When I was in my youth I always wanted to try surfing. I grew up in Rhode Island and was fortunate enough to spend a good chunk of my summers digging through the sand of different beaches and playing in the waves. I would always watch the surfers at Narragansett beach with jealousy and a little bit of intimidation. As I hit my teenage years, I thought these kids were the ultimate of cool, pulling up to the parking lot to check the waves, sipping coffee before suiting up to live their Barbarian days adventure.
As I look back now, I don’t know what stopped me from grabbing a beat up foam top board from Costco and paddling out with them. Maybe it was the small illusion of cool I was trying to build and form in my head. I didn’t want to be judged for being a beginner or get yelled at for not understanding the finer points of a lineup. I was much more comfortable taking refuge in the smelly, cold confines of an ice rink until even that felt like a chore.
Probably the best thing I could ever do happened during high school.I took an acting class. My twin brother told me I should sign up and since I did everything my twin did, Mary-Kate and Ashley style, I followed suit. I’ll never forget the first class where we stood in a big circle, to the left and right of seasoned thespians, when the teacher asked all of the students to pull out their “cool card”. I looked around confused as everyone dramatically pulled out imaginary cards from their purses, wallets, and back pockets. “Now rip them up!” the teacher yelled and everyone proceeded to tear up their invisible cards in the most dramatic way possible. Each class started the same way. A bi-weekly reminder to be open, present, and accepting of those around you.
If you have got this far in the story you are probably wondering what the hell this has to do with snowboarding. Well as an “adult” and as I rapidly come to the end of my 20’s, I’ve come to the realization that there is a pure joy in being really bad at something. That the satisfaction from working hard to learn a new skill or talent is addicting, and more importantly, not caring about negative judgment is the ultimate thrill. Upon writing this story, I realize that my life in the mountains is a reflection of this sentiment.
A couple of years ago, as part of my job with TGR, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the film Roadless (now available to stream 24/7 with TGR Premium). Roadless followed a 10-day splitboarding mission with Jeremy Jones, Bryan Iguchi, and Travis Rice. I am a skier, complete with bright pink Black Crows skis that Jeremy was quick to point out.
The terrain was beautiful: perfect half pipes built into the concaves of the greater Yellowstone wilderness. The way everyone, especially Bryan, talked about the features, I began to see the unridden frozen waves of my youth in front of me. Before leaving that trip I knew I was a snowboarder without even strapping into a board yet.
The winter of 2020 provided the first opportunity for me to dive into the world of snowboarding. Feeling slightly lost without poles, I boarded the Ranch Lot shuttle at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort with a big grin that was quickly erased when I had to conquer the monumental task of loading the Teewinot chair. For those not super familiar with the famous runs of Jackson Hole, this chair does not bring you to anything made famous in a TGR film, but that day it was my Everest. I almost fell loading and then definitely did fall unloading. As you could imagine, I spent most of the day falling and also failing to understand how the hell a toe side turn worked, but in those (very) brief moments between falls I was falling in love.
The following year has been the most fun journey of my life in the outdoors and I’m so grateful to have that opportunity. Every time I went out on a snowboard was a new experience and challenge. Conquering cat tracks, finally figuring out my toe edge, and opening up more of the mountain, provided a quiet sense of self worth that I loved. I had a newfound appreciation for people who continually learn and find new passions. I realized that when you jump into something wholeheartedly there are always people who want to see you succeed and thrive, rather than fail.
At any time during the process that I have been self-conscious of my lack of ability I think back to that class in high school, pull out my cool card, and rip it up. I’m not a great snowboarder, probably not even a good one, but I would recommend the journey to anyone.