The Secret to My Success
My Class at High Cascade Snowboard Camp
“Hold it right there. You need to unstrap your back foot,” the lift operator told me. I hurried and boarded the lift. “You need to unstrap before you board,” the lift operator said again, and reached to stop the lift, but it was too late; I was on my way. I sighed with relief.
“Why didn’t you unstrap?” Cassie, who was riding up with me, asked.
“It’s too unnerving. If I could do one-leggers like Josh Dirksen, it wouldn’t be a problem.”
“If you could snowboard like Josh Dirksen, it would be awesome.”
We reached the top of Palmer, where it is flat and easy to dismount. However, I caught an edge of my board and fell. The operator stopped the lift so I wouldn’t get run over by those behind me, and I had to unstrap my back foot to stand up and get going. After eons, I finally reached Coach Justin and the entire class, who stood patiently waiting for me.
“What took you so long, Noelani?” asked Justin. I explained about having to unstrap when I fell getting off the lift. “You’re lucky they didn’t pull your ticket,” he told me.
“I can’t steer a snowboard with one foot! I can barely do it with both!”
“You’re not supposed to steer with both. You do it with your front foot.” I gave him a nervous look. “Try it next time. But don’t ever strap both feet on the lift again.”
In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a major klutz when it comes to snowboarding. It didn’t help matters that I was learning it at the ripe old age of 13. I live in Hilo – that’s on the Hawaiian island that has the living volcano. It also has Mauna Kea which, being nearly 14,000 feet high, occasionally gets snow. Last winter, some friends from the Mainland took me up there and taught me snowboarding, and I fell in love with the sport. They told me about High Cascade, a summer snowboard camp in Oregon, where I could get excellent coaching and hang out with pros. I begged my parents to send me, so here I was.
“All right, we’re going to the Park to work on jumps,” Justin told the class. “Come down at your own speed, and we’ll regroup at the gate.”
Once again, I lagged behind. “You need to ride faster,” Justin scolded, when I caught up. “You’re not pushing yourself.”
“I’m sorry. It’s just that I hardly ever get to practice, since I live in Hawaii.”
“Cassie lives in Honolulu, and she’s never even snowboarded before. Yet, she’s riding faster than you. You just need to try harder. You don’t even fall much; that means you’re not trying.”
Turning to the class, he said, “I’m going to film you guys entering the Park. Go in one at a time, and I want you to make it as spectacular as possible.” To me, he said, “Go ahead and fall, but make it look good.”
He started his camera, and one by one we entered the Park. Alyssa spun a 360, Christopher did a cartwheel, then it was my turn. Sure enough, I toppled over. “I said make it look good!” snapped Justin. I threw snow up in the air.
Cassie was next; she did a backflip and crashed! “Uh – we’re not doing those yet,” Justin sputtered. I turned away and quietly laughed.
Justin led us through the Park to a small knoll with a steep back
side. “This jump has been salted to make the snow firm,” he explained. “We’re just going to ride over it a few times. Later, we’ll do a jump by bunny-hopping.” When my turn came, I stalled, then fell; the snow was rock hard! I stood up and looked over the knoll to the steep side, which most likely was also sheer ice. “Hike back up and try again,” Justin told me.
“Uh – can you just guide me over from here?” I asked him. I wasn’t about to zip onto that steep slope; I figured if he guided me over, I could at least check my speed as soon as I reached it.
“No, you’ll just have to go fast enough to make it over.”
I tried several more times, but with the same result.
“Just go faster! What’s the problem?” Justin snapped.
“This stuff scares me,” I said bluntly.
“Then why do you do it?”
“I want to overcome my fear.”
Justin looked at me strangely, then his expression changed to admiration. “You need to be more confident and ride faster, then. Tomorrow, work on keeping up with the class.”
“Is there anything I can do to cross-train for this?”
“No there isn’t. You just have to do it.”
