a run through the bumps. On the HangBoard, you're suspended in air, out over the powder, the snow flying in front of your board. It's all about balance. Kick one rudder, you start your turn, you shift your weight, pushing your shoulders and hips out in the direction you're turning, and balance against the edge of your board. You tap the opposite rudder and find yourself pointed straight down the hill, and you use that momentum to carve your next turn. After a few runs, the technique comes naturally. Style is more individual.
The most exhilarating thing, according to the test pilots, is the chance to take runs that you've skied or boarded a million times, that your board with, and make it new. The HangBoard technology combines basic ideas from several sports and creates a completely new challenge. Test pilot Dan Fogarty says it best, "if you enjoy learning something new, this is perfect."
You can see a video of the hangboard in action here: