Working with hundreds of kids at an action sports camp has made me realize what the word “fearless” means. With some kids, if they want to try something new, they just do it. Double backflip off the trampoline? Can’t be too hard. Send the megaramp on a skateboard? Easy. They don’t need someone to make them try something new. They just get out there and do it. They seem to lack that part of the brain that gets them thinking about the worst-case scenario. They can shut off their brain and just go for it.
All that is just because they’re kids, right? Well, not all children are the same. Meet 8-year-old me. She didn’t wand to go on Disneyland’s Splash Mountain. She stayed far away from diving boards and the deep end. She never picked up a snowboard until she was 14. She never went through this phase of recklessness.
Despite this, for some inexplicable reason, I have since then found my love and passion in freestyle snowboarding. I absolutely love it, even though it goes against everything my overthinking brain tells me. You know, the sport that was considered being taken out of the Olympics because it was “too dangerous”. The one where the sign looks like this?
I like my brain. It’s smart. It got me through high school in three years. It got me through calculus at the top of my class. It remembers things really well, sometimes with the craziest, most unnecessary detail. There’s no way I can say I hate my brain. It just thinks a lot. Always working, always finding ways to make life easier. However, there are moments when I wish I had a different brain. Those moments when I have the perfect speed for a jump but I throw in a few too many speed checks and case it. Those moments when I totally mean to do a backflip but I end up bailing and doing yet another straight air.
So there’s something I tell myself in those moments. As much as I’d like to deny it, I’ve got to face the facts. I’m just not born “fearless”. But here’s the catch: I’ve become really good at pretending. Instead of trying to shut off my brain, I get it to override the default system of self-preservation built into my body and subconscious mind.
For this split second it takes to jump onto this rail, let’s just pretend. Just pretend you’re fearless. As I approach the lip of the ramp at the point where you can either send it or ride around it, I pretend. Just pretend you forgot about that time you dislocated your shoulder last time you tried this trick. Pretend you never broke your tailbone on this same jump. When I wonder how on earth I even got myself into a situation standing at the top of a cliff over Lake Tahoe, I pretend. I act like I was born to do backflips off ramps. I’m an actress, an impersonator, a performer. I’m playing a character: Fearless Hanalei, the daredevil.
I almost feel it was not me who did the backflip off that ramp. It wasn’t me who jumped on that rail and balanced all the way to the end, or hit the big ramp with perfect speed. But somehow, I snap into character and do it again.
In an attempt to understand why someone like me was drawn to freestyle snowboarding, I think I’ve got an idea. It’s the satisfaction you get when you stomp that new trick. It’s the adrenaline jitters you get after doing something epic. It’s that horrible gut-feeling you get at the top of the jumps. It’s that floaty feeling you get in the air. Snowboarding is my medium for pushing my comfort zone. I rebel against how my “default mode” wants to act. I exercise authority over animal instinct.
That is why I ride.
“Snowboarder talk is not a language!”
When people ask me how many languages I speak, I say four. That’s English, Chinese, Japanese, and snowboarder talk.
Yes it is. Snowboarder talk is a language.
“Did you see my backside lipslide two-seven off the downflatdown? It was totally FRONT, man. When I stomped it, I was all like BANGERRR!!!! So then I went fakie 50-50 on the battleship but totally biffed. Half cabbed the first kicker, then I was going to throw down a steezy back-five boned out truck driver off the second booter, but this total blazin raisin was right in the tranny! I mean, who lets these two planking fruit booters in the TP anyway? It’s good thing I took it to the flats because I totally would have slammed that gaper! So then I sent the next booter, but my speed was off after almost eating it so I CASED it! 50 feet lip to knuckle, yeah? It was a major lawn chair air. I must have rolled down about 5 windows! I told that freak with the sticks to go 50-50 a rail or run down a staircase. That’ll teach him! Let’s go back and sesh that jump line, bro. I need to show you my suitcase!”
Dude, and then, when I was exiting the park, there was this squad of bowling pins falling leaf down the bunny hill, so I rode the chair up and dropped a load on them! One of them scorpioned so hard! That's what they get for snaking me all the time. Those gapers. I swear each one was rocking like a 4-inch gap, you know?
Tomorrow should be so epic with 70 inches of fresh. Its gonna puke tonight. I’m going to build a backcountry booter and throw some rodeos. Maybe I’ll go for an underflip or a cork 5. Just gotta watch out for those off piste death cookies. Gotta get some poaching in too, yeah? Get some sick footie.
Between coming home from College and going off to my summer job, I had three weeks at home in the Bay area. It was hard to get hired because I was only there for such as short time, and I had no plans. Nothing to do, no routine, no time constraints or deadlines, no commitments. So I decided to continue something I had started about three years prior. That was a healthy, gourmet, catering business for family friends.
