My brothers and their wives gave me my very first snowboard for my 21st birthday. It was an ex-rental Burton board, blue. It was 158cm and weighed a ton. I could hardly turn it because it was so heavy. I nicknamed it ‘the tank’ because I could literally ride it over anything and it would just plow right through, which was ideal really because I wasn’t turning it anyway. It was wrong for me in every way, that board. But I loved it. Not only because my brothers gave it to me, but because it allowed me to participate in a sport I had previously only been a spectator of. Receiving that board was a huge turning point in my life and something I am still so grateful for. It exposed me to a whole new world and allowed me to develop a passion for a sport that would continue to challenge my comfort zone.
I have always loved the action sports industry, even as a teenager my walls were covered in posters from NZ Surf magazine and Manual magazine. I looked up to the athletes with huge admiration and still do. However, I also lacked the confidence to take myself off to the beach or the skate park and try it for myself. I was paralyzed by a fear of not knowing how and not wanting to make myself vulnerable to the judgment of other people as I attempted to learn. I guess in my anxious mind, the skate park and the beach were very public stages where my lack of ability would be on show for all to laugh at. What I found on the mountain was, a place where I could hide away in a quiet little corner and figure it out without the eyes of the world on me. I felt safe. Safe to try, fail and get up to try again, with some amount of anonymity. Essentially what I had learned was the core principal of snowboarding. Try, fail, laugh, get up, try again and repeat.
I still love snowboarding for this. For teaching me to be confident outside of where I am comfortable. Every time I strap in, I am pushed to challenge my fears and am rewarded with a sense of achievement when I conquer them. That’s not to say there is no frustration, anger, and nervousness between facing my fear and conquering it because believe me, there is! A lot! But somewhere between the mini-meltdown, the feeling of ‘I am never going to be able to do this’ and ‘I nailed it!’, is a form of unique personal growth that can never be stripped away again. Which is a really liberating feeling.
Snowboarding is liberation and freedom. Not just from the clutches of city life or the pressure of the day to day rat race. But freedom from my own preconceived ideas about my own limitations. Most of what holds me back on the mountain, and in daily life, is what my mind tells me I can and can not do. This is often the source of my greatest (and at times Damian’s) frustration, as I find it a constant battle of wills happening inside my head. One urging me to give it ago, one telling me I’ll look silly and the other telling me I’m incapable. So when I can finally break through and talk myself into trying, I find myself more confident, proud and wanting to try again, regardless of whether I was actually successful or not. Which can be extremely difficult to remember during the moment of frustration.
I was lucky enough on this trip to be able to snowboard just about every day I could. Monday to Friday was mountain days, although I didn’t make it much on Fridays as I was exhausted by then. I am also lucky enough to have an amazingly patient partner, who coached me through loads of new experiences and an amazing group of friends to ride with each day. So, in my time away, I grew. I grew in ability on the board, but I also grew as a person. I became adventurous and I became confident. I began to trust myself and I began to stop listening so much to the little voice that said ‘you can’t’. I also grew my love for the mountain and for snowboarding because I was reminded of just how much freedom the sport provides and how much satisfaction is found from constantly conquering myself.
Bring on New Zealand winter season!!!