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If you are an experienced athlete, then you probably already know what is a balance board. But if you are new to fitness and board sports, in particular, this complete guide on types of balance boards will make it all clear to you.
Well, this doohickey that is called a balance board is literally a board that is placed on a cylindrical roller. A person has to stand on a board with both feet and try to maintain a balance on it.
Normally it is a wooden board, about an inch thick with a rough surface on the one side to place feet on and two ledges on the bottom side to prevent it from slipping out.
The roller is usually made out of hard PVC or similar material and is usually about 7 inches in diameter. But there are so many balance board modifications out there, that every person can find the one that best suits one’s needs.
Unfortunately, we don’t know who was the original inventor of the balance board, though many companies claim to have designed their unique interpretation of this device.
However, there are some sources that mention circus acrobats using a board on a roller in the 19th century for the sort of amusement.
Even nowadays you can observe acrobats in circuses using it in their performances, sometimes even you can see them stacking several rollers under a single board.
The balance board as we know it was re-invented in the 20th century. The second life of the balance board begins in the ’50s. Stanley Washburn, Jr. (1908-2005) the U.S. Army’s Air Transport Command pilot invents his first Bongo Board.
During one of the missions in Africa, he noticed local kids fooling around balancing on a plank atop a log. As a pilot, Washburn obviously had no correlation between him and the whole board sports movement.
Besides even surfing at the time was at the beginning of becoming a sport. Washburn gave his invention to his ten-year-old daughter as a Christmas present.
It had more of a recreational character with its own unique features, like a track on the bottom of the board and a cavity on the roller to keep both parts in line.
Hunter Joslin the founder of Indo Board probably was one of the first people who started to develop his idea into something more than just a toy.
Since the mid 70’s he was working on the Indo Board right up until nowadays. He is a surfer and a skateboarder with more than 40 years of experience, so compared to Washburn, he had a much more specific conception of what his invention should be. And of course, it was a training device for surfers to practice out of the water.
The design was simple, yet very ingenious. It is supposed to imitate the surf feeling. Unlike its ancestor, Joslins’s board is flat on the bottom with two ledges, and a roller has three rubber stripes to keep it more stable. Indo Board Original is one of their most recognized boards.
From the warm and sunny ocean shore, we move over to the white and snowy mountains. That’s where we meet Brew “Vew” Moscarello the inventor of the Vew-Do balance board. Brew was a snowboard instructor in the ’90s. And might I add a very creative one.
Brew was concerned that it was a good idea to teach his students how to balance before attempting to go downhill on a snowboard. So he thought of his old Bongo Board as a training device. From that moment forward he began improving and perfecting his own version of Bongo Board and he called it Vew-Do.
There are few major companies besides the above-mentioned that specializes in balance boards, each having its own story to tell. Depending on the manufacturer the main idea behind this so-called re-invention was:
- to find a way for board sports riders to train on the ground when there is no possibility to ride waves/snow/street;
- to train balance and coordination;
- provide a solution for rehabilitation and therapy;
- to maintain physical strength and fitness.
Types of balance boards
The difference between the various types of balance boards is the way a board can move in every possible dimension relative to the fulcrum, in most cases roller is the fulcrum.
Put it simply, the difference is how hard it is to keep your balance. I’ll try to cover all the main types of balance boards out there. Here we go.
1. Rocker boards
These types of balance boards are simple and easy to use among other balance boards. The design is straightforward, usually, it’s a wooden board with a fulcrum attached to its bottom.
In some cases the fulcrum represents half a cylinder that goes along the board’s length, in others, it’s two semi-spheres located on opposite sides of the board.
It allows you to rock on the board only forwards and backward or from side to side if you change position.
2. Wobble boards
Wobble board design includes a board and a fulcrum (called wobbler) in the shape of a half-sphere attached to it. Its design allows rocking the board in any direction or 360 degrees if you will.
These type of balance boards is considered relatively cheap compared to others, however, there are a wide variety of different wobble boards on the market.
Standing on this board is more difficult than on a rocker board, thus wobble boards are recommended for intermediate-level athletes.
3. Roller boards
Roller boards are derived from the Bongo Board mentioned earlier in this article. Generally, it’s a wooden board that is placed on a plastic cylindrical roller.
Although the main concept of the roller board is the same, some design features may differ depending on the model and vendor. These features influence the riding style and difficulty of the board. Features like:
- roller diameter;
- tapered roller;
- grooves in the roller;
- guard rails on the bottom of the board;
- type of board surface;
- board shape.
Roller boards are recommended for advanced-level of athletes.
4. 360 Sphere boards
These kinds of boards have quaint and very unique designs. The board is placed on a ball. To prevent the ball from sliding out, the board has a guard rail that goes all the way around the board base.
This is the most difficult type of balance board, as the board has the least amount of contact with the fulcrum, which in turn can spin in all directions.
360 Sphere boards are meant for the expert level of athletes.
Balance boards benefits
By training on a daily basis, you can gain and improve the:
- Core strength;
- Muscle memory;
Many professional athletes use balance boards in their exercises and workout. It helps diversify training and gives more load to the muscles and joints.
Also, balance boards are the ultimate alternative to a board sport of your choice. Whether you do snowboarding, surfing, or skateboarding. You can train in the offseason, when it’s bad weather conditions or when you’re recovering. Check my guides on:
- Best balance boards for snowboarding;
- Best balance boards for skateboarding;
- Best balance boards for longboarding;
- Best balance boards for surfing;
- Best balance boards for SUP;
- Best balance boards for wakesurf.
A word of caution must be said to summarize. Like in any action sport, a certain level of risk is involved when riding a balance board. The board might slip out from under your feet, go off balance, or not land a trick can lead to unwanted consequences. To avoid any serious injuries keep in mind these few simple tips:
- Always ensure a safe environment:
- Make sure there’s enough space around you;
- There’s a soft and dry surface under your board.
- Make sure your health and physical conditions are in proper shape;
- Ask someone to watch you or assist you if you are a beginner;
- Start small and progress over time.