My company motto is “good food that just happens to be healthy”. You may be surprised when you see items such as clam chowder, alfredo linguini, chocolate-citrus cake, and shepherd’s pie on a “health food” menu. But those are all there, and yes, are indeed, healthy. It became my goal to spread the idea that healthy food doesn’t have to be boring or limited.
When I started the Paleo diet 3 years ago, I didn’t want to “cut out” any of my favorite foods, and I soon discovered that there was a healthy way to adapt practically any dish. Doing this business has not only taught me more about cooking, but about business.
I learned that you’re never too young to go ahead and start something. My business started as a way to raise a few hundred dollars for a missions trip in 2013 when I was 16. In a few months, I had raised enough money, but I didn’t want to stop there. I continued it on and off and saved the money for my snowboarding pursuit. When I started, I had no idea about business or accounting. All I knew was that I had to price the menu items more than the cost of the ingredients, and boom! Profit. I learned that other people are willing to pay more than I am willing to pay for something. I guess if you’re used to eating out at restaurants, my menu was pretty cheap, and probably healthier.
I learned about target markets. It would be great to be that cool, hip new startup serving the twenty-somethings. I wanted to cook for my friends, and people like myself. However, when I first began selling my meals, 100% of my customers were my parents’ age. It made a lot of sense. Who makes the decisions about what the family eats for dinner? Probably not the children. I hadn’t set a target market at the beginning, but I soon figured it out.
I realized how hard it must be to start a “real” business. For me, it was easy. There was no risk, since I only bought the ingredients after receiving an order. Working out of home, I had no extra rent to pay, no overhead, and I didn’t have to pay any employees. My only cost was the ingredients and electricity. Getting customers was hard, but at least my life was not dependent on turning profit – it just was a way for me to get some extra money. Seriously, if this was a real business where I had to get a separate building, hire employees, and pay for permits and insurance, I would have to get a lot more orders – which wasn’t easy. I learned that most of your money comes from repeat customers rather than new ones, and that putting people over profit is important for keeping those customers. If someone didn’t like my food, I would re-do their order for free. I gave out free samples and free gifts for repeat customers. I took “off menu” orders if that’s what my customers wanted, even roaming around the city in search of goats meat to fulfill one of those orders.
Am I going to make this more official and continue it in the future? Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not sure if I will still love cooking if I do it for many hours a day, day in day out. All I know is that I’m very grateful I’ve had people willing to put their trust in me and buy food from a 16-19-year old. Without this experience, I would not have learned so much, and those three weeks at home would have been a drag. Honestly, I would have done it for free. It means the world to a chef when people enjoy and praise their creations.
Dropping – a poem
I’ve said the word
I’ve pulled the trigger
Passed the point of no return
The huge mounds of snow stare at me
Cold, steel rails wait for me
Drawing in, enticing, luring
Ready to launch me into the air
The word is out
I am committed
No turning back.
The choice is Adrenaline or comfort
Excitement or ease
Progression or plateau
Send it or stay
You go too slow, you miss the landing
It’s all or nothing
Fear exists in the mind
I am not a slave
My love is an addiction
I am at peace, confident
Pictures in my head
Perfect landings, hi fives, good vibes
Ready to take on the world
Palms sweating inside my gloves
Every cell fights against the brain
Why do I do it?
I have one life to live
Is this what I’m supposed to do?
It’s only snow and gravity
The choice is one hundred percent up to me
I open my mouth, I say the word:
Ever since I first started snowboarding, I have had the dream of living in a place where the mountains were accessible on a daily basis. Finally, after 5 years of driving up from the Bay, I moved to Tahoe. When the first snows started falling in November, it was like a dream come true. I even arranged my school schedule to I could snowboard 5 full days a week. I got a job next to my favorite ski resort. I didn’t think I would be on my college team, but after walking in on a meeting and asking if I could train with them, I found out I actually could be a part of the team. Everything was so great! I enthusiastically went to every single fall conditioning, thinking about all the pow I would be riding. I thought of all the friends I would make.
My season started early, on November 6, riding the park at Boreal. It seemed like the season was off to a great start! I remember on “dead day” during finals in December, I went out to Northstar instead of studying. I landed 3 or 4 new tricks that day, which I was very happy with so early on in the season. After finals, I moved to Truckee for Winter break, five minutes from the slopes. And then, on day one of break, Injury number one hit. My doctor told me I was out for the season. Suddenly all the promise of the season melted away like the terrain park on a sunny, April day.
