Last Word 99

Yes, I’m a grown up. I know this for sure because I have kids of my own. So am I supposed to behave maturely? Well, last winter I was immature enough to bolt on a second pair of bindings onto one of my boards and let my 2-year-old son – John – tag along for a few days of riding. Sounds crazy? Judging from the looks from many others on the slope, it was.

The idea of having two people ride on the same board at once has been around for as long as snowboarding. In one of our ancestors, surfing, it’s even a competitive discipline to ride tandem. Perhaps it’s the most laughable – often depicted by a man holding a posing woman above his head while cruising in mellow white-water surf on a giant longboard – but at least it can be done. It’s a little trickier when buckled into bindings and when a fall isn’t a soft landing in water.
In my case, I’ve considered the idea stupid for as long as I can remember, at least when it comes to 2 adults sharing one longboard. I did see some mono-skiers do it once, perhaps that’s why. But a faint – later to be proved incorrect – memory of an older snowboarding magazine owner riding with his daughter between his legs, with extra bindings, has been haunting me forever.
So when I had my first kid about 3 years ago, I naturally started thinking about how to teach him to snowboard properly. My wife thought learning skiing would be a better idea for the years just after having learned how to walk, but since you are reading Onboard right now you probably understand why she is wrong. Having spent the early days riding with him in sort of a backpack (another dangerous idea which is for good reason banned in my home country, Sweden) the idea of adding an extra pair of bindings came to mind.As there was quite likely no use in researching the local stores for a pair of boots and bindings size 20, 2–3 years, I raided the internet. I found a set of bindings in Austria and a custom-made pair of boots in a suburb of Stockholm, both from Burton.
I picked an old 169cm board – ironically with classic longboard surf graphics – from the back of the garage. It was a well-used plank from back in my competition days that had won me a few trophies during its heyday. Since I started snowboarding at a time when you had to build your own board, simply because there were none to buy, I didn’t encounter problems when adding an extra set of inserts using spare parts (from a kitchen mounting kit).
At the lodge shop at my home mountain, I found a harness designed for teaching kids how to ski. Without the intention of ever using it for its original purpose, I purchased one. This was to be used to hold onto John so he wouldn’t fall face down on the first toe-side turn.
Introducing the idea of keeping both feet firmly fastened on a piece of wood with a 2-year-old does sound like a pretty difficult one, but after the ride up the chair-lift he was probably in shock. So he didn’t object at all to this, and off we went!
A 2-year-old does put incredible faith in his parents and has only recently come to understand that there are other people outside the family. Perhaps this explains why he didn’t object at all to cruising along at what for him must have been a lightning-fast speed. We were in reality going down quite a gentle slope at a very modest speed, but with the extra weight between my legs it was enough of a challenge for both of us.Looking down at his face while riding was a little difficult, as John wore both a fat helmet and goggles, so I couldn’t really tell what he thought about it all during the run. Perhaps it was the shock, or perhaps kids just accept a lot more new things than we do, but each time we stopped and I asked him if he had enjoyed it he just nodded calmly in response. He didn’t say a word. Once at the bottom of the hill, I asked him if he wanted to go again and he nodded more enthusiastically. Still not a sound, though.
Other people talked to me. Being on the quiet side, I seldom make new friends while snowboarding, but this time I had several people coming up to me and asking heaps of questions about how I came up with the idea and how well it worked. I politely responded that it was our first time but so far so good, and simply rode on. As you know, talking snowboarding is best done when not riding.
Even more people probably talked about us than with us, though, judging from the looks and pointed fingers from the lifts and slopes. The situation reminded me a lot of the early days of snowboarding, when I was among the very first snowboarders in my area.
As it was a cold December day and the weather was a little on the harsh side, we stopped after about 4 runs. I thought it was about time to rest John’s legs and recharge his batteries a little. Now, finally, he made his voice heard regarding what he thought about the experience. Screaming and kicking he let me know that he wanted neither a snack nor a nap!
“More, more!” he yelled with a voice so high pitched that most of the people waiting at the bottom turned their heads thinking what a poor dad it was who forced his kid to stay out in the middle of a freezing day like this.So we did a few more runs, then my wife came along with the pushchair, and John, protesting, was put to sleep next to his sister for a well-needed rest. I excitedly told the story regarding our maiden voyage. “Is it John or you having the most fun?” was her first question. It was a difficult one to answer: I was all smiles, as this was a long thought-out plan that worked out almost too well.
A few days of riding later, another similarity to the early days of riding came along. As we were about to board one of the longer chairs at the resort, the lift suddenly stopped just in front of us. A young lift operator politely informed us that “for security reasons, riding such a device was not allowed at this ski area”. This was a déjà vu, as I was stopped at the same lift 22 years ago aged 13, on my first real snowboard. The liftie at the time – probably now retired – even used exactly the same phrase, I think!
Anyway, with the responsibility of parenthood comes the benefit of understanding such reasoning. Trust me, all of you who have not yet seen your life “as you know it, gone, forever, never to return” – or at least this is how Bill Murray puts it in the movie Lost in Translation, anyway. And as I had had my doubts regarding the safety aspect, I appreciated his call and told him so. When I was stopped at age 13, I was a little more rebellious, but I will spare sensitive readers the finer details of what I told the liftie that time.
John is off on his own board this season, and has firmly stated that he never wants to ski: a good character trait, methinks.
Now I feel a strong need to finish this story off with the well-used expression, ’do not try this at home’. The stunt men in this movie are trained and seasoned professionals. Failure to be so may lead to serious injury or death. When reading these words, my own curiosity is usually aroused. It translates as: ’this must be fun, and how do I prove this statement relates to sissies and Americans only?’. But I, as neither lawyer nor doctor, hope those of you are thinking about doing this with your own kids, think more logically about it than I did. After all, your kids are – to continue the Bill Murray quote – “the most interesting people you are ever going to meet, and you want to be with them”. Please don’t risk their health because a seasoned and possibly imbecile professional told you a story in a snowboarding magazine. It would make him – not to mention all involved – sad to hear about a kid being injured. So keep enjoying snowboarding responsibly.

Anders Hagman is a Swedish former pro rider who thinks a story like this would better fit in a snowboarding mag for adults, like Snowboarding Life TM, but he’ll never consider himself old enough to write for it.

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