Transition / Board Interface
Transitions are always smooth and easy with the Surge and the puck system. I have never had a problem with icing when transitioning, which is quite different from my experience with the Karakoram Prime. With the Prime, I often have to scrape away all snow around the interface to ensure a tight fit during the first attempt. With the Spark Surge, while maybe not advisable, I am usually able to forcibly slide the bindings onto the pucks for riding mode without any issues, until the toe bracket will lock. The plastic sheds ice and snow build up with ease, with no damage to the binding or interface. From my experience, the same cannot be done with the Karakoram interface without the risk of damage.
Though the Spark interface is pretty bombproof, I would recommend clearing all ice and snow buildup from the toe locking mechanism of the Tesla System during transitions. I have seen the plastic under the toe bracket fail a few times, which is fairly critical for the binding to function, both while touring and riding.
Spark’s board interface does not seem quite as clean as Karakoram’s, but it does not necessarily result in more snow or ice build up. Another key difference with the Karakoram interface is its ability to transfer from ride mode to tour mode without removing the binding from your boot. While it is not necessarily essential, it saves a pretty major step during each transition, making transitions a bit faster than with the Spark interface. It’s especially noticeable when riding really benchy terrain where you are often switching to ski mode to make it across the flats.
The Surge is a great binding for anyone who appreciates a responsive yet playful feel. I typically enjoy boards, boots, and bindings on the stiffer side, and the Surge does not disappoint on this front. While I have not tested them too extensively, I have been impressed with the playfulness of the chassis, despite it still being able to deliver power to the edges when needed. The solid base plate seems to stiffen up the torsional flex, which is nice in the sense that it holds the board together well and provides stability when charging. However, the the solid baseplate does prevent the binding from flexing naturally with the board, which decreases the board feel. If you’re seeking out a surfier binding, perhaps consider the Surge’s lighter and softer brother, the Arc.
I have found the Surge to be a great design for jibby-style riding on powder days, yet stiff enough to blast through crud and chop. For most days, the Surge would be an excellent choice for diverse backcountry endeavors, especially for those who like to charge at high speeds or bigger riders who need a stiffer platform to transfer energy more efficiently.
Although Spark claims that the Surge is built for big days on big lines, I would not recommend this binding over something much stiffer — such as the Karakoram Prime Carbon — if you find yourself in variable conditions with significant exposure. When riding bigger lines where the snow quality often changes from pow to boilerplate, I have found a stiffer chassis and carbon highback can help inspire confidence and deliver increased responsiveness.
However, for anything less consequential — when the day’s venue is about having fun — the Surge is a perfect tool. From hucking natural features, dropping cliffs, or slashing big powder turns, the Surge is snappy yet soft enough to tweak grabs easily, butter the board, and take a playful approach to surf the mountain. The flex of the chassis and highback really seems to compliment the more modern, stubby, surf-inspired boards like the K2 Splitbean, in which the riding style is centralized around laying down soul-inspired turns, and the Surge is stiff enough to be supportive on a swallowtail and powerful enough to hold a solid edge.
I intend to update this section once I have more time touring and riding with the Surge, but given my experience with previous Spark models, I can say that I am confident in the their products’ durability. My only concern is that the plastic might fail or break under the toe bracket on the binding chassis, and the flimsy plastic that is affixed to the board on which the T1 wire rests while touring. Those concerns may be unwarranted, but the material and design seem quite suspect.
Who’s It For?
The Surge is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a fairly stiff and responsive ride who also wants to maintain the ability to freeride and play on the way down. So while I don’t recommend the Surge for mountaineering-style riding, it is a great choice for anything else — and especially for bigger riders, or as a complement to an all-mountain splitboard set up.
Regardless of skill or experience, the Spark R&D Surge is a fantastic binding, especially given the price. At a percentage of the cost of similar bindings, the Surge could be an excellent choice for anyone looking for a solid, dependable, free-style / free-riding splitboard binding.
If you need the highest level of precision and performance for big mountains, the Karakoram Prime Carbon may be a better choice. But for those who value longevity and a more playful approach, the Surge is definitely worth checking out.