I kept my hopes up. Between Christmas and New Years, I was able to snowboard in a sling with my family. It was fun and I was glad to be back. School started up again in mid-January, and I was competing with the college team and individually through USASA. I was back to training 5 days a week, and by the end of January, I felt I had fully recovered. In fact, on January 31, I said “I think I’m finally recovered from my injury! Time to start pushing it again!” So I tried a backflip.
I was so close, but backflips should be done in whole numbers. 0.8 backflips just didn’t cut it, and what-used-to-be-my-good-arm was now my bad arm. That same day, my car broke for the 4th time since it caught on fire in November.
This time, my determination was even greater, and I was back on snow within 4 days. I kept to a rigorous physical therapy routine, and knew that the season still had promise. I felt like I loved snowboarding even more than I did before my injuries. Two weeks after my second injury, I was off to regionals for the Collegiate competition league in Mammoth, where I would compete against the colleges from California and Nevada.
First of all, Mammoth is the BOMB! And I felt like I was truly part of the team on that weekend road trip. Out of complete surprise, I ended up earning 3rd place in the Slopestyle event and 4th in snowboard cross. I attributed it entirely to good luck. A month later was Spring break and I skipped the tropical vacation and got to ride every day, including my birthday, on which I received several feet of snow and blue skies. A week later, I was in Colorado, competing in the USASA national championships. It's now the end of the season, and I can happily say I’ve had no more injuries
I didn’t plan on having 2 injuries. I didn’t plan on spending so many of those 89 days by myself. I didn’t plan on having my car catch on fire. Despite all this though, I am extremely grateful for how my season went. Considering my doctor told me I was out for the season with my first injury in December, my season has been phenomenal in comparison. My goal was 100 days. I got 90, and I had to take about 20 days off snow between both injuries. I got so many sunny park laps. Although I feel I did not improve as much as I would have liked, I can say I did my best with the circumstances. I am way more stoked that I tried a backflip than I would be if I had stayed safe and un-injured.
My season is actually not over. A week ago, I found out I would be working at a summer snowboarding camp starting in June. I am extremely stoked to have this opportunity, and to continue progressing in what is usually the off-season. My luck may have turned in December, but it has turned back around. I come out of this season stronger and with more confidence in my own determination. Without my setbacks, I would not have this.
They Say 19 is the stupid age. The most reckless stage of life where decisions are made impulsively and without thought of the future. Next week is my 19th birthday, and I am excited to embrace the next year of my life.
I might be the sort of person who tries a backflip on my snowboard off a 7-foot jump, or goes 75 around a 55-mph corner just for the heck of it. While I may or may not have gone out snowboarding while still in a sling, I feel like I have learned a thing or two in my almost two decades of existence.
1. Education is important, but learning is importanter
Academics aren’t everything – but definitely are something. I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum moving from from Cupertino to Tahoe. Asking someone their GPA in Cupertino was comparable to asking a woman her weight. I worked in a child care for almost a year, and I realized that Kids were being prepared for the SAT from Kindergarten. My boss told me that his boss was the parents, and the stricter and meaner I was, the more they would like me. If a kid went home and complained, “Miss Hanalei Forced me to do math homework and put me on time out when I didn’t!”, that is what kept them coming back. Meanwhile in Tahoe, I’ve met people who skip class because they don’t feel like going, or are too hungover from partying hard on a Monday night. This post is not about why we should all forget about school and go do whatever you want (I would definitely become a ski bum)
What I have realized is that grades do not measure anything, and what motivates me to do well in school is the fact that I am giving my all into everything I do. What matters more than learning set facts is learning how to think for yourself and work with people. While the school system still needs work, I believe you can still go to a public school and get out what you put into it by approaching subjects with genuine interest.
2. Who cares?
Working through the same child care, I did get to do some non-academic stuff in the summer. I remember one day we went to the park to supervise the children on the playground. I had the strong urge to join them, watching them swing, roll down a hill, do cartwheels and ride the spinny-thing. and then I realized – why not join them? Who cares? So I did. and it was awesome. In middle school I cared so much about what people thought of me, but then I realized I was my own worst critic. What could have been a boring day sitting around in mid-June heat watching kids have fun turned into an awesomely fun experience.
3.Life is like a hitting a ramp.
One of the best and worst feelings is standing at the top of the terrain park, strapped into your snowboard (or skis), knowing you’re about to send it. If I want to hit a jump, I have to decide from the top, not at the takeoff. I need to go fast enough, and not hesitate. Approaching a jump timidly or too slowly can cause you to miss the landing and hurt yourself. Snowboarding is not the only place I have realized being decisive and committing are important. Whether I’m stepping up to the stage at Open mic night, or deciding to commit to a binding decision, there are things in life you just can’t “sorta try to do”. At some point you just have to say, “dropping!”, point your snowboard at the jump, and send it (figuratively and literally).
