Five years with ATBA-UK

This month marks my 60th month with ATBA-UK. That’s five years. Longest I’ve ever done anything in my life.

This time last year I wrote about what I wanted to achieve over the next few years, and it all seems to be going to plan.

The “Make Mountainboarding A Sport” campaign is gathering speed with shops and suppliers coming on board to help us catch people buying mountainboards for Christmas. In the new year the PR will go out to raise awareness outside the mountainboarding community, and then in the spring the Centres will (hopefully) be handing out lots of postcards and collecting new riders details for us. All of this is about adding all those mountainboarders we don’t really know about to our database to demonstrate that there are enough people participating in mountainboarding to justify it being a sport. Of course there is still a lot of policy and documentation writing to be done but I’m working on that too.

My strategy documents are progressing too, with the objectives for each business function of the ATBA-UK almost complete. These strategy documents are a huge piece of work but are essential for formalising our priorities and how we approach the work we do to ensure we are achieving our mission of supporting the growth of mountainboarding in the UK.

The past couple of months have seen a bit of a resurgence of the Instructor Training Programme with me delivering Instructor Training to an Activity Centre and Training Provider Training to a Mountainboard Centre. It’s another one of those massive projects that should be a full time job and is going to take years, but it’s good to see it progress.

Over the coming months I want to spend some time improving and making better use of mountainboarding.uk.com, both as a resource for new riders and as an income stream for the ATBA-UK. I wish I had more time to focus on this but hopefully with some help the site can be improved and can become more successful.

I wonder where I’ll be with all of these this time next year?

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Getting strategic

I’ve been gradually working on understanding and refining the strategies the ATBA-UK uses in it’s various functions and am at a stage now where I can begin to document them properly. The aim is to produce written strategy documents for Business, Events, Marketing, Membership, and Standards. These documents will all work together to form the overall strategy that the ATBA-UK follows in its work and provide some business sustainability for when the current committee members move on and are replaced by other volunteers. Having what we’ve done, how we did it, and why, written down to pass on means any future committee should be able to continue without all the difficulties we faced when we took over.

Although I been adding to each of the strategies for a while, it’s only recently that I’ve been working on the Membership Strategy that I’ve found a format that seems to work. Each document is split into two sections; Strategy and Workflow. The strategy contains an Introduction to the strategy, the Aim and Objectives for the function, its Goals, Critical Success Factors, Implementation, Measures and Future Developments. The Workflow contains all the information a person would need to take over a function like Membership and run it. It breaks down how the systems are set up, what the person managing the function needs to do, and what schedule they should work to.

These documents will change as part of an ongoing process of reviewing and updating our procedures, but by the end of the process we should be able to produce ‘A Guide To Running The ATBA-UK’ which will become a very useful resource for guiding the current and future committee.

Four years with the ATBA-UK

I recently sent the 48th email newsletter. Forty eight emails, one a month for four years. Four years of working for the ATBA-UK. Four years of getting more and more involved, developing better understanding of the ATBA-UK as a business, understanding the ATBA-UK as a community-building organisation, and working on strategies that will achieve the ATBA-UK’s mission of supporting the growth of mountainboarding in the UK.

So, what’s next? Another four years? Yeah, I hope so. My personal mission is to achieve Sport England recognition for mountainboarding and get the ATBA-UK set up to run as a sustainable business with all its strategies, policies and procedures in place and well documented. If that takes another five or ten years, then that’s fine by me.

More Nompas can only be a good thing

dales nompa mountainboardMore people are starting to become interested in Nompa’s and set about building them. Since my discussion with Constantin, Dale has started building his Nompa (and a fine looking beast it is too), and even long-time noSno rider Dave McBean has been considering it.

All this Nompa activity is inspiring me to make another one. I think it would be more Downhill orientated, perhaps to take the place of Fatman. I think I would use a 15 degree deck again and trim it to be able to take my noSno brakes, and have some good twist in the middle. It would be a bit longer than my current Nompa (which to be fair is shorter than most kids boards) and probably have a bit more ground clearance than Dale’s just because of the nose and tail angle, which will give it less steering. I think, for shaping, I might go with a nicely rounded, longboard-style, deck shape.

