I owned a skateboard as a kid, and I even used it to get around the neighborhood once in a while. But it’s a terrible, terrible lie to say that I was a skateboarder. Or a surfer, for that matter, after taking a couple hours of lessons in Waikiki (but at least I kind of look like I know what I’m doing).
Fortunately, I had no ego going to Mammoth to try out snowboarding for the first time with my girlfriend and her friends last month. I found things to layer and purchased thin plastic pants from Walmart (I know, I know…) for $10. I had no idea if I would like it, and I wasn’t ready to dish out $300-$400 for the name brand pants and jacket.
It was a trip long overdue; a good friend of mine from Seattle had actually been bugging me to go for a while. Funny that it didn’t happen until after I moved to the East coast and he moved to Korea to teach English.
Our instructor was a former Marine, although you wouldn’t guess it from his chill demeanor. The only thing that might have been a clue was how hard he pushed us. We never really believed him when he said “you got this,” but we trusted that he knew what he was talking about despite the fact that at least a few of us were struggling to slide down a shallow 10 ft. slope. If I came in with any delusions, they were instantly squashed each time I landed on my butt.
Which was often.
Yet before we knew it, we were on the ski lift (something I eventually grew accustomed to, but heights aren’t my thing – at least, falling isn’t). When you’re still only barely able to push yourself with one foot, you think about a lot of things as you head up to the top of the bunny slopes. Aside from hoping I didn’t fall, I was already dreading the next trip up, wondering if I would survive snowboarding down. Recounting my entire life in flash of cold and white images was fun.
Okay, so I’m exaggerating a bit. Yes, there is a curve. It’s very awkward to be facing the side and trying to push yourself forward with a loose back leg. You inadvertently keep pushing yourself to the right or left, depending on your orientation and then trying to over-correct without falling. And I fell often.
And that’s the most demoralizing part. It’s tough getting yourself back up over and over again as you slide, tumble, and splat on the snow multiple times in positions that are far from natural (but great workout otherwise). It’s also scary when you realize that OTHER people aren’t in classes but skiing or snowboarding for the first time and could possibly crash into you with long solid objects at high speeds. You slowly begin to hate everyone (especially kids) who seem to catch on to it so well. Or you wish that you grew up around snow sports.
By the end of the day, we were ready to quit and try skiing instead of continuing snowboarding for the second day. The only reason we didn’t is because it cost a little too much extra to switch. Thank goodness we didn’t.
The next morning, we were feeling refreshed with only a slight sense of dread. I should probably stop using “we,” because I think I’m only describing myself at this point. But it was like night and day. That next morning ended up being a true turning point.
Those toe-side and heel-side turns started to become a little more second nature, and I wondered why it had taken so long to get them down. I was catching edges a lot less, and S turns (the fundamental maneuver in snowboarding) suddenly felt within my grasp! And again, before long, we were already on our way up the gondola to tackle an intermediate slope. We had graduated from the bunny slopes!
Kind of. It took us a while to get down, and I had also accidentally gone down a sleep slope from which I had to drag myself back up to the top on my hands, but we had made so much progress in just two days. It feels so good to feel like you have enough control to just move down the slope without fear of falling. After spending the majority of those two days in pain (and the next week), it’s a well-deserved reward. I even managed to accidentally perform a couple of jumps.
And it’s exactly what all my friends, acquaintances, and resort employees had told me. It’s a tough and painful learning curve, but if you can persevere, it’s worth in the end–just like everything else (even though it feels harder, but maybe that was just the snow).
Also, it turns out that I really enjoy it, and I hope I’ll be able to do it again.