4. Sometimes a little luck is all you need
After 4 car break-downs and two injuries in the space of 3 months, I figured it was time for some good luck. It was regionals weekend and I was at Mammoth with the SNC team. Snowboard cross is an awesome, aggressive, exhilarating event, but to be honest, I sucked at it. I’m just too nice! Strapping in at the start gate, my goal was to not lose the first round by too much. The top two from each round go to the next round, and so forth until the finals. In that first round, everyone fell and I stayed ahead long enough to end up in first place! It came by total surprise! Three rounds later of the same luck and I was in the finals! That day, I learned that sometimes all it takes is a little luck, and when the good luck comes, embrace it!
5. Put downs and criticism are my motivation
I wasn’t going to hit the jump at Northstar, but all it took was some guy saying “all girls just need to grow a pair” to get me to do it. The fact that I was not recruited for the snowboard team and was denied an athletic scholarship motivates me to show up to every practice and try my hardest at every one. I was once told that watching me snowboard was like watching grass grow. If someone tells me I can’t do it, that drives me to prove them wrong. I remember the most determined I ever was to prove someone wrong was when my doctor told me I was out for the season in December after a dislocated shoulder. I was back on snow in two weeks and my arm feels fine. Want to get me to send it? Tell me I’m cautious. Tell me I won’t amount to anything. I dare you. I could crumple or give up with criticism, but I’ve made the choice not to. People create meaning out of things, and to me, I take criticism as an opportunity to prove someone wrong.
6. Boring things are as boring as you want them to be
In middle school, I hated school. My favorite thing to say at one point was “I’m bored”. My 13-year-old self never would have guessed that I would eventually get myself to tolerate long distance running and Chemistry. In 10th grade, I learned to “fake it till you make it”. My life consisted of 18 hours a week of cross country, and lots of homework from my Honors chemistry class. After a few weeks of hating it, I realized, “Hey, maybe I don’t have to hate it!”. With every step, I told myself i loved running. With every assignment, I told myself I loved chemistry. And it worked! I didn’t love them, but I definitely tolerated them, and I was surprised at the impact of my fake, forced thoughts.
7. It is impossible to do things without other people
Even before Coming to SNC, I had the vision of starting a christian fellowship club. My greatest fear was that no one would want to join me. I could plan the best events, and choose the best bible verses to study, but if no one came, it would be a huge flop. Seriously, other people rock. Without other people, this club would be nothing. We now host meetings twice a week and are being sponsored by a local church because of our success. All I’ve done is get the people together. I thought starting a christian club at a small, liberal arts college would be difficult, but the amount of support I’ve had has made it possible.
8. Better to aim high and miss than to aim low and make it
Every snowboarding season I set a ton of goals. Last season some of them were pretty out-there. By the end of the season, I was extremely disappointed with my slopestyle line at nationals. I did three straight airs. My disappointment was tangible. Then I realized, so what? I was disappointed but whoopdedoo, big deal. I didn’t die. Just achieve those goals next season!
9. Forget being a hard worker.
Work smart, not hard. When I first started hitting jumps on my snowboard two years ago, I could not land them. I thought the only way was to keep trying the same thing over and over. So I did. I literally busted my ass (most likely fractured my tailbone that season). Last snowboarding season I wanted to take a different approach. I worked on my form and focused on how I hit the jumps.
Bill Gates once said he likes to choose lazy people to do a job, because they will find an easy way to do it. I take this mindset into studying for tests, and other areas of my life. Sure I could study for both the SAT and ACT and take the best score after taking each one multiple times, but why not pick one, study it well, and plan to ace it on the first try?
10. Healthy food doesn't suck.
They say “if it tastes good, spit it out”. I say “If it tastes bad spit it out”. Whoever came up with that saying probably tried to eat raw kale and decided to stay away from all healthy food. I remember when I used to think healthy food was uncool. But you know what’s even uncooler? Feeling tired and sluggish and getting sick every other month.
When people think of healthy food they might think of weird things that weird people eat like Kale, Chia seeds, or Quinoa. You know the food that only “that kind” of person eats. What I’ve learned is that healthy food is rad, and doesn’t have to be a speciality “health food”. It just has to be real food! I never shop at whole foods, and I’m not a big fan of kale or salad. I hate chia seed pudding and I’ve never bought Kombuncha. Healthy food can be totally awesome (and inexpensive) if know what you’re doing!
