I learned to snowboard at age 36. Not old, but no spring chicken when it comes to picking up extreme sports. Mind you there is nothing extreme about my snowboarding- aside from some of my lift dismounts.
my first day on a snowboard
But there are definite differences between learning something like snowboarding when you are a kid and learning to snowboard when you are older. Some are obvious, some less so.
–We are higher off the ground and we weigh more. Little kids don’t have far to fall, and they don’t weigh a lot so it’s not usually as painful when they fall, and they tend to bounce, so getting up is often a lot easier.
–Most of us don’t know how to fall properly. Kids have not yet been untaught all of the natural body mechanics that we instinctually figure out when we are little. We then go on to spend a lifetime trying to relearn what we unlearned as young children…go figure.
–The older we get the slower we recover. ‘Nuff said.
–We know pain and go to great lengths to avoid it, which often causes more of it or prevents us from trying awesome things that could inflict it.
–Fear is the enemy of progression. We think everything to death and try to reframe everything into our existing database of knowledge. That gets in our way of learning something new. Snowboarding really isn’t like most other endeavors, and it’s not intuitive to learn. So we spend a lot of time getting out of our heads enough to try something new.
-Along the fear line- we don’t want to look stupid. The first assumption we make is that people are actually paying attention to what we are doing. The second is that they care. Will you run into hecklers on the mountain? Ya, probably. Are they usually punk ass kids who will fall victim to karma in time? Probably. Everyone started from zero at some point. If they were lucky enough to do it when they were really young, good for them. It’s easy to learn stuff when you’re young. They will not realize until many years later that learning to ride when you are older is worthy of encouragement and respect.
-Still along the fear lines, we worry. We need to be able to go to work, we have responsibilities, we can’t really afford to get injured, etc. Riding conservatively isn’t a bad idea. But if you get too wrapped up in all of that, it will suck all of the fun out of it. And riding all tentatively can cause you to stiffen up doing more harm in the end.
In Montana we rode the lift with a snowboarder in her 70’s! She started at the beginning of snowboarding…she rode guys boards forever, and she just got a new, ladies board several years ago. She’s not fast, she’s not doing tricks, but dammit, she is out there doing laps several times per week- enjoying the mountain, the snow, the fresh air, and the people. And she’s at a point in her life where her appreciation of all of that is at its peak. That’s so cool!
This post might sound like I’m trying to discourage anyone over age 12 from trying snowboard. Au contraire! I’m just trying to be real. Five year olds will be flying by you in no time. It will likely take you longer to process, and successfully execute, maneuvers. It will be painful. It will suck at times. That all makes learning that much sweeter. When we get there, we can really appreciate it.
Once you get through that learning curve, you are all set. You don’t have to go through it again. You own it! At different points in our lives we appreciate things in different ways. We will likely never ride like the kids born with the board strapped to their feet. But who cares? In what other area of life are we comparing ourselves to 15 year olds? (If you are able to answer that, stop it- now! )
Here are some tips for getting it done
–Don’t go it alone, and don’t have a friend teach you to ride. Take lessons. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel and try to figure things out for yourself. Let the experts teach you the right way from the beginning. A good instructor is invaluable.
–Take things at your own pace.
–Be patient with yourself.
–Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t progressing as fast as you feel like you should. This is not a competition. It’s about enjoying the journey and the accomplishment of learning something new that is not easy.
–Embrace the challenge
-Think about investing in padding…knee pads, padded shorts, a helmet, and maybe wrist guards.
–Growth happens just past the edge of your comfort zone. It’s ok to feel uncomfortable out there. Don’t let it overtake you. Acknowledge it, embrace it, and get on with your bad self.
–HAVE FUN!!! Try to put the ego aside and have fun playing in the snow. When you start snowboarding, it’s like being a kid all over again. Enjoy that…we don’t get that opportunity too often in life.
Enjoy the mountains, the crisp winter air, and the challenge of learning something new. And don’t give up. If it’s something that you want to do, stick with it. No one ever said it was going to come easily. Most things worth having don’t. And trust me, it will be worth it.