Why I’m Glad I Learned to Snowboard Before Learning to Surf

I started snowboarding when I was 12, which is not particularly young, but now that I’m 26, I’ve been doing it for awhile.

I started surfing when I was 22.

I had many opportunities to learn to surf when I was younger as I went to Maine and Montauk many summers. All I did most of the time was sit at the shorebreak and get pummeled. I thought that was fun.

Where I went much more regularly as a kid, was to ski resorts in upstate New York. I honed my craft in the mountains, the long runs let me experiment, and I like to think I developed some sort of style.

I regret not picking up a surfboard earlier, and I’m stuck here thinking, if I did start earlier, and surfed more than snowboarded, what would my style be like?

When I first started surfing, I imagined my style to develop after a few sessions, like all us native snowboarders do. I imagined shredding casually and aggressively, like I snowboard. A laid back, speedy, and creative style would transfer from the mountains to the sea overnight.

(Most of) you know how fucking wrong and ignorant this train of thought is. This expectation is completely witless, irrational, and downright embarrassing. The reality was, I couldn’t even catch a wave until about my second Fall season. Further, I couldn’t do turns until this fall! Four years into this hobby and I’m just now kind of surfing.

I’m more confident catching waves now, can do some turns, and pump down the line. I find my snowboarding style slowly finding its way into the ocean. I’m laid back and adding some aggressiveness. I’ll drag out a cutback, turn back down the line, and ride thoughtlessly, like I would on an embankment on the mountain. I don’t find myself desperately needing to perform a certain kind of turn on each wave. Half the shit I do is made up on the spot, similar to how my jibs and turns developed on a snowboard.

I love watching videos of Emerick Ishikawa and Asher Pacey. It appears they have no expectations of themselves. Their effortless and nonessential riding bellows with style. It looks like they are snowboarding a wave.

It’s unrealistic to compare the average person with two soul surfers…and I’m not doing that. I’m questioning why the layman is trying to surf like a professional on tour. It appears they absolutely have to surf a certain way, on waves that are not calling for it, and it comes across as erratic and pressured. I can feel the expectations they have of themselves.

Is style being abandoned for conformity?

I think learning to snowboard first has prevented this in my surfing. I learned from long runs down the mountain, there doesn’t have to be a hastiness with each turn, with each ride. I don’t have an urge to force anything, to perform a certain way.

I understand though, the fleetiness of conditions, finite rides, finite turns, wondering when the next storm will produce, when’s the next day you can go out, trying to make the most out of each session. These statement and doubts are influential to surfers; and also worth considering they are relevant to snowboarders too.

I understand you have to earn a wave, much more so than a ride down a hill. There is no chair lift in the ocean dropping in for you. Is this enough of a reason to excuse style and gracefulness, or is this more of a reason to relax, forget how the pros are riding, and see what unique style of surfing develops? I bet it would be more snowboard-esque.