11. Yes friends on a powder day!
Life is way more fun when you share great experiences with other people. What I’ve realized is that life is not all about me. If I had all the money in the world and could snowboard powder all the time, but could not share it with anyone, I’d be miserable. I’m not only taking about powder days, but life in general.
I could just devote all my time and energy into improving my own snowboarding and winning competitions, but what is the point if I never help other people? To even consider snowboarding as a sport, I am extremely privileged. Not everyone can pursue their passion, and it would be my honor to help other people.
12. You don't have to feel a certain way because it's the norm.
It is the day before my first college finals and I’m out at Northstar hitting the terrain park. what on earth am I doing out there? In 9th grade, I saw how stressed people got during finals week and I vowed not to stress out. It’s hard to describe how to not stress out, you just kind of tell yourself that it is your intention. I planned to go snowboarding the weekend before finals every year and have kept to that tradition. The result? My final grades were often surprisingly higher than my average grade for the semester. I took the same mindset into Junior year (dubbed year of hell and eternal sobbing in Cupertino), and found myself not stressing while everyone else around me was.
13. If you're not fearless, pretend you are.
Let’s face it. Some people are just born fearless. From a young age they are going big in extreme sports. When I was a kid I was one of the most cautious people you’d meet. I loved to stay in my comfort zone. I chickened out on Disneyland’s splash mountain. So now that I aspire to be in the X-games, all the fear just suddenly melted away, right? Yeah I wish so too. I’ve learned that how you are as a kid does not define your future. I think my cautious nature drew me to snowboarding because it is a tangible way to step out of that comfort zone. Courage is just the by-product of caring enough about something. Fear exists, but I refuse to let it rule my life. I want to go skydiving because I know I don’t want to.
14. There is no set path
I try really hard not to, but I get extremely jealous when I see the little 9 year old girl out there on the snow, ripping it up. In the world of high level sports, 19 is old. I started snowboarding at the age of 14, living 4 hours away from the closest snow. I didn’t go to some fancy mountain academy or compete in the junior Olympics. I knew that I would be competing against people who did take that path. Some people were homeschooled and lived in Tahoe all their lives. How could I possibly make it? There was no way. That was until I heard about Jenny Jones.
Jenny started snowboarding at 17 and lived in England, where there are no mountains. However, at the age of 33, she won a bronze medal in the 2014 Olympics for slopestyle snowboarding. I was inspired, and realized that I too could make it to the Olympics for the sport I love.
There’s nothing wrong with starting really young, going to a private mountain school and riding every day, and going to summer snow camps every year. That is one path. But it is not the only path, and I should not be discouraged. If I focus on where I’m going, and see these people as friends rather than enemies, then I’ll eventually end up where I need to be.
15. Question Everything?
In community college, I got to take an awesome class called Creative minds. Basically, it was about questioning the status quo and rebelling against the system. Coolest. Class. Ever. We learned about vested interests that big corporations had in industries. We learned to think twice about “common sense” things and issues such as gender roles. I thought differently about how the school system worked and how the pharmaceutical industry keeps us unhealthy. Now I always think: why is something the way it is? What is really happening here? I remember when I was in urgent care after a snowboarding crash, I had the wits about me to question every step the doctor performed.
16. We were all once gapers.
If you know what GAPER day is, then you’re awesome! For those of you who don’t know, a gaper is basically a skier or snowboarder who has no clue what they are doing, usually characterized by a gap between their helmet and goggles. It is easy to poke fun at gapers, or even get mad at them when they’re in your way, but I always have to remember – I was once a gaper not too long ago. I think I enjoy gaper day (where everyone dresses up as a gaper) so much because I’m remembering my roots and where I started, and poking fun at myself and what used to be normal for me. I am reminded not to take myself too seriously. Gapers inspire me. They don’t give a damn about what others think and they don’t take themselves too seriously. Any beginner skier or snowboarder will make a fool of themselves on their first day. The fact that they’re out there and trying their best is inspiring. You go gapers!
17. Treat people like it's their last day.
Woah… Getting real deep here. I included this because of my dog, Kona, who died in 2014. One day it was my 17th birthday and everything was going great, then the next day she was so lethargic we took her to the vet where she was diagnosed with cancer. We decided not to have the operation because of the slim chance of success. The vet gave her a few hours. She lived an extra two weeks after that day. I remember every day for those two weeks I would spend as much time with her as I could. I spoiled her and let her on the bed. Eventually she went peacefully in her sleep. If I could treat her like that when I knew any moment could be her last, why can’t I treat people like that every day?
