Bansko, Bulgaria. Bright sun in a cloudless sky. Far from being cold, I am actually starting to sweat despite the snow up here at 2000m. It’s day two of snowboarding and I am gliding in smooth, easy zig zags down the steep incline of #12, a red category run. Backwards.
Yesterday I strapped on a board for the first time in my life and took a two hour lesson. Afterwards, I practiced for two more hours. And today I decided to try the big hills.
It’s strange how learning occurs. Boarding backwards comes easily and immediately to me (much like ice skating backwards), but I haven’t been able to manage boarding frontwards for the better half of two days. And I am utter rubbish on the gentle slopes. So far, boarding forwards on easy hills has been the worst. I fall down every other meter. On those easy runs it takes me forty minutes to complete a measly 200 meters. Very grateful I wore my anti-carpal tunnel wrist braces since I didn’t have time to shop for the proper boarding kind of wrist supports before the trip. Between those and my motocross kneepads, the only damage from my front falls is to my patience. And possibly my ego.
Conversely, oddball that I am, boarding backwards down the steepest red run hills at Bansko is a piece of cake. Thankfully for my legs, whose shins were starting to cramp up halfway down run #10, Onur successfully taught me how to board while facing forwards, which transferred the strain to my quads.
Suha had done a brilliant job earlier in the day training me how to turn between boarding forwards and backwards. Conceptually, I understood how to maneuver the turns. But overcoming my fear of falling was a different matter. I didn’t mind falling while going slowly (just rued the waste of time it was), but falling while boarding at a decent clip didn’t appeal to me, so naturally I tried to avoid it… Which meant no turning backward to forward (or vice versa) while scissoring down the hill. Every time I came close to a full turn, I would sway back again to maintain my backwards position. When my shins got too tired, I would fall forward on the slope, turn around, and start plowing down the mountain facing forward.
Since nearly everyone in our 18 person group had walkie talkies, we were free to explore the mountain at our own pace.
After two days of boarding, I completed runs 1, 7, 8 , 10, and 12, riddled myself with bruises (from falls on the easy hills), and managed to miss the last lift down the mountain on day 2, requiring some of my finely-tuned people skills to fanagle a solution on my own in a non-English, non-Turkish speaking environment.
I would hardly classify my performance at Bansko as an extreme sport, unless my unskilled bravado counts as extreme. In any case, it is the START of a new extreme sport for me.
In one of my future posts, I’ll tell you what it was like to be on this hilarious adventure with a bunch of nutcases from Ahtapot Gönüllüleri.