Fluidstance – The Level Balance Board

By Chris / On / In Gear

Lots of companies talk about work-life balance, but few do it as literally as Fluidstance. Fluidstance makes a series of balance boards designed for working at a standing desk, or anywhere you want to add a little movement into standing tasks.

I’ve been using a standing desk in my home office for several years now, ever since the “Sitting is Killing You” infographic came out in 2011. The infographic makes some rather bold announcements like “Sitting increases risk of death up to 40%,” and “Sitting makes us fat,” but does a really good job of highlighting some of the changes we’ve experienced as our jobs have become more dependent on computers.

I enjoy being on my feet. I guess it comes with the territory when spending 150+ days snowboarding and skiing, and another 50 days a year paddleboarding, surfing, hiking, and camping. But along with the adventures comes plenty of time at a desk. Whether it’s sitting down to type up a recent adventure, or at the computer for my role as Manager of Training for the Vail Ski & Snowboard School, there’s no escaping some amount of time spent in front of the screens.

In the time I’ve worked with standing desks, I’ve used several different heights of desk and tried a number of pads to stand on. I’ve also always had some kind of balance board in the house, and occasionally have tried combining them. For a while I used an Indo Board with their IndoFlo cushion, but even with very little air in the cushion it simply moved too much to be comfortable. A repurposed Burton LTR Spooner board works to an extend, but the board is designed for kiddos, and it’s a little too soft to give you much rocker.

Enter Fluidstance. Their line of desk surfers are specifically designed for use at your standing desks, at home or at work. I’ve been using The Level for a couple of months, and my expectations have been completely exceeded.

The minute you unbox a Fluidstance deck you know you have something special in your hands. Clean lines, gorgeous wood, and an aluminum base cut from the same cloth as your MacBook Pro. Designed for standing on and surfing your desk, it looks like a piece of art. Be prepared to answer questions about it, as everyone who sees it is going to want to know more, stand on it, and maybe sneak it out the door with them.

On the usage side of things, Fluidstance’s boards feel perfectly balanced. Where most other balance boards are designed primarily for you to balance on, The Level is balanced on its own, and has a nice sweet spot in the middle, where you really don’t have to work to maintain balance. Simply step on to the board at your desk, and find a gentle athletic stance. With a little foot-to-foot movement or toe-to-heel pressure change you’ll find it rocks smoothly and evenly, and it easily returns to its centered stance. The spoon-shaped base minimizes the overall distance it can rock, and the rubber bumpers on the corners mean it isn’t loud, even on wood floors, so you’re not going to bug your coworkers.

This is all important, because it increases your energy usage by 19.2% vs standing, surpassing the Mayo Clinic’s standard for Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis equipment (requiring a 10% increase). Fluidstance also reports a 15% average increase in heart rate while using one of their decks. When you think about a day at a standing desk, a 20% different in energy expenditure is no small matter, and Fluidstance recommends that you ease into using the deck.

I’ve been using the Level deck at my iMac setup, which is where I do a lot of video and photo editing. I really enjoy being able to stand up and move while doing more creative work, and the Fluidstance deck lets me do that. On days when I can’t get outside to ride, bike, paddle, or otherwise enjoy the outdoors, being able to surf my desk gives me that little extra movement to keep myself energized and engaged – it’s amazing how a standing break from sitting will revitalize you. And on the days when I’m out on the mountain or otherwise enjoying Colorado? Time surfing at the desk works as a cool-down and stretch, staying mobile instead of plopping down into a chair at the keyboard.

Whether you’re looking for your first standing desk, or you’ve been using one for years, adding movement to your setup is a great addition. Fluidstance’s balance deck is the best I’ve found, both for function and form.
Review Disclaimer: Fluidstance provided The Level deck for the duration of this review.

Step On Up to Strapless Bindings

By Chris / On / In Gear

With Burton’s big reveal of the Step On, snowboarding’s worst kept secret of the last year is finally official – the step in binding is back.

Photo: Gabe L’Heureux / Transworld

For the last few decades, many of us have been deriding step-ins. They were heavy, clunky, unreliable, poor performing, pieces of junk that were just as likely to accidentally release as they were to ice up and refuse to attach. Similar to binding “advancements” that swivel the front binding, add levered brakes, or automatically close the ankle straps, step-ins were just another great intentioned, but overly complicated invention. As a result, they were unable to compete with the simplicity, weight, and reliability of traditional straps.

Despite the disdain mainstream snowboarding threw at them, step-ins found a niche of die-hard followers that put new liners in their beat up old boots, search for replacement binding parts online, seek out gear at garage sales, and post in forums about their love for step-ins.

Read more “Step On Up to Strapless Bindings”