Hanging On And Letting Go: Lessons From My Snowboard
The mountains never cease to surprise… and neither does life.
Twenty years on the slopes, I’ve always thought I learned everything about life from the mountains. How to persevere and work hard; how to take risks and have fun. How to have faith and try your best — then commit to do better.
I’ve ridden through vertigo and headaches after taking hard tumbles. I’ve ridden down double black diamonds one armed with an injured shoulder. Once it was snowing so hard I couldn’t see anyone standing more than five feet away — or my own boots. I rode the moguls blind until it was time to go.
Some may find it extreme, but I never did. I adore snowboarding, but I loathe quitting more. Never give up, keep going. Never back down, keep getting better. Never take the easy way out. Never stop learning. Those were the lessons from my snowboard.
Life surprises in serendipitous ways. Turns out, the most valuable lesson I’ll learn on these mountains is finding out how to walk away.
Last weekend, I dropped off my board for overnight service. The shop had a staff miscommunication and didn’t have it ready the next morning, so they offered me one of their decks for the day.
A mini aside — my board is a directional twin, while the loaner was a true twin. Directional twins have longer noses than tails. True twins are what they sound like — both ends are identical.
On paper, directional twins are better all-mountain boards — off piste, trees, groomers, any downhill riding — as they’re designed to be predominantly ridden in one direction. True twins are popular in terrain parks — ramps, rails, half pipes — where they can land on either side after spins and jumps. I always gravitated towards riding the mountain. It makes me feel free.
I switched to a directional twin couple years ago because it theoretically fits my riding profile better. And I liked my board’s asymmetrical shape and cool graphics. It took me a while to get used to it. The first day, I tripped over every single bump on the slopes. But I worked at it. I grew to love it. We got through some hairy situations together. Whenever I didn’t like the way it felt, I figured I just needed to put in more work.
I refused to consider a true twin for my last board. I never had issues riding them but I didn’t like their looks or their concept. That particular model the shop gave me used to have this tacky pink artwork I abhorred.
But riding it was a revelation. The board just fits. I can nerd out on the specs for days, but the exact reasons will probably remain a mystery. We don’t always know why we feel how we do, but deep down, we always, always, know how we feel.
It was a mistake, choosing the right cover over the right book.
All I could think of, in that moment, was I wanted everything in life to feel like this board. Natural. Easy. Obvious. Like it was meant to be.
Of course life is never as simple. But it doesn’t have to be as complicated. I think about all the things I tried to make work over the years. The things I knew weren’t right for me but refused to give up on. The things I thought could change if I just did more. The situations I stayed in when I should’ve left, the time I spent fixing what couldn’t be fixed, doubling down instead of facing the truth, digging in instead of cutting the losses. Hanging on instead of letting go.
Making excuses, romanticizing rare positives and clinging to past memories then using them to justify the bad. They never could.
One of my stalwart crime shows, NCIS, had a leader, Gibbs, who gave his team a set of rules. One of them is Rule 51 — “Sometimes you’re wrong.” I always liked it, but it wasn’t my favourite. That’s probably “If someone thinks he has the upper hand, break it.” Or “Never accept an apology from somebody who just sucker punched you.”
But it’s becoming my favourite. Sometimes, you’re wrong.
I was so willing to die on any hill I climbed on, even if I didn’t like what I found at the top. One summer, I trained on a bad knee for weeks to stick with my running club, until I could barely limp from the changing room to the gym doors. Sounds crazy, ruining my knee to continue a free club. But I could never stand walking away.
Sometimes, you’re wrong.
Maybe walking away isn’t giving up. Or maybe it is. The semantics aren’t important, and neither are the reasons. Holding on to things not meant for you only steals your chance for finding something that is.
Perhaps knowing when is better than knowing why.
And when you end up with the wrong board, it’s okay to leave it behind.
For the first time, I’m getting a helmet. I used to think wearing one was a sign of fear, or that I wasn’t good enough, or that I was slowing down. I thought standing firm showed conviction. It didn’t. I was just being stubborn.
Sometimes, you’re wrong.
I’m listing the snowboard that didn’t fit, and heading back for the one that does. I usually hate to change midseason — I want to finish with what I started. But it seems silly now, trying to make work what isn’t working, sacrificing what matters to clutch on to what doesn’t. Running and hiding and breaking myself to avoid admitting that sometimes, I’m wrong.
So I’m making a new commitment: Allowing things to come to me instead of forcing them my way. Letting go of things that don’t feel right, and hanging on to the ones that do. Opening up my future, creating room for something better. Giving myself the grace to start over, anytime, anywhere, in any form.
Because there’s one more lesson from my snowboard: Today, any day, is the right day to make a change.