The Burton Blog

Heel, Toe: Exploring The Intrinsic Feelings Behind Carving

The most universal shared experience between all snowboarders is the carve...

It is what separates a novice from an expert. It is the base from which all riders build, no matter what riding style they pursue. Often overlooked, the simple act of carving creates so much joy for riders around the globe. It is the greatest simple pleasure.

But like all simple pleasures, it's nearly impossible to put your finger on why exactly it has this effect. What is it about carving that, without fail, puts a smile on our faces? We asked our friend and fellow carve lover, Keenan Cawley, to try and tackle this question. The following is his ode to the carve.


Snowboarding has us hypnotized.

Nothing else could explain our incessant pursuit of it. And the mechanics of how it obtained mind-control are so simple they actually seem daft when you realize what they are. The cinematic hypnotist places its patients in a chair, calms them through breathing techniques and ambient noise, and then implements a tool for repetition. In snowboarding, we strap in and allow the cool air and sounds of the wind to base ourselves. But what could be our transportive trigger? What is our infamous swaying pocket watch? I have reason to believe that what mesmerizes us is when we begin to turn. Gliding gently from edge to edge, the carve elicits a change in consciousness and penetrating connection. The following is how I think it happens.


The board preciously perched upon the slope, some 15 degrees perhaps, separating itself from the chilled snow. The base breathes in brisk air on its hardened face. It will lie flat, eventually giving way to headway – straightaway – but for now it hangs suspended on the curve. This is the metal’s duty: the carve. Drawing the compass arc, drawling only so much as the user deems fit. The user is the artist. The artist: god, as far as metal is concerned. Metal is whatever the user wishes to make of it. This user aims to make speed, so metal is the edge to ride along, working, generating what it needs. This carve is spontaneous and energetic and undoubtedly toe-side, evident by its free will and explosive nature. It wrenches across the mountain, splaying the entirety of the blade. A whole history written in fine semi-circle, written mid-inhalation.

Now goes the p-tex base at ease. Gravity is pleased, remembering the apple – packed with seed – falling faster than the leaves. The wind hums. Straight-shot, rooster-tail tumbling behind the artist. For now, and then not.

The industrious heel-edge feels its way in, starts jotting down little ideas to break the wind. The heel-edge is conscientious in the face of its counterpart’s sporadic tendencies. What it lacks in imagination it makes up for in ambition and tranquility. It’s deviation from true zero (read: flat-base) is reflective and reminiscent of the return. The heel-edge is necessary, albeit subdued, to complete the journey. In breathing, it’s the exhale.


But this artist is fighting its breath, trying to dig deep. Rapidly in succession: *toe-toe-toe, heel, toe-toe-toe, heel* hyperventilating the board. The base goes blue as if under a thermochromatic spell, so the artist lays off the rails allowing it to drink from the well. The melting snow revives it. A short-lived respite, however, because, remember: god is a user. A full breath in sends the rail tearing nearly uphill, that rebellious rail yearning for ascension. It peters out, giving way to the languid line of the honorably mentioned. This soothing bow seems timeless as if it could cut this path forever. But if there’s a bow there, too, is an arrow. The shoulders hint that change is imminent. The steadying moment: another subtle clue.



The toe edge screams. Molecularly, there must be a million mini torpedoes molting among the rail. This carve is champion and deservingly so. A carnivorous cry, animalistic, and yet ultimately and perfectly human. It sucks the user in. Desire dangles in a frame, poised in the warped perspective. *Gasp, gasp, gasp* for it’s right there, just beyond the nose, just beyond reach. Heel-edge waits plaintive as an empty beach. It’s too conscious not to be aware of its partner’s celebrity. But that’s not to say it has nothing worth celebrating. In fact, subtlety is what it’s heralded for. It’s indicatively heroic. And it needs less patience than it has to wait on toe-side to tucker itself out. Over exhaustion is what owns the user. And the long exhale through puckered lips is released.

True character is shown through this exhibition of balance. Not stationary balance; the dial isn’t set in the middle. But the liquid flow of balance. This and that. In and out. The star-bound starboard and stoic port. That pendulum must sway. It’s so over-the-top it breaks the ceiling, yet also as if it were a snow leopard completely hidden and forgot. They take turns taking turns. Their relationship seems comical: the chatterbox and the self-conscious. But they are eternally relevant to each other; opposingly charged but charged nonetheless. After so much back-and-forth the fact of the matter is that they are a perfect pair.

The devil leans in on the user's front shoulder. “C’mon baby – let it all out!” he cackles, lead-heavy.

The featherweight angel rests on the opposition. She lets blow softly a whisper in the artist’s ear. Things open up, bravely calm.

“Nonono! C’mon! Drive!”

Then bliss on a breeze arrives.

“Gun it!”


The artist is one with it. Then rage in a cage, then silently sage; in through the mouth then out, nasal. That’s what god feels. But only if you’re turning - only if you’ve allowed yourself to be hypnotized. If not, it looks like one big joke; just a squiggly line coming down a snow-white mountain.