Why Do Snowboarders Wave Their Arms?
A snowboarder waving his arm.

Snowboarding effortlessly and with style requires practice and experience. Some rookie snowboarders often find themselves flailing their arms. Why do snowboarders wave their arms?

A lot of beginner snowboarders wave their arms for balance, or when they try to initiate some rotation. More experienced snowboarders learn how to control the board from the waist down. Balancing and controlling the board with your lower body takes time and practice. Don’t get discouraged if you are called wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man.

The most important thing when snowboarding is to have fun, stay safe, and enjoy the ride! If you are a rookie snowboarder assembling your gear, find out what gear exactly you need for snowboarding.

What do you do with your arms when snowboarding?

Learning how to get into a basic stance is the elementary skill that you should acquire as a snowboarder. Keep in mind that upper body movement in snowboarding causes you to work twice as hard. Flailing your arms in snowboarding is sometimes referred to as ”GARM”, which stands for gorilla arm, or ‘‘The Punter Wave”.

If you don’t know what to do with your arms, the first piece of advice would be to grab the sides of your pants while riding. This way, your arms will be straight down the sides of your body. That will remind you to keep your arms down. If your forearms hurt after snowboarding, find out why they hurt in our blog.

What stance should I use for snowboarding?

When you are just starting snowboarding, you should determine which of these two stances comes as second nature to you:

  1. Regular/natural – you ride your skateboard with your left foot in front. In other words, your left foot is closest to the nose of your snowboard. Generally speaking, although this is not always the case, right-handers are usually regular.
  2. Goofy –  when you ride goofy you have your right foot forward. In other words, your right foot is facing first down the hill. Left-handers usually ride goofy.

Neither of these two stances is better than the other. What’s important is that they feel natural to you. Also learn why snowboard boots lean forward.

How to learn the proper snowboard stance?

Learning the proper snowboard stance is essential, and proper posture becomes even more important once you start turning. These are the steps to achieving proper alignment:

  • Knees and ankles bent – Your knees should be relaxed and you should keep them tracked over your toes. The idea here is that your knees are soft and can easily flex with the changing terrain.
  • Keep your hips and shoulders relaxed – They should be in line with your board.
  • Relax your arms – Your arms should hang comfortably by your sides.
  • Look directly ahead of you – Only your head should face the direction you are riding in. Keep your head up while riding and avoid looking down.

In snowboarding, you should never turn from the hips, but from the waist down. When your torso completely faces forward it leads to counter-rotation movements, where your upper and lower body work against each other. Counter rotation movements throw you off balance and make your snowboarding a lot harder. Kick the habit of counter-rotation movements and learn that your feet move the board, not your arms.

How wide should my snowboard stance be?

Your snowboard stance width should be neither too wide, nor too narrow. Try to aim for slightly wider than your shoulder width. If your stance is too wide, it can make it really difficult for you to maneuver the board and almost impossible to make any kind of sharp turn. On the other hand, when your stance is too narrow, it’s really hard to control the board because your feet are really unstable.

You can figure out your stance width by standing on a binding-less board and first getting into a shoulder-width stance. Then, move your feet slightly outward. Once you feel more comfortable with your bent knees than with your straight knees, that’s your stance width.

Distance between the center of one foot to the center of another should be your guide when setting up bindings. Experiment and check what suits your style best. If you want to learn more about the difference between freestyle and freeride snowboarding, make sure to check out our article.

How to skate on a snowboard?

Skating on a snowboard is basically leading with your front foot strapped in and pushing forward with your back foot that is free on flat ground. It resembles skating on a skateboard. Skating is a skill that is useful on flat terrain and getting on and off a chairlift. This is how you set about skating on a snowboard:

  • Keep your knees slightly bent and your head up – always look where you are going.
  • Place your free foot in front of, or behind your skateboard – the latter, with your foot behind, is the more popular way to skate.
  • Start pushing yourself with your back foot – try to find balance while doing small shuffles first and gradually move into longer pushes. Get comfortable on your board on the flat terrain first, before getting on the hill.
  • Your free foot should never go past your back binding – if it does, you may end up doing a split.

How to glide on a snowboard?

Once you are comfortable with skating, you can transition to gliding. Gliding is moving around flatter surfaces or gentler slopes with your free foot resting on the board. You should place your free foot on the middle of your board against your back binding. This will give you extra stability. You will also need gliding for getting off a chairlift.

A man snowboarding with a selfie stick.

How to make a J-turn?

J-turn is one of the first maneuvers that you will learn on a snowboard. This move will teach you edge control, balance, and speed control. Remember that in order to turn your snowboard you need to apply the right amount of pressure to your feet. You can practice certain subtle movements of your feet both at your home and on snow.

A J-turn entails gliding straight and then making a slight turn uphill shaped like the letter J. There are two types of J-turns: toe-side and heel-side J-turn. Whichever one you choose to practice, choose a beginner’s slope or a bunny hill.

The steps to a toe-side J-turn

  1. Glide forward and apply gentle pressure to your toes – this gradual pressure will point your board in the direction straight down a gentle slope, where you want it to go.
  2. Shift your weight to the front foot – flex your knees and ankles and move your hips over the toes.
  3. Turn the board – shifting your weight over the toe-side edge should create an edge angle. Your snowboard will turn back across the hill.

 The steps to a heel-side J-turn

  1. Stand in your basic stance – your front foot should be clicked in on the snowboard and slowly place your back foot on the stomp pad.
  2. Apply weight to the front foot – flex your ankles and knees and move your hips over the heel-side edge.
  3. Create tilt – slowly lift your toes to the top of the snowboard boot and you will start to turn the board uphill.

You should practice both of these J-turns at least seven times each. Practice any number of times until you are confident that you can steer your snowboard, turn it and stop it with one foot not clicked in.

After that, you should strap in both feet and try both J-turns a couple of times. Only when you accomplish this, will you be ready for the chairlift. If you feel pressure in your snowboard boots, read our blog to learn how to get rid of pressure points.

How to traverse on a snowboard?

A beginner snowboarder who learns how to traverse will also more easily learn how to ride and gain edge control. Traversing is a skill of balancing and controlling your direction. There is a toe-side traverse and a heel-side traverse.

The steps to a toe-side traverse

  1. Find the balance point – bend your knees and make sure your weight is evenly distributed over the toe-side edge. You shouldn’t try to balance on your tiptoes.
  2. Shift your weight a little more towards the front foot – as you start moving in the direction of the nose of your board, push more on your left heel to go to the left, or more on your right heel to go to the right.
  3. Slow down and stop – press evenly on both feet, align your shoulders and lean over to increase the edge angle that will slow you down and bring you to a stop.

The steps to a heel-side traverse

  1. Find the balance point – bend your knees so you don’t stand too tall. Move your hips over the heel-side edge.
  2. Slowly shift your weight a little more towards the front foot – to get the board to start moving, push down a bit more with your left toes. That will make you traverse to the left. Don’t make any larger movements, make small tilting adjustments.
  3. Slow down and stop – the process of stopping is exactly the same as in the case of a toe-side traverse.

Final thoughts

If you want to learn how to ride a snowboard, but you find all the steps we outlined here overwhelming, consider taking snowboarding lessons from a certified instructor with the American Association of Snowboard Instructors.

There are many health benefits of riding a snowboard. Find out how many calories snowboarding burns. Remember that safety is your responsibility when you are snowboarding, and don’t forget to have fun!

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