I didn’t grow up as a Milo kid skiing or snowboarding every weekend, I don’t do back-to-back seasons and I’m not a particularly skilled or ‘stylish’ rider. However, none of this detracts from the fact that I am one hundred per cent completely addicted to the shred. I could spend hours watching videos, reading magazines, trawling through photos and blogs, talking about and thinking about snowboarding. As an aside, the only other thing I could possibly spend more time being as unproductive on is football, but I support a sinking ship that shall only be referred to as Titanic United for want of saving myself from the taunts of supporters of other rather more successful clubs, so no one really wants to listen to my rants about that.
My boss once asked me if the only reason I came to work was to have enough money to go snowboarding and, as much as I hate to admit it, even to myself, when I think about where I have been over the past few years, the answer is probably, no definitely, yes.
Holidays, by definition, should be time of rest. Kick your shoes off, grab a cocktail and lounge by the pool for a couple of weeks. I haven’t taken one of these relaxing, summer type holidays in years, and given the choice between four weeks on an isolated beach with non-stop mojitos, sunshine and blue waters or a frenzied ten days of driving hundreds of kilometres, early starts, late nights, freezing cold weather and incredibly sore muscles*, I know what I would choose. And one of the main reasons I love it so, apart from the fact that goggle tans are far more attractive then full-body tans, is the places snowboarding has taken me and the people I have met.
Now, I am no sybarite, but seasons and even extended trips really make you appreciate the comparative luxuries of home. If you don’t live in a two-bedroom apartment with five other people, count yourself lucky. And if you have your own room – win! Sharing confined car spaces, hotel rooms, beds and sometimes, even toothbrushes, brings you very close together, very quickly. And although I may only see some of these people once every couple of months, or every six months or once a year if I’m lucky, they are my family. The bond created is pretty unique. It is a crazy love we share for something that drives you ever closer to the poverty line and that is probably causing some irreparable damage to your knees and back, not to mention your liver, that can only be understood by those who have experienced it in one way or another. It’s amazing how you can pick right up where you left off with someone you may have met a few years ago and not seen since. Or how random, repeated brief encounters can eventually lead to life-long friendships.
It is not just the people that snowboarding has introduced me to that deepens my love for it, but also the places I have been because of it. I recently spent some (very limited) time in Japan and it is one of, if not the, most fantastic places I have visited. You can read about a country and study the language and listen to stories from people who have been there, but you can only really gain a deeper understanding and respect for the mores of another culture by being a part of it. My childhood was spent all over South-East Asia but everything about Japan was completely different from anywhere I have been to. The language, the art, the fashion, the people, the food, the way of life. But it is not just a clashing culture that you can learn something from. Somewhere like Canada or the US, which on the surface does not appear to be that different from Australia, is resplendent with cultural gems, if you are willing to take the time to look. Immersing yourself in the culture – whether that means sake with a dinner dish that you’re not quite sure of, but you eat anyway despite the disturbing moving flesh-looking bits on the top, or downing beer after beer in some dive of a bar while watching hockey, a sport you know nothing about, but yell at the TV when everyone else does anyway – this, to me, is what travelling is about. And if it is snowboarding that has got you there, maybe it’s time to take a sec and say thanks.
So, thank you snowboarding. Thanks to you, I have: two bung knees, a never-ending snow debt with the Bank of Mum and Dad, sent a thirteen year old boy to hospital for stitches, hung out with snow monkeys in onsens, fallen in love (or maybe just lust), had my heart broken, taken $80k rental cars for spins in the icy car park, an ever-recovering coccyx, had ridiculous fights about powder day etiquette, learnt how to converse with a Japanese doctor while my delirious and broken sister yelled for painkillers, a family that spans the globe and a million memories, good and bad, that I wouldn’t exchange for anything.**
*I use this word quite loosely when referring to myself.
**This is negotiable. What have you got to offer?