By Greg Samson 2015
Snowboarding and music go together like bacon & everything! From the tracks used on
our favourite riding vids, and the live bands playing at comps such as the X-games or Air
and style, to the dude/dudesses sliding around the mt with headphones in their ears.
But how does music affect our riding?
We see it all the time, the first time someone points their board down the slope. Their natural
reflex is to lean back in an attempt to slow their decent usually due to fear. But we have got
to get them to override that natural reaction and get their weight forwards to the centre of
their board. Music could help with this. Hormones + neurotransmitters are physiological
chemicals of emotion. Stress hormones (epinephrine, norepine + catecholamines) lead to
negative emotions (anxiety, depression + disappointment). Research shows that listening to
pleasant music increases levels of Dopamine (feel good chemical) leads to more positive
emotions (tranquillity, complacency + relaxation) therefore reduce or eliminate the negativity
of stress hormones. This can help us all the way up through the levels of snowboarding. It
can reduce the nerves & stress levels of an exam or the anxiety or fear we feel when we are
attempting something that scares us like a gnarly shoot or about to hit a daunting park
Nerves in some degree can be quite helpful to our performance, as nerves lead to an
accelerated heart rate which pumps extra blood around our body ready for physical activity.
Types of music can help pump you up and get you in ‘The Zone’ whether it be about to drop
in for a comp run or standing up top of a run with a few examiners and their mark sheets
waiting at the bottom. (or if you are about to attempt a scary shoot or hit a daunting park
feature) Scientifically speaking, this is known as the ‘flow state’ it’s a mind-set that
characterised by an ‘energised focus’ a level of concentration that is followed by
extraordinary physical performance. Music has been used throughout history by many
cultures for example the Maori war haka (now days utilised by the All Blacks and various
other NZ sports teams). Getting in the ‘Flow State’ is basically training your body to go
against your natural instincts of self- preservation.
Listening to music engages our Hirrocamps (long term memory portion of our brain) and can
act as a memory trigger. If you’re out on the slopes and a song comes on your music player
that you recognise is off your favourite riders segment, on the latest film. It brings up the
images of the riders style and can bring up an image in your mind of you riding park, or
charging the backcountry like them, helping put you in an optimal emotional state so that you
are confident and thinking positively and can see yourself landing that trick or making that
The Negative impact on riding
But music can have a negative impact on our riding. For one if we have the music in our ears
so loud that it blocks out most of the noise around us then we have lost one of our senses
(our tools) that help us in everyday activities. We reduce our awareness of who’s around us
and how close they are also our ability to gage the snow conditions such as the noise of ice
or the quietness of soft snow. Studies show that listening to music at a volume over 95dBs
can reduce mental & physical reaction times by 20%. Music is great at motivating us to go
bigger and push our limits, but it could potentially make us over confident and push us too
far. To hit a big jump that were not ready for, or go full tit down a groomer early morning
before we’ve warmed up or checked out the snow conditions.
Too all the upsides to riding with music there are also some downsides but we can manage
this buy choosing appropriate tunes for the task. And make sure we are at a skill level
appropriate for the task.
Keeping in mind all the affects that music has on our snowboarding, it could potentially be
used as an effective teaching tool. For example If we look at the principals of form Power – if
a student or a trainee that has the skills but is lacking in confidence we could suggest they
listen to music that motivates them & makes them feel confident. If we look at it in terms of
the ‘Principals of Form’ If we look at a student requiring more Power in their riding for a
certain task, we could suggest they listen to more of an upbeat genre or if they are needing
to tone back the power then we could suggest a more mellow genre of music. If our student
is needing to extend the duration of their movements for a certain riding task. We could then
suggest something with a slower tempo, or a higher tempo if we are wanting them to speed
up the duration of their movements.
For children (and potentially adults) we can use music as a way of helping the students
memorise the sequence of movements. If we take the example of ATTL for a straight air. We
could come up with a customised song/chant that organizes the different phases of the jump
specifically for what we are wanting them to work on.
We all want our riding to be and look as smooth and effortless as possible and music can
have what is known as an ‘ergogenic’ effect – an external influence that improves your
performance by making your muscles work harder for longer. Firstly, the rider pushes their
movement patterns to stay in time with the beat, and secondly the hypnotic effect of the
rhythm distracts them from sensations of exhaustion.
Everybody has their own individual taste in music. The music that I listen to when I want to
charge would probably not motivate every one, so too use music properly as a teaching tool
we would first have to figure out what type of music they listen to when their active or what
they listen to when they want to relax, what makes them happy or confident or what songs
bring back those motivational memories. Some people can’t ride with music, they feel it’s too
distracting. So just remember everyone is different, just like we alter our teaching method to
best fit the learning style of our students if we were to use Music as a teaching tool we would
also have to customise it to best suit our students.