Having read that Esther has been sliding herself around the side of mountain in Western America recently, I got thinking about board sports this early morning shortly after consuming my coffee, but before it really took hold of my senses. You see, I enjoy boards and their ability to glide, slide, roll, skim and slither over all manner of terrain. And it should come as no surprise that my favourite is the version that floats over the haunting depths of the ocean. In fact, it’s actually the only board I’ve ever ridden; the varieties that come with wheels attached I leave to the kids and the pros.
So anyway, as I slowly moved around my flat this gloomy November morn, waiting for my senses to awaken, I wondered why I hadn’t tried the variety of board that skims across snow? They both carve their chosen surfaces as they go, one tearing up the white stuff as it thunders down a mountain, the other ripping water about without care as a turn is made. They’re both huge amounts of fun, employ similar techniques and can be quite extreme if due care and attention is not made to the mind.
Despite never having been on a snowboard though, I’ve always wondered about snowboarding – you have to admit, it does look cool. The kind of cool that ultimately leads to crazy-cool, or maybe even scary-cool. My brother is a keen skier and is often hopping over to the Alps with his friends for a long weekend on the slopes, so you might think I would have had ample opportunity to have a go at this particular sport. And with my natural sense of balance on something flat, thin and long, there is little reason to be as hesitant as I seem to be.
And then it dawned on me. The caffeine kicked in, the eyes opened and the brain entered overdrive. Morning had broken and I knew why I hadn’t tried snowboarding before. I’m not too keen on heights…
Allow me to attempt to sum up the major differences between these two closely related sports.
|Environment||Water-based. Although falling into it doesn’t necessarily hurt that much, you can very easily drown in it. You cannot stand-up in or on it until you’re so close to the shore it doesn’t really matter.||Land-based. Falling onto a frozen surface has to hurt, even from just the height of your own body. Although, I’ve never heard of a snower drowning while doing their thang. Broken bones though I believe are quite common.|
|Equipment||I don’t believe a surfboard is as strong and robust as a snowboard, and generally speaking they’re bigger (wider, certainly). This makes transporting them harder. On another note, you’ll never see a cute snowboarder in nothing more than a bikini, unlike surfing girls (and guys, to be fair to the ladies) who readily take as much off as possible at any given opportunity.||The clothing is usually funky, but there tends to be a lot of it. And more equipment usually equates to more money needed. Having said that, snowers look better when it’s cold, unlike surfers who don wetsuits and look like something from a low-budget sci-fi film. Also, snowers can put things like cameras and cigarettes in their pockets. Doesn’t work so well for surfers.|
|Danger||Being knocked unconscious by a submerged rock or own board and drowning. General pollution as well can cause some nasty infections and illnesses.||Aside from broken bones, avalanches look pretty damn scary. And the crazy-fast lifts that suspend unnaturally above the ground and bounce up and down on the wire.|
|Fears||Sharks and poisonous sea creatures (although thankfully not really a problem in the UK). A snower could probably outrun a bear, but there’s no way I could outrun a shark.||Heights. That and it’s cold. And I really wouldn’t want to suffer another broken wrist.|
I believe the two sports also have their very own cultures and traditions, although again there are some similarities. But the type of people who tend to take up either snowboarding or surfing are probably somewhere in their twenties and have an outgoing and positive personality; I’m yet to meet a depressed surfer, but maybe that’s more to do with surfing’s spiritual side which I’m not sure exists within snowboarding.
What I also find interesting is that snowboarding is an Olympic sport (in the Winter Games), whereas surfing is not. This is despite the fact that snowboarding is a derivative of surfing, once called snurfing [I presume] according to Wikipedia who describe the first snowboard as a Snurfer. Let’s just say it’s good that a different term became more popular, although I’m sure surfing sounded strange to people when they first heard it.
Of course, to include surfing in the Olympics would be difficult, as Fernando Aguerre points out in his article for Surfer’s Path magazine. Location is pretty important and while you could argue the same for sailing, wind is easier to come by than a decent swell combined with a good incline on the seabed or reef along with a very specific type of wind.
The one thing I know very little about (with both sports) is what has been coined surf-rage. It does exist in surfing and can include gang-based rivalry between groups of locals and groups of visitors. Given how similar the sports are, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of snowers cutting in on others while flying down a slope, or getting very territorial over a particular run or spot. But I’ve never heard of snow-rage – to maybe coin the term – although my ignorance is perhaps based on exposure and lack thereof.
And to finish up with, I’ll leave you with one more thought: If surfboarders are called surfers, and skateboarders are called skaters, why aren’t snowboarders called snowers?