18. Nothing is guaranteed
I had it all planned out – Winter break was five weeks and I had landed a place 2 miles from my favorite ski resort to spend it. There were 35 days I could have injured myself. However, fate chose day one and my epic plans were thwarted. It was so tempting to become bitter and complain about it (not saying I didn’t do that at all), but I soon realized that doing so would achieve absolutely nothing. My winter break of 2015 made me realize that I could plan everything out as carefully as I wanted to – but in the end, it is not me who decides what happens. Realizing that helped me not to lose my mind while I looked out at the bluebird skies and fresh powder that I could not ride. I realized that there is no good or bad, there just is.
19. Never stop failing.
People who don’t ski or snowboard regularly usually end up asking me this question: “do you still fall?” My answer is Yes, yes I do and I plan to continue falling for the rest of my snowboarding career. In snowboarding, falling means you’re trying new things and pushing your limits. Snowboarding is not the only place where this matters. Imagine living a life where you never tried anything new in fear of failing? What a boring life! To me, failure is not trying. This is just one of the lessons snowboarding has taught me. Do the thing! Go get it! and never. Stop. Failing.
When I was in Elementary and Middle School, summer was my favorite season, simply because we didn’t have to go to school. However, after my first time snowboarding in 8th grade, summer became my least favorite season. I remember in those first few seasons snowboarding, I would get “seasonitis”, a disease I made up which was basically extreme boredom from not being able to snowboard. I dreaded the summer.
In the past year or two, I have been opening my mind more and changing my attitude in general, including my attitude to things I do not like, such as summer. I have realized that things (like summer) are as fun as you want them to be. This past summer, my first in Tahoe, was a complete and total blast! In addition, I took away two important lessons:
And I don’t have a single regret. I remember when I signed up for the Flume trail mountain biking, I contemplated not doing it. I had only been mountain biking once in my life and apparently this was a sketchy trail. They told me about the steep, long uphill and the narrow part with the 1,000 foot drop. In the end, I decided “why not?” and went for it. It was intense, but when I was finished it was well worth it!
Another moment from this past summer I’ll never forget is when I jumped off a rock in Emerald Bay. I’m ok with heights but I hate cold water. In the end, after watching some other people jump off the cliff, I went for it, and it was awesome! I climbed right back up and jumped again!
2. Who cares if you suck?
I remember in middle school, I cared so much about what other people thought of me. I started skateboarding in 7th grade, but I never got good at it because I was always worried about other people judging me. I never set foot in the skate park unless no one was there, and I hid if I saw someone.
After joining the snowboard team last fall, I started going to their fall conditioning. Because of the lack of snow in the summer, we often had practice in the skate park. I jumped at the opportunity. Where else could I have actual instruction in skateboarding?
I remember the first skate park practice I went to. It was all guys, except for my roommate and I. It was intimidating because they were all so good! I watched in awe as they did kick flips, jumped over huge gaps, and sped all around the skate bowl. I finally got into the mini halfpipe and started going back and forth between the walls. I started off going really slow, but each time I got higher and higher until I was almost at the top!
The biggest lesson I took away that day was that it was much more fun to be the worst person in the skate park than to not go to the skate park at all. For the next month or two until the snow came I went to every skate park practice I could go to. I am still nowhere near the level of any of the guys, but I had a lot of fun, and in the end, that is all that mattered to me.
“Dropping!” It’s the word that means I am committed - the signal word a skier or snowboarder uses that says they are going into the freestyle park. I hop and point my snowboard down the hill. There are rails and jumps ahead of me, waiting to be hit. I pop up onto the first rail and hear that satisfying “clink” as my board contacts the metal handrail. I glide to the end of the rail and slide off, ready to go for the jump. In my mind, everything quiets as I focus on nothing but the trick I am going to do. Freestyle snowboarding is more than a sport to me. It has changed my outlook on life and I have learned innumerable lessons from it. The way I see the world is like a slopestyle course because of the endless possibilities, the obstacles to overcome, and the need for positive thoughts and beliefs, and by seeing my life this way, I feel it has given me a more open mind.
Like a freestyle park, my life is about creative expression, and I like to see how there are limitless possibilities. Just like they way I believe that there is no one perfect career and path for my life, there is no one correct way to go through a park, and an open mind is important. In a freestyle park, there are often rails and jumps next to each other. I have to decide what my “line” is going to be. That means I have to decide which features I will hit, and what trick I will do on each feature. I always love to see people try new things or hit features in ways I have not seen before. A way I embrace this idea in life is I continually question convention, and I like to let my creativity flow. Convention says that I cannot make money and be happy if I follow my passion. Coming from a highly academically competitive environment in the California Bay Area, the culture says I need to memorize and stress my way to good grades, get a sensible degree at a prestigious college, and get a steady job in a fortune 500 company. Then I can work for most of my life, retire, and then follow my passion. I am not saying there is anything wrong with this way of life if that is what someone truly wants to do. Some people’s goals and dreams require them to be highly academicacally focused. Some people want to work at a prestigious company because that is truly their dream. Like there is no “right way” to ride through a freestyle park, there is no “right way” to do life. I believe that my passion should be used as a guide for how I will make a living, and I have embraced this way of living by choosing a college and major that will allow me to do what I love.
