What snowboarding teaches me about balance

Picture this: I’m sitting on the top of a mountain, having just strapped my other boot into my snowboard.

I reach over and grab the bottom of my snowboard and pull myself up. I’ve gotten better at this, but I’m still apprehensive. I nudge myself off in one direction, with my right foot going forward – I ride “goofy,” as the lingo goes.

The run is steep. It’s not so steep to be a black, but it’s more advanced than a green. I’m on a blue, and I’m trying to get more confident in transitioning through my turns: heel to toe, toe to heel, in a never-ending push and pull to maintain control and balance.

It is terrifying and thrilling.

I’m not confident enough to just bomb down the run, so I’m taking the slope at an angle. I’m more comfortable on my heel edge, so I take that and ride it for far too long until my legs ache. I know that turning is inevitable, that the five seconds of vulnerability will be there. So I start to turn, knowing that if my body doesn’t catch up in time, I’ll crash.

I crash.

Luckily, I still have plenty of energy because it’s early in the day and I bounce right back up. I start off on my toe edge this time and transition easily to the heel edge. It’s always harder going from the heel to toe for me and I don’t know why.

I keep going down the run, and my muscle memory starts kicking in. What works on steeper runs won’t work on flatter areas, so I have to build up speed in advance. I approach areas with softer snow and I get bolder, knowing I won’t hurt myself if I crash here.

I just have to keep moving. Why?

Balance is dynamic.

In order to maintain balance, I can’t stay still. It feels ironic. If I’m going down a more narrow and flat run, I have to maintain one edge, heel or toe. If the board is flat, I crash.

If I’m going too fast, I crash. If I’m going too slow, I crash. If I’m trying to turn and I hesitate, I crash. If I’m not committed, I crash.

So much crashing. It’s exhausting.

But it’s also kind of cool when you start picking it up. When you start picking yourself up after each crash and you’re surprised to discover you have more energy than you originally thought you did, and you’re linking turns more smoothly. When you start daring to go on steeper, scarier slopes and you’re getting vague concepts like “butter” or “carve.” (Although between you and me, I still don’t know what “butter” means.)

So, I keep going.

I make tweaks constantly. I’m not perfect, and will often ask for feedback. It makes a difference. I watch other people and imitate them. It keeps me going on my snowboard, and it keeps me balanced.

Life is like this.

Balance in life is not achieved through every part of my life being satisfactory. I wish it was. But there’s always going to be a typo, a person who drives me crazy, a job situation that isn’t quite what I want it to be.

And so I have to make constant tweaks to myself, my relationships, my job, and of course, my snowboarding. I have to try doing hard, uncomfortable things so I can improve more – but I also have to build up skills so I don’t hurt myself too much either.

Again, balance. I try hard things and rejoice in taking action, but it helps to see results, too.

I’m not as scared of crashing like I used to be, and I’m getting good enough where I can find more secluded areas to practice my turns and jumping. It’s no longer a downhill ice rink filled with a million people who are all going 20 times faster than me.

Instead I’m among the trees in soft powder. Building up speed. Slowing down. Crashing, but then picking myself back up again, knowing that balance is forever a dynamic dance, trying and tweaking, and then trying again.

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