It was a clear day as I strapped on the board for the first time. I went down the hill and could feel the wind in my face, but something happened. I lost control and slid into the snow, tumbling to a stop. What had I done wrong?
My pal Reid helped me down the first hill and told me I needed to turn the board with the back end and swing it back and forth to turn and slow to a controllable speed. Meanwhile, I was trying to get down the hill, but kept falling every few yards. Then I realized I wasn't tilting the board to get its edge in the ground and carve out the turn. I went down a little more, trying it that way.
"Come on, Mark!" yelled Reid.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm coming. It's so hard, I keep on falling," I replied.
I finally made it. Now I needed to get on the chairlift for the next run. Wow, I thought warily, this thing better not kill me. It looked like it was coming so fast that it would knock me over, and I'd get caught on the bottom. Maybe I'd hang from it as it was going up and fall off where no one could help me.
But then something very peculiar happened - I found it easy to get on the lift. I felt as if I had done it in a past life. The really hard part was still to come: getting off. When you ride the chairlift you only have one foot attached to your board and need to get off without falling, letting the chair smack you in the back of your head or knocking over the person you're riding with. Well, I did run into my friend as I got off, and I fell down because I couldn't control the board, but at least I made it off alive.
This time my plan was to make it down the hill by carving left and right like you're actually supposed to, and not snowplow and fall every few feet. I started down but couldn't get myself to turn without stopping. Then I got going too fast and when I tried to stop, I flew head-first into the snow. I could hear people laughing and yelling, "Wipeout!" It was clear that it was going to be a long time before I'd make it down a hill without falling.
The next day I tried again and my turns were better. I could even tell what I was doing wrong every time I fell. Sometimes I was not tilting the board and swinging it equally, and it seemed to depend on that. I was familiar with the laws of physics, so all I had to do was apply them to snowboarding.
Finally I was carving down the hill, but I was still a little sketchy and didn't want to go too fast. It all came down to practice. Eventually I had the courage to go down the slope with more speed.
When I had more skills, I added tricks, going off the jumps at the snow park and doing some small grabs. Then I began to do some of the hardest grabs, then I added spins. I successfully did a 180 off a jump and got decent at the trick. Then I tried to combine them. Over and over I went off the jump until the combo was established in my trick book. There were two things I still didn't have the guts to try, though: the enormous jump and the grind rails. With my friend's encouragement, I tried, but fell flat on my face and put a gash in my board. I realized that this is exactly what happened when I started snowboarding and needed to discover what I was doing wrong. Soon I was grinding in a flash.
The giant jump was all I could think about. This was what I saw people conquer and be conquered by. I was in danger if I did it, but I had to try. I went off and was tentative to do anything but soar through the air. Surprisingly, I landed with style and began going down the hill. I couldn't believe I had done it.
To learn to do something, stick with it - all you need to do is be brave and try the hard things. Don't expect failure - you can do anything if you set your mind to it. If you fail, try until you do it. Now, don't go out and try to fly, it has to be based on physics, but if the Earth can let you do it, try. Just be safe.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.