Wanaka, New Zealand: The Early Days Of Snowboarding

… that is, before I went pro.

Phil and I were definitely gonna sign up for a lesson. I mean, as confident as I was in my ability to figure things out (see Bar and Security experience), I wasn’t trying to impress anyone, and after buying all the equipment, this was an investment.

One of the girls I worked with (scratch that: the girl that I worked with), Jenny, was also an instructor at Cardrona, the resort we had chosen for our powder-surfing activities. I tried to get her to devote some time to teach us, but in the end we went with an instructor assigned by the office – Roberto.

Roberto began by getting us to push about with one foot strapped to the board and the other pedaling the snow, like on a skateboard. Finally, we walked a few meters up a small hill and practiced standing up on the board with both feet strapped.

It had been nearly 20 years since my last experience with ski/snowboard instructors, so I can’t give any inciteful criticism into Roberto’s tutelage. I could say that he clearly knew what he was doing, and by the end of the lesson I felt I had the general idea of snowboarding down: only short, quick glances at snow bunnies in tight outfits, and pray that you don’t crack your tailbone.

The one thing that both Phil and I got a kick out of was one of Roberto’s last nuggets of wisdom: “Reemember, your snowboard – eet eez like a woooman!” Later, after watching Phil eat it several times on the bunny slope, I remarked, “Phil, your snowboarding, eet eez like a woooman!!”

Phil and I had two very distinct styles of riding: he would carefully make his way down the slope, stopping himself if he gained too much speed by falling down; I, on the other hand, simply hurled myself down the hill and hoped for the best. Phil was dying with laughter when, during one such attempt, he was gradually making his way down the slope, when I came flying beside him, head first in a giant cloud of powder. I quite literally bounced, and ended up on my back, staring at the sky and groaning in pain.

After a few more days on the bunny slope, my friends Simon, Mike and Rene convinced me to try MacDougal’s, which is the next easiest run on the mountain. Phil declined, but I decided to just go for it, and, despite losing feeling in my knee for a good 5 minutes, I didn’t do too bad.

We had gotten a ride up with two of Phil’s friends, Simon and Ula, so when we wanted to go home, we had to hitch. Neither of us had ever done it before, so as we walked away from the resort, down a hill towards the carpark, we just shrugged our shoulders and stuck our thumbs. And, lo-and-behold, the first car stopped. It was an SUV driven by a man, with his wife and daughter also in the car. The husband, Richard, strapped our boards to the roof rack while his wife and kid, and my Phil, squeezed into the back. It turns out Richard owned a software development company which specialized in racetrack betting software. He works from home and spends his ample free time out on the lake in the summer and on the mountain in the winter. It was quite amazing, our first attempt at hitchhiking and we meet a really nice guy who nearly drops us off at our doorstep.

And again, in that odd, Wanaka twist-of-fate, I’d actually see Richard at Barluga two times aftewards. The first he didn’t recognize me, but more recently, as he was leaving, he looked at me and said, “Did I give you a ride down from Cardrona once?”

It had been almost 5 months, but I remembered it like it happened last week, as I normally do with these type of things. I simply smiled and said, “Yeah, you did. Thanks again.”


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