“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!”