“Oh look there’s Hanalei, she’s a snowboarder”. It’s one of the first things anyone will probably know after first meeting me. That’s unusual in a small town with no seasons and at a staggering elevation of –gasp- 300 feet above sea level. A town where I have to explain the meaning of terms like “powder day” and “30 foot kicker”.
“But isn’t Tahoe like, 6 hours away?”(3.5 to be precise)
“So you go up there EVERY weekend?!?! Are you crazy?”(why, yes I am in fact.)
“So how has it been with NO SNOW at all in 2015”(which is not true by the way.)
“Do you do tricks?”(Yeah sure.)
But there’s one question I get from almost everyone who finds out I’m a snowboarder living in a non-ski town in the Bay area. The frequency of this question has got me thinking about why people would ask a question that seems so obvious to me. And I’m also interested in what they think the answer would be. In fact it is not just at home where I get this question, and one day, I was able to help someone out by answering it.
I had qualified for the USA national snowboarding competition in Colorado. I had a few minutes to spare between competitions, so “I took a lap”. I saw a young boy and his dad, and it looked like his dad was teaching him to ride for the first time. He looked very frustrated and it looked like he had given up. I could tell his dad really wanted him to experience the amazing feeling that is snowboarding. On a sunny, perfect day in Colorado no less. Seeing that I had my competitors’ bib that clearly read “national championships 2015”, the dad said,
“Excuse me, you look like a pretty good snowboarder may I ask you something?”
I said yes.
“When you first started riding, did you fall?”
When I first started riding? Are you kidding me? I mean who doesn’t? I was no prodigy. He wanted his son to hear my answer and hopefully be inspired. I answered,
“When I first started? Why, I fell just 10 minutes ago. And yesterday, and the day before. Of course I fell when I first began. In fact, I spend almost the whole day on my behind.”
“see, even good people fall!”
I gave one last piece of advice,
“When you fall, it means you are progressing, and that’s what snowboarding is all about!”
The little boy seemed a little annoyed that he couldn’t just give up because he was tired or hurting, but his dad seemed happy that I had confirmed what he had probably been teaching his kid all day. I left feeling good.
So the question I get all the time is: “So do you fall?” or sometimes, “So do you still fall?”. And I always answer with a decisive “Oh yeah.” Or “You bet I do”, or “Every day man!” And sometimes, the follow up will be, “and does it hurt?” To which I will give another “Oh yeah”.
After you reach a certain level, do you just stop falling? Is staying on your feet a sign you are becoming a better snowboarder?
How do I feel after a day of not falling? I feel like I’ve failed by not failing. How do I feel after an epic fall trying something new that was not bad enough for ski patrol? I feel RAD. In snowboarding, the more epic the fail, the cooler it is. As long as the Gopro is on!
My proudest moment as of now is when I did my first backflip. I didn’t land it. Not at all. In fact, all I really remember is hitting my head really hard and having to ask people watching if I had just done a backflip. The video confirmed. I popped off our hand built backcountry kicker, did 9/10ths of a backflip, caught my toe edge, and faceplanted into the slushy snow. I didn’t land it. And I didn’t give a damn. It was messy and un-stylish. Who cares? Had that been at a competition, my score would have been 0 out of 100. Maybe 1, depending on if the judges felt sorry for me.
One of my most disappointing moments I can remember is the national championships for Slopestyle, where I landed every jump on my feet, doing perfect grabs. But here’s the thing. It was sort of an off day for me, and I had to humble myself and hit the small side of the jumps and do strait airs to avoid being critically injured, like I had seen 4 girls already do. I wanted to take a risk. I wanted to do something crazy, but for my safety that particular day, I backed out. And I remember feeling like the ultimate failure as I exited the course having landed everything. I watched 7 year olds land better lines than me.
I’m no downer. In fact, I consider myself what some would call a glass-half-full sort of person. I believe that people should follow their passions and, excuse my corniness, but “shoot for the stars”. But my life advice would be:
“Never stop failing”
Never. Stop. Failing.