Learning to freestyle snowboard – blog 1
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MF’s Max Anderton has set himself the task of learning how to freestyle snowboard in time for the Snowbombing festival in April. And he’s new to the sport, so this may prove to be tricky
I arrive at the Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead for my first freestyle snowboarding lesson full of confidence. Granted, I’ve never actually set foot on a snowboard, but I have skateboarded on and off since I was 16, which must stand me in good stead. Plus, unlike skating, I’ll be strapped to the board the whole time – how hard can it be? Very, it turns out, as I soon discover that snowboarding and skateboarding actually have little in common apart from a propensity for sideways travel.
The first knock to my confidence comes when I tell Peter, my instructor (the Snow Centre offers private and group tuition) that this is my first ever time on a snowboard. He asks why I’ve booked myself a freestyle lesson and not a beginner’s one. ‘I skate… a bit,’ I sheepishly reply. ‘So I thought I would be all right.’
As we sit at the top of the nursery slope, Peter explains that kickers and grind rails will have to wait until I get the basics down and that I should be happy if I can make controlled turns in both directions by the end of today’s lesson. Being able to skate will help apparently, but not much.
Having to hold Peter’s hand for my first (slow) venture down the slope is the second knock to my confidence. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem holding hands with another guy, but having to grip for dear life just to prevent me toppling over is when I finally realise just how far away I am from reaching my goal.
My first solo attempt is accompanied by Peter’s shouted instructions as I try desperately not to lose control. ‘Bend your knees… keep your back straight… look up… keep pressure on your front foot… and relax!’ The last one proves to be particularly hard as my body contorts into a position that could be described as a lot of things, but definitely not relaxed.
When snowboarding, you make the board turn by switching pressure from your toes to your heel and vice versa. The main problem I encounter as the lesson progresses is transitioning from heel to toe, mostly as this ends up making me look back up the slope. This is disorientating at best and, at worst, sees me end up with my tailbone connecting with the slope. Hard.
After some more runs down the hil with varying success, the lesson comes to an end. I feel disappointed in what I perceive to be my lack of progress but Peter assures me I’ve down well for my first ever attempt at snowboarding. When pressed as to how I rate between one and ten, he gives me a confidence-boosting nine. Considering I didn’t achieve the goal of making properly controlled turns, I suspect he’s just saying it to be nice, but even so it has the desired effect of diluting my frustration. My calves ache for the whole of the next day and a bit of the next, but I don’t care, I’m just itching to get started on my next lesson.
Visit thesnowcentre.com or call 0845 258 9000 to book a session, lesson or group lesson. Freestyle sessions and Rookie Clinics take place on Thursday and Friday evenings
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