An open mind is important in life because I learned that failure is not a bad thing. In a freestyle park, I have to plan out what I am going to do on each rail, jump, or other feature. However, as important as this plan is, it does not mean that it will go exactly as planned. I could fall. I have learned that it is better to have ambitious goals not yet met, than to play it safe by not setting the goals. I remember one of my proudest moments is when I attempted my first backflip. I did not land it at all, but the snow was soft and I was okay. I was estatic even though I had failed. To me, the biggest failure is not trying, and I have learned this through my snowboarding. In my life, I tend to try many new things even if I might look like a fool. I used to be paranoid about what other people thought of me when I failed, but through freestyle snowboarding, I have learned to take opportunities that come my way. For example, since I came to Sierra Nevada College, I have tried paddleboarding, rock climbing, white water rafting, mountain biking, cliff jumping, a high ropes course, backpacking, singing at an open mic night, and I have met all sorts of people. I am happy that I gave all these activities a try for the first time, and that I was not afraid to “go for it.”, or as snowboarders and skiers like to say, “send it!”
I believe that in my life, I have to take risks and overcome obstacles if I want to achieve my full potential. I could see a freestyle park as a perfectly good ski slope, ruined by obstacles in the way, however it is these obstacles that make spectacular tricks possible for many skiers and snowboarders. In training for freestyle snowboarding, I have had to overcome many fears and take risks. I have learned that courage is just a by-product of caring enough about something. I used to be the most cautious child, but when I discovered snowboarding, the passion and love for the sport pulled me from my comfort zone. The same little girl that chickened out on Disneyland’s Splash Mountain is now aspiring to be in the X Games. People think I am fearless for hitting jumps and flying through the air, but the fear is there. I just like to pretend I am fearless.
Finally, I look at my life with a positive outlook, and I know that I have to commit and believe in myself to get the most out of my life. If a snowboarder wants to hit a jump, they need to commit to it fully or they will injure themselves. There is a certain spot on a jump that is the landing zone. If someone approaches the jump too slowly or timidly, they can miss the landing and seriously injure themselves. I have learned that in order to hit a jump properly, I have to fully believe in my own ability, and know in my heart that I will land it. Without this commitment and belief, I hesitate, and I can guarantee that I will not land the jump. I see my life in a similar way. If I am taking a test in a class, I have the same mindset as hitting a jump while snowboarding. Far too many times, I hear others talking about how they will fail a test before even taking it. To me, a positive mindset in any situation is imperative. It helps me reduce stress, and I believe it has tremendously helped my grades, as well as other areas of my life up to this point.
To say that freestyle snowboarding is the sport that I do is a huge understatement. Snowboarding has shaped the very essence of my life for the past five years. Not only has it given me direction in terms of where I go to college and what career I choose, but it has brought me joy, and innumerable life lessons every day I train. It has helped me develop an open mind, realize that failure is not a bad thing, overcome my fears, and develop confidence in myself. In essence, freestyle snowboarding has shaped how I read and see the world. My life is my freestyle terrain park, and I just have to “Send it!”
When my car broke down last month, I remember being glad my problem was with my car instead of dealing with an injury. I guess I’ve learned not to give the universe any ideas…
It was like a dream. 24 inches of fresh snow and I had just moved to a place 5 minutes from the resort. It was day one of the best 5 weeks of winter break I could ask for. I got up, spent a long tine digging my car out from under 2 feet of God’s gift from heaven, and set out to shred the freshies. Conditions were amazing. There’s no other way to describe gliding through fluffy, cold smoke pow, other than pure Nirvana. Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, the sun came out, and they opened up a run everyone had been eyeing all day. It was a steep field of untouched powder. It’s the thing all snowboarders and skiers dream about. There were little bumps and lips around, making for fun kickers that sent you into a soft, fluffy landing. However, powder is not entirely consequence free.
I just remember going really fast, slashing rooster tails at every turn, and searching for jumps to launch off. My last thought until my day took a turn for the worst was “Damn, this is probably the best run I’ve ever had!” Then suddenly, towards the end of the run, one of those bumps caught me by complete surprise, and I flew superman style with my arms out in front and flipped head over heels a couple times (AKA the tomahawk). I assumed I was OK, but then I realized I could not move my left arm. Surely this can’t be happening. On day one of winter break?
