Yesterday I went snowboarding. I thought it would have some similarities to surfing but this is completely wrong. I thought and have been told that some of the skills are transferable, but this is also untrue. I knew it was a different sport but differences are much greater than similarities. The only thing surfboarding and snow boarding has in common is the word ‘boarding.’ Who ever said they were similar is a liar. Trading a wave for a mountain left me with some bruises and sore all over.
I wanted to try snowboarding because I needed something new to get me out of my surfing funk. I had not had very good sessions the last few weeks because the conditions have been either crappy or was in a weird mental space or its has been crowed. I needed to do something different to get my stoke back.
Everything that makes me a good surfer, made me bad at snowboarding. I feel like I got my ass kicked. Since I mainly ride short surfboard it made things even worse. Surfing on short board means leaning heavily on your back leg, whether, you are goofy footed or regular. This is the exact opposite for snowboarding; you have to lean heavily on the front foot. Every time I thought I was getting the hang of riding a snowboard my surfing skills started to kick in; not consciously of course. With out thinking I started to perform a cut back, you can’t do a cut back on a mountain. I did this a few times and I only ended up face planting or ass plaiting into snow.
A mountain is static; you are using gravity to slide down the mountain, so of course a cut back wont work, it is impossible. Surfing is completely fluid, you are riding a wave of energy and water in the medium. So if you cut back on a wave, the wave is pushing you forward again and once it is over, you either fall/dive/jump into the water. There is nothing strapping your feet down to your surfboard, so you are completely free to move how you want. You can adjust your stands and footing as you see fit. If you want you can crouch down, you can or hang ten, five, or even lay back down on your surfboard if you wanted to. Snow boarding is very restrictive in the movement (at least at the begging level,) your feet are always strapped to the board and you cant bend at the ankles, basically you stay in an up right vertical position the entire time. I didn’t like having my feet strapped in all the time, it felt awkward since I would prefer not wearing shoes most of the year.
The other thing that stuck me as odd in snowboarding is the culture. People either are listing to their iPods’ or Mt Height Pandora radio, or some other music is being broadcasted on speakers at the bottom of the sloop near the outdoor bar. And you can hear that music from a great distance toward the top of the sloop. And there is a BAR. You can get drunk right away when done skiing or snowboarding. There are TV’s in the lodge, there is food, and there are restrooms. There are couches, dinning tables and people everywhere. So there are lots of things to distract you from actually there to do, which would be snowboard or ski. And yes it necessary to have a lodge since might be snowing. But the whole experience felt very commercialized, like a theme park. The only real quite space is on the ski lift, which was honestly my favorite part of the entire experience.
Surfing in its very nature allows capacity for solitude and contemplation, which is one of the reasons why I love surfing. I can clear my head of all my worldly troubles. This is not to say that surfing doesn’t have its crowed days when the surf is good, or that people don’t talk to each other; but there is plenty of time to be alone in and with nature. I didn’t feel like I was out doors or with nature when I was snow boarding. On small day at your local beach break, you can be the only person in the water. Even on a good day up in Ventura County or Santa Barbra County there still might only be two or three other people in the water because people are at work and you ditched.
The ocean is always in flux, there is the ebb and flow of the water, the changing of the tides. There is marine-life that are fishing near you. There is the rip current pulling you away from shore, the wave pushing you back to shore, the wave you are diving duck under, the wave you are pushing threw as you paddle out, the wave you a waiting for, which way is the wave breaking? The wave you are catching, the wave that you didn’t catch, the wave you wiped out on, the wave you went for even though you even though you weren’t going to make it and you did! Most of the time, when surfing you are constantly engaged with the ocean, so even if you could listen to music, or why would you want to? In the surf you are out there surviving.
In general surfing feels more forgiving than snow boarding, however in big surf or small surf if you fuck up really bad you can you can drown or get cut open by your board or someone else’s board. So there is the paradox with surfing that it is very forgiving, but you can always drown. Snow boarding is certainly dangerous, but in different ways, the risk of bruises, sprained muscles, broken bones or even a concussion is present if you fall hard or run into something; but there are tons people there to help you down the mountain. If are tired from snowboarding you can sit off to the side, or are really hating it you can un-strap yourself from your bindings and your board and hike down the mountain. In surfing there is no such option, there is no easy way out. Unless you are drowning, that is if there is even a lifeguard to begin with, there is no one there to save you. If you are caught out in the bad surf, or having a bad session, you are your own savior, there is no easy way out of bad conditions. You have to paddle back to shore or wait till the conditions get better which may or may not happen.
All and all I was left with a healthy respect for snowboarders and a deeper appreciation of the sport. Snowboarding is hard, but there is nothing about it that is like surfing. At the end of the day I just wanted to get back on a wave, I haven’t felt this stoked for surfing in a while.