Saturday, February 6, 2010

Intimidation...Or, Karma Comes Knocking

Sorry once again for the posting pause...consistency has never been one of my strong points. Chef and I got a little tired of snow and ice in NC, so we decided to get out of town. Where do a couple of weirdos head when they are tired of shoveling snow? Why, Utah of course!

When we relocated to the mountains several years ago, Chef and I found ourselves faced with a novel concept: an "off season". That is, for 3 or 4 months out of the year, our respective jobs are pretty low key. We needed a winter hobby, and decided to take up snowboarding. Both of us had skied as kids (Chef was on his high school ski team), but snowboarding presented a whole new set of challenges. We both truly believe that if you do not continue to learn, you stagnate, and that is what brings on old age.

Chef and I began frequenting a great little resort just an hour from our house; we've really learned a lot there and enjoy getting out once or twice a week. Its a great release and keeps us active in the cold winter months. But now that we have a few years of boarding under our belts, its nice to head west once in a while to really continue the challenge. And it is with that in mind that I write today's post.

There are a lot of similarities between riding a horse a riding a snowboard; the fact that both acts are referred to as "riding" tickles me. Here are a few others I have noticed;

Balance is key, and one of the hardest basics to master. Just like riding a horse, staying on a snowboard (upright) requires keeping your feet square under you and maintaining your center of gravity on a moving object. Much easier said than done.

Always look ahead. We've all heard "eyes up, heels down," and while heels do come into play on a board (steering purposes), keeping those eyes ahead of you - forward and truly ahead of where you are going - is the only way to get where you want to go. Looking down = falling down, or at the very least ending up somewhere you did not intend to be.

Expensive equipment does not a good rider make. Don't get me wrong. I do strongly believe that quality equipment is necessary to success in any sport a person really wants to take seriously. Quality equipment does also tend to hold up better under hard use and is therefore a better investment in the long run. Still, the best equipment in the world will not make you better if you do not spend time using it.

Investing in lessons is great, but investing in time is priceless. Regular lessons with a good instructor will help you push yourself to improve. However, if your time in any activity is limited to only lessons (unless you are fortunate enough to take them every single day), your rate of improvement will suffer.

Learning to snowboard has given me a perspective that would have come in handy years ago (ain't that always the way with perspective??). Back when I was teaching lessons, I was often flummoxed by my students who struggled with skills that I just took for granted. That and their occasional fear performing exercises that I could do in my sleep. I distinctly remember one lady gripping the mane of her horse, literally white-knuckled, legs locked, body stiff, and that wide-eyed look of sheer terror obvious across the arena, all while just trying to hold a two-point. (I have to say it - this lady was in a $2,300 saddle she had bought on a whim after just two lessons.)

It was perhaps my greatest flaw as an instructor. Because I had been riding - and riding a lot - my entire life, I just did not understand how my students could not "get it". I am a good rider; I am by no means a great rider. But what I lack in skill I make up for in confidence. Confidence that comes from many, many hours in the saddle. I am truly more comfortable on a horse than I am on the ground. This lack of perspective and understanding did not serve me well; it is one of the reasons I ultimately quit teaching, and I doubt the world is a lesser place because of it.

It is only by placing myself in a situation where I am learning and developing new skills myself that I can understand what my students were going through. Here in Utah, surrounded by locals who have literally grown up on a mountain, I really get it. I watch them in awe as they tackle slopes that scare the hell out of me. I see them effortlessly performing maneuvers that I struggle with. Sometimes it frustrates me. Then I realize that they are simply doing on skies and snowboards what I can do on a horse, and I get a sense of peace from that.

Someday, many years from now, that will be me out there - as comfortable on the mountain as I am on a horse. I hope. If I could turn back time - to know then what I know now - perhaps I would have been a better instructor. For the time being, at least I have learned and grown some as a person.


1 comment:

  1. You are very perceptive to make all those connections. Wish I could manage another sport, but my really bad knees do not allow it.

    Snowboarding looks like a lot of fun, though. I am glad you are discovering the pleasure of a new sport and the pleasure of learning a new sport--sometimes even better than the sport itself.