All throughout the day I kept seeing ski patrol being dispatched, and I’d see all those poor people being pulled down in a sled. Every time I’d think “Oh man, I’m sure glad that’s not me”. That day was my lucky day, and I got to go for a little sleigh ride down to the gondola and into the clinic where they put my shoulder back in its place. Without the sling on it felt like it was going to come out again just hanging there. There was no way I was going to go out riding the next day. There went my winter break.
I was only able to get to the doctor a week later since I couldn’t drive, and when I finally went, all he said was that I was out for the season and I had to wear this crazy immobilizer thing for 6 weeks. For 6 weeks, he said I would not move my arm at all. It was like a cast. Only after the 6 weeks could he start rehab and building up the weak arm that had not been moved for so long. So by the time I would be deemed “completely healed”, it would be April.
The same day I got that diagnosis, someone decided to hit and run my car, which had been fixed a week ago after last month’s incident. Things were really looking bright.
Some people wonder how I stay positive through my frustrations. The whole reason I moved to Tahoe was to ride every day, and this year, we finally had snow! My thanksgiving break plans were de-railed, and now this?
I got my inspiration from a guy who lived thousands of years ago named Job. He had it all - thousands of sheep, camels, oxen, donkeys, and servants. (Back in those days, if you had a lot of animals, you were the G!) He was the richest man in the entire area. Then one day, he lost everything – all his material possessions were lost or burned. In addition, all his children were killed and he came down with a terrible disease. Compared to him, my week was rainbows and ponies.
And when all this happened, Job worshipped God – the same God he could easily blame for what had happened to him. I heard this story at church about a month ago, back when my life was fine-and-dandy. I wondered why I remembered that message.
I’m not perfect. I definitely threw a few pitty parties when I was house bound on a bluebird powder day, unable to drive anywhere – even to the store to get food or to the doctor to start doing something about my injury. The thoughts in my head were definitely not positive when I dug my car out from another 2 feet of frozen-ice-snow with one hand. I’ve learned that it’s ok to feel things. For some reason, the only emotion I never really felt was anger. I just kind of accepted it, because if there’s nothing you can do about a situation, then I can at least see how I can view it from another perspective. I have a house to live in, great food, and a healthy rest-of-my-body. I’m glad my car was hit-and-run instead of hit-with-me-driving-it. In the scheme of it, everything on earth is temporary. I’m one person an a little dot flying through the vast endlessness of space. Life is pretty good so far. In this past month, I've realized that when life sucks, it makes me think about how it could be worse, and I'm actually more grateful for the little things than when life is going well.
The doctor doesn’t know me, my passion for snowboarding, or my God. I am not taking “out for the season” as an option. As an extreme sport athlete, you just have to push through and know that these things will happen. There’s a fine line between being downright stupid and persevering through injuries. If I don’t make smart decisions, my shoulder will keep falling out for the rest of my life. But then again snowboarding is my love and my life, and to go an entire year without it would be more painful than this injury.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so determined to prove someone wrong, and so sure that I will do so.
“The twerking monster is very scary and has no eyes. It comes if you twerk too much and you will really regret it!”
I worked with children from Kindergarten through 3rd grade, and one day, one of them decided to corrupt the others and teach them how to twerk. And I had to deal with this. So I came up with the brilliant idea of the twerking monster.
“He hasn’t come for me yet!” said one of the first graders.
“That’s because you’re not doing it correctly. This is how you do it!” Said a third grader.
I put him on timeout before he could start doing anything.
Then another first grader (who was secretly one of my favorites) came up to me and asked in all sincerity if the twerking monster was real. I told him it was very real, and very scary, and that’s why he shouldn’t twerk. Then he said,
“Well I’m not afraid of anything!”
“Really, nothing at all?”
And that’s when I started to get deep. I suddenly wondered, what is my greatest fear? I had never really thought of that. I sat and stared into space until it came to me. And that’s what inspired this poem…
Everyone’s scared of something.
What about me?
What do I fear above all?
So I sat and thought,
And stared into space.
And suddenly it came to me.
What if I don’t face my fears?
What if 70 years from today
I wish I had taken more risks?
Set higher goals?
Been terrified more?
It’s not the risks I fear,
But rather the risks I don’t take.
I don’t fear failure
I fear success at things that don’t matter
I fear my comfort zone
Not leaving it, staying cozy.
On the surface I feat getting hurt
But deep down I fear a safe life.
I fear plateau,
Moments that could have been
Dreams broken by timidity.
Fear was made to prevent death
But in reality,
Doesn’t it just prevent life?