In spite of what Justin said, I decided to try cross-training anyway. After dinner, I skipped the Dodgeball game and went to the skateboard park. Micah, the Head Coach, met me there. “What would you like to work on?” he asked me. I explained about being afraid to ride over the small jump, and my problems keeping up with my class. “I think you should work on coming down the entrance ramp and rolling over this 1 foot pyramid,” he told me. I cringed; what was I getting myself into?!
“It’s not that bad,” he reassured me. “We’ll start by you rolling down it. First, get up there and stand on your board, front foot over the bolts, back foot on the lip.” I did this. “Now bend your knees, keep your back straight, lean over the nose of the board, and keep your eyes on this spot on the ground. When you’re ready, I’ll guide you down.” He took my hand and waited until I worked up the nerve to do it. “Very good! I’ll help you a few more times, until you can do that on your own.” Feeling totally jazzed, I quickly got back on the pyramid. Micah helped me 4 more times, then I did 10 roll-ins by myself!
“I think you’re ready to go up and over now,” said Micah. “Don’t worry,” he added when I gave him a scared look. “I can help you with that, too.”
He held both my hands and ran towards the pyramid. When I reached the uphill ramp, my skateboard wheels caught and I fell.
“You ok?” he asked me.
“Uh – sure,” I answered uneasily as I got up.
“Falling is no big deal, especially since you’re wearing protective gear. We need to go faster, so you don’t catch an edge. Let’s try again. Bend your knees more, so you’re stable.”
He helped me again, and this time, I made it up and over. Several times later, he had me go partway up the lead-in ramp and roll over the pyramid on my own, while he stood by.
“This is so radical!” I exclaimed. “I haven’t been this amped since I learned to swim! Thanks a million for helping me!”
Me, performing at the Huckleberry Skate Jam. I won First Prize for Girls' Skate (I was the only girl).
“Yeah, you did great! This should help you do the jump tomorrow, as well.”
I looked around; Justin had made that comment. He had been watching us the whole time!
The next day, when I rode up the lift, I did not strap in my back foot. When it came time to get off, I panicked, but remembered what Micah had said about keeping my back straight, my knees bent, and leaning over the nose. Steering with my front foot, I actually made it off the lift without falling! “Congratulations!” Justin told me. “See how much easier it is, when you do it right?” I didn’t agree, but figured I’d get used to it when I’d done it often enough.
We went back to the small jump. Once again I stalled going over it, but this time, Justin guided me over. He only had to do it once. After that, I gained the courage to ride over it, and I even did a bunny hop the last 2 times!
My first attempt in a half pipe.
My attempt at jumping. It is VERY unnerving, cross training by jumping off a high dive is a good idea. Video is pink because I fell, breaking my camera.
After the camp session ended, I returned home and continued cross-training. I skateboarded at the local skate park, practiced wall-sits to the point where I could do one for 3 minutes straight, and even went off the 3 and 5 meter high dives at the swimming pool. The following summer, I returned to High Cascade. Once again Justin was my coach.
Our class took a warm-up run on Magical Mile. I had no trouble getting off the lift, realizing even if I fell, I would land on snow. I easily rode switch and twirled 360’s. We went to the small knoll we’d done last year, and I actually did a 1 foot jump!
“Wow! I’m really impressed!” said Justin. “You can increase your height by going faster. Past a certain point, you won’t even need to do a bunny hop.”
I hiked a little farther up the rise, and did the jump again. After a few tries, I sailed 3 feet, which was its maximum!
“How much snowboarding did you get in over the winter?” Justin asked.
“Only 3 days, since we got some snow on Mauna Kea. I achieved almost all these skills through cross-training.” I told him what my routine was.
“That’s great!” exclaimed Justin. “So there is something to be said for cross-training. Definitely keep it up. Sometimes, coaches learn as much from their students as students learn from them.”
Me, attempting a tail press.
Me, doing 360 degree turns (this was at Windell's Winter Camp, when I fell and broke my camera).
© 2013 Yoleen Lucas