Snow, the blissful medium between water and pavement |

Snow, the blissful medium between water and pavement

It’s the time of year when winter enthusiasts start gearing up for the season – taking their ski poles and in-line skates out on the bike path or signing up for conditioning classes at the rec centers.

In an effort to begin building up my snow legs, I have found other, more obscure ways to prepare for this winter (which is going to be the best powder season ever, right??).

I recently took a trip to Los Angeles to visit a couple of friends in the stunt business. In the midst of such athletic prowess, I was inspired to try surfing for the first time. “Great!” I thought. As a regular snowboarder, this would be the perfect way to get ready for winter riding.

However, it was somewhere within that first 10 seconds of getting pummeled by the ocean that I realized surfing is nothing like snowboarding.

The most staggering difference between riding a board on snow and riding a board on water is … water moves. It moves very stealthily, in fact, and with amazing force. I was humbled by this fact right away when I began making my way past the breakers, out to sea, using the surfboard as a shield.

Word to the wise: Don’t do that, unless you want a broken nose or a big headache.

I did not break my nose but got the basic idea that trying to stop approaching waves with the base of the surfboard would wind up hurting.

Other big differences between snowboarding and surfing include the fact that snow doesn’t come after you and that, when snowboarding, you don’t have to fret about scary marine creatures swimming around below you. As if sitting in the middle of the ocean envisioning a “Jaws”-style school of sharks circling under your surfboard isn’t intimidating enough, you have to worry about these monstrous swells on the horizon that have no consistent breaking pattern. Some of them don’t shape beyond swells and glide right under you and onward to shore, indifferent to your desperate paddling and attempts to catch a ride. Others transform from monstrous swells into white monsters, casting a roaring shadow over you before crushing you in their palms, leaving you blowing salt water out of your nose and spitting hair out of your mouth.

Also, swimming has never been one of my stronger skills, and the most humbling aspect of surfing was getting doused by a wave, rising to the surface of the water coughing and spluttering, and realizing the water was about two feet deep. Meanwhile, my stunt friends were perfecting their double back flips on the beach and doing handstands on their surfboards, and the 8-year-old California kids were coasting skillfully into shore on boards six times their size.

So, disillusioned with my plan of preparing for snowboarding season via learning to surf, I came back to Summit County and decided to venture into the skate park.

My only goal this winter is to improve my halfpipe snowboarding skills. Considering that my skills now consist of wobbling shakily up one of the walls and falling backwards onto my head, I’ve got a long way to go. And what better way to get a jump on the work that lies ahead this winter than giving the skate park ramps a shot? No matter that I haven’t gone near a skate park since about 1988, or that the wheels on my aged skateboard are almost cubes. I saw right away I’d have to hold my head high around the high school kids who probably wondered what the gaper in the bike helmet was doing in the park.

Since riding switch on my snowboard doesn’t come easily, I don’t know why it was so surprising when I rode up a transition in the skate park halfpipe and the board flew out from under me on the way down. From this, it occurred to me that the biggest difference between snowboarding and skateboarding is that snow is much softer than pavement. And, when a snowboard flies out from under you, it doesn’t fly across the park and almost decapitate a high school kid.

After a couple trips to the skate park, even though I couldn’t master “dropping in,” to the halfpipe, I could finally roll back and forth much in the same manner that a 2-year-old can ride a rocking horse.

Overall, what I’ve learned in my snowboarding “preparation” the past few weeks is that it is important to start out slow and start out small. Also, I’ve realized a conditioning class or two might not be a bad idea.

I can only reassure myself with the hope that snowboarding will seem mercifully familiar after my ventures into the ocean and into the skate park. All I can say is, it better snow a lot this season. Because at this rate, I’m going to be in trouble if there’s no soft landing.

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