I’ve even thought about starting a website about Nompa’s, although as Dale pointed out, there would only be five of us who would look at it. That might be a bit too ultra-niche to put the time and effort into it. I still think that all the knowledge we are generating from building Nompa’s should be recorded, even down the details of lengths of noSno wheel bolts, but maybe it doesn’t need it’s own website. Maybe I’ll just spend some time measuring and recording as many details about things like hub width and binding positions and put it all on this blog.

I guess we’ll see if I get time to do anything.

Just another day in the office

When someone asks me what I do for the ATBA-UK I always have trouble explaining myself. I do quite a few different things, even in an average week.

Discussed downhill comps with committee members.

Analysed the results of a riders survey to help inform the ATBA-UK’s decision-making process.

Wrote up my notes from the AGM.

Worked on the ATBA-UK’s Marketing Strategy and Plan for 2014 so that we have a coordinated and structured means of communicating with the riders and encouraging them to go to the competitions.

Started a calender for organising event dates for 2014 so centres don’t clash weekends.

Discussed with committee members alternative ways of selling raffle tickets for the snowboarding holiday that Pleisure donates to the ATBA-UK, so we can make more money next year.

Blogged my realisation about how I see the AGM differently to some other people, and what I can do about it.

Wrote a reference for someone who does volunteer work with the ATBA-UK to help their application to college.

Went to library to do some market research for an idea I have that would help the ATBA-UK market mountainboarding more effectively.

Discussed next years Downhill comps with committee members.

Spoke to an Accident Insurance company about providing accident and injury cover for ATBA-UK members at a discounted rate.

Organised some Instructor Training for a Regional Representative.

Added Regional Representatives to the Ride Guide Maps so they can keep their regions maps up to date.

Read some information about funding for sports organisations.

Created some auto-responder emails for Regional Representatives.

Updated company information on the Companies House website.

Applied for funding to pay for Regional Rep’s to do First Aid Training.

Updated Membership letters for 2014 Membership Packages.

Designed Entry Form for 2014 Uk Mountainboard Series.

Emailed someone who is interested in having a mountainboard lesson.

Planning Ahead

I realised last night the cause of the discrepancy between what I know the AGM is about and what some of the riders seem to think it’s about.

For me, the AGM is a legal requirement. We do it because it is a requirement of the Companies Act. For the riders, it’s a chance to talk about next season. They don’t realise that we’ve been planning next season for the past five months and already have decided what’s going to happen. I assumed it was clear because we announce the dates and locations for next season at the AGM. It’s obvious to me now that I’m wrong, and that riders (the few that are interested) still think that the AGM is the time and place to put ideas forward for next season. We need to change that.

At next year’s AGM (2014) we’ll provide more time for discussion, but the discussion will be about the 2016 season. It’ll need a well-managed agenda, which could include things like the name of the series and entry fees, but it will hopefully be a better way to source the riders opinions and meet their expectations.

And it fits the ATBA-UK’s community-building business model, so it must be the right way to do things.

How to make a Nompa

A Nompa is a hybrid mountainboard made from a Nosno and a Trampa. Mix them together and you get a Nompa, which brings together the best elements of both boards; the stability and toughness of the nosno trucks and the customisability and indestructableness of the Trampa deck.

Why would you want a Nompa?

The answer is ‘Adaptability’. You build your Nompa the way you want it. If you want a downhill board for going really fast on firetracks you build it one way, but if you want a short, agile freeride board for getting between trees you build it another way.

Nompa

I built mine for exactly that. It’s light, short, has pretty good torsional flex in the deck, and hardly any turn in the trucks. I built it because I needed a board for riding steep singletrack with lots of trees around (and in the dark). It’s probably as far out on the extremes as Nompas get, and yours doesn’t have to be anything like mine.

So, how do you you go about making your Nompa? First thing is to decide what kind of riding you want to do with your Nompa and how you want your board to ride. Then you can select the parts you’ll need to make your Nompa and put them together in the right way for you.

