Black diamond? Photo: Corey Wilson
It didn’t really hurt. Not physically, at least.
I’m on the top of a mountain somewhere near Lake Tahoe. Everywhere I turn, I see perfection. Trees that seem old enough to transcend time wear thick coats of snow. They sag and dance with the breeze, in harmony, in elation. Endless craggy peaks are softened by the purest white I’ve ever seen. Grey clouds move swiftly, at the speed of the wind, and as they whirl they reveal beams of golden light from the sun. This looks like heaven.
But it’s not. It’s snowboarding. I just got off a cranky metal chair that carted me up here. It groaned and swung and passed big metal poles and occasionally stopped and swung some more. It went over a small gorge that was partially filled with empty beer cans and then by a tree that was strewn with…bras? Eventually, it let me off at the top. I enjoyed the view for a moment, then sat in the snow to affix my back binding when a portly teenager somehow managed to steer his (sick) board into my back like a tomahawk.
It didn’t really hurt. Not physically, at least. But it did help me come to terms with the fact that I don’t like snowboarding.
I’ve given the sport a good, honest try. I’ve spent days and days on hills both far and wide. I grew up in the snowy Northeast and actually used to love it as a kid. But you know what else I loved as a kid? Throwing rocks at trains. Literally, my friends and I would wait near the tracks with handfuls of rocks and peg those lifeless behemoths as they roared on by. The impact on the steel sounded like a laser beam.
But now I’m an adult, so I’m allowed to not like things. I’ve given up with the trains and I’m about ready to nix the whole snowboarding thing too. Now, to maintain the incoherence of this piece — a pillar of my writing — I am going to make a sudden and drastic switch to a list-like format and lay out my argument.
It’s cold: This one is glaring. Surfing, at least sometimes, is palm trees and suntans. It is soft beige sand. It is boardshorts and 80 degree bright blue water. It is almost-naked members of the opposite sex sprawled across the beach and a cheap rum drink always nearby.
Snowboarding is the pale middle and upper class getting wind burnt and trying to fuck each other over in the lift line.
The gear: Pants, jacket, boots, socks. You have to fix the hand-warmer in your glove just so you can adjust your goggles because they’re kind of pushing your beanie down and messing up your face mask. Sweet.
Soup: Ever been to a lodge? Whole bunch of white people in there eating soup, looking all accomplished like they literally just stepped out of Game Of Thrones. Mother fucker you did three runs! And soup sucks! Eat real food! I might not have the most refined taste but at least I didn’t grow up in an orphanage like Oliver Twist. I’ll pass on the French onion. Give mine to Chad I guess.
Bindings in general: They imprison your stance and make your shins hurt.
Lift tickets: Want to feel like you’re interacting with nature? Go pay the troll in the kiosk first because, you know, that feels right. This really is the plastic cherry on the top of the commercial sundae for me.
I’m not going to subjectively ignore the environmental impact of surfing. My wetsuit is made from death oil and I’m sure my surfboard is killing the seals somehow — probably takes a whole village of them somewhere in Argentina and clubs each and every one of them in the head, metaphorically. Nor while I say that surfing isn’t industrialized (cough cough, my livelihood). But at least you can surf where you want, when you want, for free. You might even be able to do it naked, depending on where you live, and when you’re out there you are disconnected from the rest of the world and paddling around nature’s palm. It’s a great feeling, and one that would take way too many words to articulate. It’s a feeling I’ve never found in snowboarding.
In closing: I’d like to think of this as less of a rant against snowboarding and more of a rant in favor of surfing. Snowboarding’s fine. It’s a great source of joy for a lot of great people. You get to hang out with friends, look at trees, explore, go fast, create memories. Cool.
More than anything, I just feel lucky that my life led me to the sea instead of the summit. If you can say the same, then you should probably feel pretty lucky too. —Brendan Buckley