Moving into position, I dropped in. There was a moment of free-fall and my stomach floated up briefly. Then I cut left, almost losing it for a moment, but then felt my board dig in, sending up a spray as I transitioned into the next turn.
Surfing is my favorite thing to do. Looking back over the past 4 decades I realize that it has filled many needs. Its kept me healthy, kept me sane during tough times when I was young, kept me connected to the ocean and helped keep my lifesaving skills sharp. But in this case I’m not talking about surfing.
I started snowboarding some 24 years ago when I lived in California. Snowboarding was a fairly young sport at the time, so snowboarders were definitely in the minority on the slopes. I had grown up skiing, or at least what we consider skiing in Texas. I typically went once or twice a year as a kid. Transitioning to snowboarding was a logical progression since it’s more closely tied to surfing. I found it really tough compared to skiing in icy conditions, but in powder you feel like you’re cutting through water. And the boots are way more comfortable than those cruel things they stick you in when you ski.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to ski. For me skiing is way more versatile. It’s easy getting on and off the lifts, poles help when its flat, and having two edges is a great thing when the snow is really packed or there are icy patches. When my daughter was learning to ski, I switched back because I could more easily help her when she needed me. But my favorite part of the sport is going “out of bounds” or off the groomed trails and that’s when the snowboard really shines.
I recently had an interesting conversation with a diehard skier about the differences between surfing and snowboarding. He said everyone he knows that both surfs and snowboards says they’d take a good day of surfing over a good day of snowboarding. He asked me why. It was difficult for me to put it into words. In snowboarding and skiing you have to respond to the mountain. The faster you go the more you have to adapt to what the environment throws at you. But in surfing the environment isn’t static like it is on the mountain. So not only do you have factors coming at you, but the environment itself changes constantly. It’s a much more dynamic system you’re in, which demands that you’re completely in the moment.
Still, on a good day of skiing or snowboarding you may actually ski for 2-3 hours when you take out breaks and riding the lift. A good day of surfing might mean you are standing up for 2 minutes total. So maybe there’s something about the ocean that hooks us. Or maybe it’s just because you don’t have to wear all those clothes!