Deck

Nompa’s are made with a Trampa deck. The advantages of the Trampa deck over any other kind of deck are that you can shape it make it ride how you want it to. If you want a stiff board for BoarderX racing you might choose a 17 ply 35 Long deck and only shape the nose and tail, but if you wanted your Nompa for freeriding you might go for a shorter deck and cut loads out from the middle to make the deck twist more.

Trampa 35 LongYour three options for decks are: 35 Long, 35 Short or 15 Short. Let’s look at the 35 degree decks first. Having a 35 degree nose and tail means you’ll get plenty of turn from your Nompa, making these the right decks to choose for most people. The only difference between the Long and the Short is the length of the nose/tail tips. The length of the decks between the creases are the same on both. So, if you know you want the extra ground clearance and increased stiffness that comes with having your trucks closer together, you can get a Short 35 decks. If you want your deck closer to the ground for more stability, or you want to be able to decide which way to have the trucks after you’ve bought the deck, go with a Long 35. Short 15

Trampa Decks are available in 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 ply. The more ply, the stiffer the deck, but also the heavier. You can reduce the weight of the deck by cutting away parts. Trampa Holy Pro decks have holes cut into the footbeds, which is an ok way of reducing weight if you aren’t using snowboard board or nosno soft bindings, or if you figure out where the bolt holes are going before you cut big holes in the wrong place.

Wherever you cut the deck, think about how reducing the weight will affect the ride. If you will be mainly downhilling then you’ll probably want some weight over the wheels to help with traction (of course the nosno trucks will give you most of that weight). If you want to make the board easier to jump you might want to take the weight from the ends and keep the stiffness in the middle of the deck.

Trucks

There are three options for trucks; Nosno Alloy axles, Nosno Composite axles or making your own flexi axles from Trampa deck material.

Brennigs Nompa

Nosno Alloy axles are the easiest to get, easiest to work with, and the toughest trucks available. Nosno Composite axles provide a nice ride with extra absorption over the rough stuff. They also have the advantage of having an off-centre axle which means you can give you board more or less ground clearance just by turning them around. I haven’t made any Trampa flexi trucks yet, but Brennig has. The hardest thing about them seems to be accounting for the curve in the material and how that affects the wheels (and what direction they point).

Placing the trucks closer together makes the deck stiffer (even if you’ve cut loads out to make the deck have torsional flex) and raises the deck height. Having the trucks mounted as far out on the nose and tail as possible will give the deck more flex, and so more absorption over rough terrain, and put it closer to the ground which will make it more stable at speed. It’s all about adaptability.

Bindings

You can pretty much put whatever bindings you want on your Nompa. Snowboard Bindings, noSno Soft Bindings or even MBS/Trampa/Scrub Ratchet Bindings if you really want to.

Brennig's Nompa

You can set up your bindings however suits you. And you can adjust them to suit how/what you’re riding. For Downhill you might want to set you bindings for getting into a speed tuck, and if you’re freeriding you might want your bindings set duck-feet to make falling leaf and riding switch easier.

Want to make your own?

There are a few Nompas out there in the world, made by people experimenting with building the right boards for the way they want to ride. If you want build a Nompa get in touch and we’ll chat through some ideas about what you want and how you can do it.

Seeing more – back out night riding again

Its autumn. That means no more ATBA-UK competitions and the evenings get darker earlier, both of which means its time to get back out night riding.

I nompa’d up and headed out to my local woods. I taped a head torch to my helmet and did my usual warm up run. I then switched the torch off and headed down a new run I’d never ridden before.

To ride in the dark you need to be able to switch off your brain, stop thinking, just let your body feel what’s happening and respond. You can see, just not much. The trick is to not try to see in the same way you see in daylight. During the day you use the rods in the centre of your eyes to see in colour and in detail. In the dark your rods no longer work, which means you have a blind spot in the centre of your field of vision, and instead, you use the cones around the outside of your eyes which see in blurry black and white.

So, if you ride through the woods in the dark and try to see with your rods you’ll get freaked out by the blurry black spot in the middle of your field of vision. Instead, you need to accept that you can only see the blurry grey blobs either side of where you are riding. And then, as you know where the sides of the track are you can orientate yourself and stay on the right line. You just have to stop your brain from thinking so it can orientate you quickly when you’re riding at speed.

