Going to the Dark Side (guest column)

The following is reprinted with permission from the author, David Hayes. It was first published on the site SeniorSkier.com.

He Went To From Skier To Boarder. Here’s How And What Happened.

I have to confess, I was once one of you before I moved to the Dark Side. Yes, I skied in the East Coast and the West Coast, in the Rockies and also in Austria, enjoying the feeling and stability of two boards under my feet and with poles to move me along when needed.

However, with two young sons and the misguided idea that I could spend more time with them if I took up snowboarding, I dropped the two for one and took up Boarding. As an older adult I joined the Dark Side where most of the much younger participants seem to be oblivious to common sense or at least common manners as they drop down to sit in front of you blocking your path. As skiers we all enjoy being edged off the trail as the boarders race by often jumping on nonexistent drifts and seem to purposely nudge you out of their way.

I was once like you but now, I am committed and far happier as a Boarder. I truly enjoy the sensations of a snowboard on powder with the glide and edging making the effortless turns that seem to be only available on a Board.

OK, you skiers need to know that there are two forms of falling while learning to Board, front — which means your hands and wrists are at risk, or, like me, backward fallers —where you learn the meaning of word coccyx, which means tail bone. I hurt my tailbone so badly in my attempt to learn boarding that after my return home I decided to go to the Doctor convinced that something had broken. I learned that severe bruises also hurt like hell and that even a Doctor can laugh at his long-time patient who seemingly is not acting his age.

The learning curve was, well, both long and painful. I remember during my private lessons (pride would not allow me to take group lessons) spending a lot of time on my rear to the point that after the end of the day of lessons (ok, mostly falling) I had a real challenge sitting down. After the first week and a very sore backside I spent most of the time standing on the 4.5 hour flight home. Which, you might understand in a post 9/11 world, makes you the object of a lot of suspicious glances until you explain that your tail hurts from learning to snowboard. I believe I noted a few snickers from the cabin crew.

The next vacation on the snow and after more lessons, a very patient instructor told me of the padded appliance appropriately named Azz Pad that snow park participants sometime use during training. Quickly getting on the internet and with the gift of overnight delivery I was quickly proud owner of the aforementioned Azz Pad and I have never looked back. My wife shook her head at my new found rear end protection and my two sons derided my apparel but I found comfort in the added padding and when combined with a highly recommended beginner’s board I developed courage, stability and the dissipation of fear (or at least in regard to my tailbone bruises).

Moving ahead a few years and with more than just a few snow days behind me, I am no longer wearing the Azz Pad, I have now five snowboards for differing conditions and also, well, just because I can! I regularly board black runs and often do the snowcat program at my favorite ski (I mean snowboarding) resort.

One son is now a certified snowboard instructor and the other is seemingly an Olympic-class snowboarder (at least in my eyes). So, I looked forward to boarding with my sons; at least, that was the plan. Guess what, not a chance, they prefer hitting the slopes without old Dad holding them back.

However, I am grateful that my boys were the catalyst for me learning the sport that I now love. I still enjoy the feeling of one board in powder and the sense of victory that comes with learning a difficult (at my age) skill, and with no small measure of pride, learn it well.

Look around you, boarders of all ages are now on the slopes and if you see a gray haired nattily attired boarder with a smile on his face and a groove in his glide from the tunes in his helmet music system, ask him if he is named David.

Editor’s note: Thanks again to David for his permission to reprint this. Kudos to him for persevering after the severe backward fall. As the story reminds us, padding can be your friend.

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One Response to Going to the Dark Side (guest column)

  1. JAMES C ZUEGER says:

    Great article. I can relate — I started in my 50s so I could ride with my son. Love it!
    Jim Z

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