I’ve been snowboarding for over 12 years. In my various incarnations I’ve gone from being a newbie in a half-day lesson riding a borrowed too-big Burton with step-ins, to proud new board owner (Sims y’all) dreading the task of skating to the lift, to regularly sessioning the 10$ Saturday nights at Meadows (the only thing I could afford), to getting my first pass at Bachelor and driving every weekend from Eugene to Bend to follow my friends around the mountain and attempt tree runs, jumps, and rails while failing on a regular (scary to watch) basis. I moved to New Zealand for a year and rode steeps at Treble Cone and park at Snow Park, tore my rotator cuff (an injury that plagued me for years), and hit bigger jumps and rails than I ever would again in my snowboarding career. Then I moved to Colorado and taught snowboarding to kids for a couple seasons. You would think this would be the pinnacle, living in resort town, but something there just kind of fizzled. Maybe it was having to be on the mountain in uniform five days a week. The responsibility of being an authority on the subject. The soul-suck of standing around on a powder day watching kids do the falling leaf. Too much winter, too much slow riding on greens, too much technicality. It drained the love of snowboarding right out of me. I had to leave the mountains and never have enough time to snowboard to remember that I still loved it. I went for the powder and spent all my time in the trees. But I didn’t want to teach snowboarding to anyone. Ever again. It had to be something I did for me.
Of course, declarations like that seldom work out. This last winter I was roped into the assistant coach position at Forest Grove High School. I had a lot of misgivings, but to be honest, the lure of a free pass is what did it. Things I learned right away: High school kids are loud! All the time! They like to yell and sing! I thought, perhaps, that I had made a mistake. But then, like some movie involving a crusty coach, inept kids, and hilarious training montages, I found myself realizing that the whole thing was really, really fun. I saw my snowboarding self of five years ago, ten years ago, in the kids. Their excitement. Their determination to get things right. To go super big. Their seemingly rubber, unbreakable knees. I did the pep talks. The snowboarding isn’t easy but you’re doing awesome talks. The let’s start with a grab rather than a spin talks. Gave them technical advice they wouldn’t remember to follow. Freaked out when they fell in the same sketchy ways that I used to fall. And mostly, more than anything, reminded them to have fun and try to ride with style.
I’ll probably coach again next year. It can be fun to share snowboarding with people who love it.