Riding a track you’ve never ridden before in complete darkness is an awesome way to experience the leading edge of reality. Its direct experience with nothing getting in the way. Totally here and now.

What we do

What does the ATBA-UK do? Most people seem to think that all the ATBA-UK does is organise competitions. Granted, a lot of our time and energy does go into the competitions, but that isn’t all we do. Things like competitions and instructor training are our ‘products’, but like any business, there is more to what we do, why we do it, and what we’re hoping to achieve.

The ATBA-UK’s mission is to support the growth of mountainboarding in the UK. That’s what we do, sure, but the how is a bit more complicated. The ATBA-UK is a community-building organisation. That’s how we support the growth of mountainboarding; by building the community of mountainboarders. Everything we do is about building that community. So, what do we do?

We sell low priced secondhand boards that have been donated to us by members of the community. This generates income for the ATBA-UK, but it also makes it easier for beginners to get over one of the barriers of getting into mountainboarding; the cost of the equipment. But selling cheap boards doesn’t just make us money like most shops, we also make more mountainboarders, which will become members of the community.

Our competitions give mountainboarders with a wide range of abilities the opportunity to achieve in their chosen sport, but what the competitions really do is bring together mountainboarders from across the country. The competitions provide a time and a place for the members of the community to meet, spend time together, establish, maintain and reinforce those social connections. This is important for those mountainboarders who are part of the competitive scene to feel a part of the community.

Instructors are vital for growing mountainboarding. The more instructors we have teaching people how to mountainboard, the more people we’ll have mountainboarding. More people mountainboarding equals more people in the community. Mountainboarding is quite unique amongst action sports in that it has had instructors and a growing body of knowledge about how to teach it right from the start. Most of the other sports had people doing them for years before anyone thought about how to teach them, but Stu had the foresight to realise that the easiest way to get people into a relatively unknown sport is to teach them how to do it. That’s why the ATBA-UK puts a lot of time into improving instructor training; because it builds the community.

Membership Packages for new riders, recreational riders, competitive riders and instructors brings value to the community. I don’t know how many of the ATBA-UK members use the discounts they get at centres, shops, ski slopes, etc., but they are there and we add to them every year. I sometimes think that the ATBA-UK gets more out of riders being members than the riders do, but the truth is that members are really important to the ATBA-UK. Without a strong membership base we will never achieve Sport England recognition so in this case its the community that is supporting the growth of mountainboarding, which is exactly how it should be.

The last thing about the ATBA-UK and the mountainboarding community, the most important thing, the thing that gives it all its strength, is that the people who run the ATBA-UK are members of the community that the ATBA-UK is building. So, as the community gets stronger, the ATBA-UK gets stronger, which in turn makes the community even stronger.

A speed control approach to learning to mountainboard

Different Mountainboard Instructors teach in different ways. Some focus on turning as a fundamental skill for controlling a board, some focus on powerslides to ensure their students can stop effectively. Its great that we have so much diversity in the way instructors deliver Mountainboard lessons. Its such a stronger position for a sport to be in than instructors arguing that their way is the right way or for the national governing body to try to force everyone to deliver lessons in the same way. Instructors need to be able find to way that suits the hill they are teaching on, and need the freedom to experiment with different techniques to find new and better ways.

I was chatting to an instructor who had found a new way of teaching mountainboarding, and said he found that kids fell less and increased their confidence quicker, and also had seen an increase in kids returning for more sessions after their initial lesson. The hill he teaches on is quite steep and he had found that when getting riders to link turns they would accelerate part way through the turn (when the board is facing down hill), panic, and loose control. 

So, he now takes riders to one side of the slope, gives them a target to aim for on the other side and gets them to ride diagonally across the slope with the instruction that if they want to go a bit faster to turn down hill a little, and if they want to go slower to turn up hill. This way they get a good understanding of how the angle of the board on the hill affects the speed of the board and instead of learning turns to control their speed because they are going too fast, they learn to use turns to pick up speed, and at their own pace too. Then they ride the other way across the slope, gradually getting better at controlling their speed and linking their turns right from the start.

Diversity is a good thing. Let’s find more ways to teach mountainboarding and share them.