We've all heard the comparisons between surfing and snowboarding. After all, we are told, snow is really just frozen water. Even the surf magazines cover snowboarding from time to time, touting the similarities of two popular extreme sports. Sadly, I have to inform you that it's just not true. We've been duped. We were told that because we were surfers we could expect to have no trouble crossing over to banking big carving turns down some mountain, but unfortunately, it was a lie.
But somehow, I wanted to believe the lie. I wanted to believe that surfers possessed some sort of natural grace that would allow us to effortlessly schuss our way down the ski slopes to the amazement and awe of other less fortunate skiers. Like my son Roy was fond of saying in the days leading up to our maiden snowboard trip, "It's gonna be like second nature." Yeah, right.
I had skied in the past, but only once since college. And that was just about the time snowboarding was beginning to take off. So all these years since I had watched this sport that had at one time been banned from most self-respecting ski slopes has come full circle, to not only transform most ski resorts but has even become an Olympic sport. And over time I also came to believe the lie. I wanted to believe that it would be an easy transition. After all, I'm a surfer. Riding a board should come naturally. So last week, after our one day bombing swell in freezing cold mid February, I decided it was time to do it. It couldn't be any colder than surfing in the middle of the winter. It certainly couldn't be any more difficult. And it did look kinda fun. Besides, anyone can see that there are tons of similarities between the two sports.
About three hours north of here we found the ski resort Blue Mountain, and joined about 10,000 other fun seekers on the mountain. With plenty of snow and plenty of sunshine it seemed a good day to die, I mean try, our luck on the slopes. I can't begin to describe to you what my day was like. But suffice it to say, it was basically like having your shoes nailed to the floor and the entire defensive line of the Colts take turns tackling you over and over again, all day long. Yeah, it was fun.
Let me put it another way. I got seriously hurt more often in six hours than I have in 30 years of surfing and windsurfing combined. I felt like a crash dummy. The day after, as I sit here trying to type this column, my body hurts all over. I've got whiplash in my neck from repeatedly having my feet suddenly go out from under me and landing on my back, my head bouncing so hard I heard my neck bones cracking. My shoulders and back and legs and arms, and even my fingers hurt from countless tumbles and just getting whacked again and again. Most of the time I didn't snowboard down the mountain, I fell down it. It seemed to be the only way I was able to control my speed.
I will say though that I believe people were indeed awe struck by my performance. I often heard their "ooh's and aah's" as I cart wheeled past the line for the lift. I was a hit -- literally. I'm sure they were saying to one another, "Hey, look at that guy. I bet he's a surfer!" Most skiers were quite friendly too. I constantly had people I'd never met before coming over to me to make sure I was okay.
I've said it before, turning generates speed in surfing, but controls speed in snowboarding. And learning to control your speed is essential to survival when you're going straight down a snow covered mountain. I mean, most surfers have skateboarded in the past. But very few of us would be stupid enough to take a five foot Sector Nine and go to the top of the highest, most vertical mountain in three states and push off. We know we would die. But somehow we think that because it's snow it won't hurt that much. Well, I'm here to tell you that it takes about five seconds of sliding downhill on a snowboard to reach a terminal velocity of about 30 mph and climbing. And at that speed hitting snow will feel like hitting concrete.
Just ask my son Roy. Around 3 p.m. there was an announcement on the loudspeaker system. "Will Roy Harrell please contact the Ski Patrol?" I could just imagine my son lying there in a neck brace or worse. The EMT's initial inspection gave reason to believe he had broken his arm in the same place that he had broken it once before. But thankfully, X rays at the hospital later that night revealed he had just dislocated his shoulder. Needless to say, he has revised his earlier confidence that snowboarding would be second nature. In fact, before going again, we'll be sure to think about buying some body armor. Perhaps learning to snowboard may be easier than learning to surf, but it's a whole lot harder on the body.
I agree... I live in cocoa beach and have been surfing for 19 years. when I started snowboarding 5 years ago, I thought it would be a very easy transition. it wasn't. the it only feels like surfing to me when I've been carving in deep pow - it feels like riding a longboard. both are wicked fun.
I tried the surfing thing for a while, but fucking south Florida lacks waves so eventually i got stopped going. In addition to that the only time that we got good swells was during the winter and you would freeze your ass in that water.
Yeah, I surfed for a few days in Costa Rica a while back and it was nothing like snowboarding, but I can't imagine what it would be like to get smashed into a reef by a wave...plus I've never thought of drowning while boarding.
Hahaha! Pretty much a rude awakening for some. Learning the fundamentals of snowboarding is going to be very different than surfing. Riding on top of hardpack vs being in the water. It really isn't the same. Once you can get into deep powder, it becomes more like surfing. Still not the same, but the flow, turning, and such is much more surf related than it is when riding groomers.