Life lessons from throwing myself down snowy mountains while strapped to a piece of board.
Snowboarding, like skiing, looks really cool, but is not all fun and games.
It can be expensive to access, requiring a trip to the mountains, and may even necessitate flying to faraway places in search of snow, if you live in very hot, non-snowy places like I do.
It involves quite a bit of pain, from being outdoors in the freezing cold for hours at a time, to falling a million times on mounds of snow or rock-hard ice, to twisting an ankle or smashing a knee while trying to maneuver the slopes.
(Once, after a full day of snowboarding, I woke up the next morning with my body so cramped and bruised that I couldn’t even move or roll out of bed.)
So with all the expense and the torture, why would anyone go snowboarding?
For the thrill of almost killing yourself, obviously. But also for the life lessons the activity offers.
Lesson #1: Everything you want is on the other side of fear
For me, the quote above sums up the biggest lesson I’ve learned from snowboarding. Fear manifests in various areas of our lives and stops us from doing a lot of things, but often they work so quietly and insidiously that you don’t even realize it when you’re self-sabotaging.
In snowboarding, however, the fear you feel is actually tangible – I can almost feel it pounding through my veins and taste it in my dry mouth as I stare in silent horror at the plunging slope ahead of me or (now that I’m a bit more advanced) the jumps and jibs in the terrain park that I am supposed to fling myself over.
One time, I honest to goodness sat at the top of the slope for a full 10 minutes trying to build up the courage to go down, which is a rather long time to be sitting on a windy mountain top in freezing cold snow. I had to methodically talk myself through all the nonsensical negative talk and carefully collect every small scrap of bravery I had in me to make that attempt.
Images supplied by my fear on what would absolutely, for sure, 100% happen to me if I tried. Source
When I finally reached the bottom of the mountain, the big deal wasn’t so much that I completed it without breaking a single limb, but that I had actually conquered the fear and am now equipped to repeat the victory again and again. I have since progressed to more and more difficult slopes.
I’m now attempting terrain parks, which is a few notches above normal slopes in terms of difficulty and danger.
A typical terrain park. Source.
When trying to do jumps, momentum is your best friend, even if it means more catastrophic falls at such high speeds. Here, again, my fear is so evident that I can actually hear it screaming in my head to “STOPPPP SLOW DOWNNNN OH MY GOD SLOW DOWNNNNNNN”
Most of my falls are the result of heeding my fear and clumsily slowing down halfway through a speedy run (never a good idea, especially in a terrain park!). Had I had just a bit more courage, I would have allowed momentum to carry me and lead me onto the jump, where I could land safely (if not gracefully) on the other side, which is where I want to be, instead of spiralling out of control into the snowbanks.
Just as in snowboarding, there are areas in our lives where fear reigns supreme, where just a touch of courage would do wonders to get us across the chasm, and I always think of snowboarding in these instances. Similar to my mountain-climbing epiphany, I think to myself: if I can plunge down a mountain and take on a half-pipe, why can’t I do this?
Lesson #2: ‘Fall 7 times, get up 8’