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Monday, September 12, 2011
GEAR: Forum Shaka Binding

By Colin Whyte
ESPN Action Sports

Less plastic underfoot means more interaction between you and your board.

The "feel" you get out of your board has at least as much to do with your interface as it does with the board itself. The Shaka might look like a good ol' strap binding, but look closer: That baseplate is split (on purpose). The disc is hinged (like a door). And that foam pad ain't just any ol' pad -- it'll "cant" naturally with use. These bindings are more tech than they look and borrow performance goals from the "dead" idea of baseless bindings while being a new species entirely.

Forum's Everett Bleakney explains that the hinged disk and split baseplate, aka "GoodVibes," allows, "71-percent true-to-board flex. A board with no bindings on it flexes 100-percent true. Old school rigid disc systems only flex five to 10-percent true underfoot... We removed all the unnecessary plastic underfoot which makes bindings more rigid than they need to be and kept only what we needed to safely hold the binding to the board."

It looks like a regular binding, but requires a lot less tweaking.

There's a reason the Shaka, now in its third season, was one of the most hotly demoed bindings at High Cascade camp this summer.

Peter Line's a believer: "In the past, I would always adjust and change out straps, rotate my angles and mess with my forward lean. It wasn't until I noticed that my winter routine had stopped that I realized I was finally happy with a pair of bindings. With little adjustments, just a quick rotate here and a pad moved there, The Shakas were set for the season. This year, they added the Simmer Down; it's a cant of sorts, but not like those old 80s cants that gave you Craig Kelly knee... This cant works custom to each individual's stance and angles, not unlike a Tempur-Pedic bed filled with hot chicks eating gelato and Nilla Wafers."

(Clap, clap, clap: Peter Line, ladies and gentlemen...)

The first gen baseless bindings, circa '93, offered great board feel but they lacked standardization. They usually attached on the outside of the binding (no discs), you stood right on the board, and your feet tended to take a beating from all that "action" underfoot. And, if you found a binding you liked, there was no guarantee it would work with your favorite board. The Shakas work with any 4x4 board out there and user reviews underscore theier compatibility with rockered board shapes.

The Simmer Down also takes stress off ankles, knees and hips -- especially when huge stances are involved. "Out of the box, it's totally flat on top," says Bleakney. "The medial side of the [foot] bed is nearly half as dense as the lateral side. This lets the rider's boot nestle into the bed at the canted angle they need rather than forcing into something we predetermined for them." Add to that the über-cush Flip Flop Ankle Strap and you have some serious, BS-free customization at your, um, toe-tips.

Bleakney, who has been heavily involved in the Shaka's development, claims the tech helps a board ollie a lot smoother and, "helps the board's edge to have more contact with the snow, so it offers more stability... The binding flexes with you, almost bio-mechanically, so it puts less strain on your body because the binding is resisting you less."

Forum was responsible for the classic vid "The Resistance," but Bleakney's right: your bindings should work with you, not against you.

The Forum Shaka Binding retails for $239. Check a pair for yourself by finding a Forum dealer near you -- or near you online.