By Anders Hagman
My first board snapped over a half-hidden tree stump in woody powder on a late January afternoon. The jump wasn’t very big – in fact, it was one of my first jumps ever – but the angle which I landed over the stub did the job. I had lost my virginity. On bad days, boards of all sizes, shapes and brands have moved on to meet their maker under my boots since then.
I’ll give those who claim that snowboarding is an expensive sport for snotty rich kids half a point. Sure there’s a lot of snotty rich kids up there on the hill, but it’s not that expensive compared to other sports. Just ask anyone playing hockey. However, I’ll give them full marks if they say that I am a snotty rich kid practising an expensive hobby when I’m snowboarding. In my case snowboarding has developed into a dear and destructive art form.
But I won’t let them call me crazy or stupid, because the joy of breaking a board on purpose – or any other piece of equipment for that matter – is bliss and ecstasy combined into one giant pill. Trust me, those who subscribe to this kind of prescription can cross off Prozac from the elixir they get from their regular doctor or shrink. Give a man frustrated with his parents, love life or boss – or the sum of all – a brand new board to break and you’ll soon find the same man at peace with himself, God and the rest of the universe.
It’s a little known fact, but crushing the sidewalls over a shard-edged rail is better than sex. Well, at least better than poor sex and surely better than masturbation. “You didn’t break another one, did you", my girlfriend will ask me whenever I return from the hill a bit earlier than expected. If I have a smug smile on my face she is more often than not right. I’m usually in a calm and positive mood a few hours after breaking a board in half. “Are you going to throw it away? Can I have the bindings, please", strangers will sometimes ask me on the hill right after the deed, as if I would ragingly throw the whole set in the bin. “Maybe I can have your board instead", I reply. “You see, this one is broken."
They haven’t the slightest clue. Breaking a board is not something you plan in advance. It’s not like, “Let’s see. I’ll ride this one until lunch and break it on the slope above the cafeteria about lunchtime. That way I won’t have to leave the warm cozy indoors for the rest of the day". No, no, no… It is in the spur of the moment you’ll want to finish off your board – quickly, with finesse, and without hesitation. Soprano-style, if you know what I mean. Bystanders should not be able to grasp what just happened before it is over and you’re far from the scene of crime. But tuning bindings to fit comfortably is hard work, so those I seldom part with.
So the first board that I broke was the one that got me hooked, but the first fix didn’t come for free. It took me 3 months in 8th grade to make that board during every woodwork class, plus putting in some detention overtime. He he he… The simple plywood-and-surf-strap-construction then only gave me 3 lousy hours of frustrated falling back and forth before it dawned on me what I had to do. After the deed I could go back to skiing again I reasoned. But subsequent to being able to steer myself towards a small bump in the powder field which me and my mates were hiking – and subsequently stomping the landing over a pointy stub – I realised I would never go back to skiing again. Breaking a ski is damn near impossible to do with style and you’ll still be left looking stupid with another one stuck on your other foot.
From my almost 20-year career as a serial-killer, I consider these my all-time highs:
1. The Sims Switchblade. It was probably my first real board and gave me almost a full season of faithful riding before getting sticky in the slushy spring snow and hardly moving down the hill at all. After the 3rd run, my friends had to wait for me at the lift. I probably should have stopped to give it good waxing, but no no no… I drowned it in a nearby stream instead. At first I thought about stripping down and diving for it, but as I watched it slowly sink to the bottom and lay there peacefully I realised it wasn’t going to make it into the next season anyway. Didn’t miss it a bit!
2. The Avalanche Damian Dagger. This board came with a lifetime warranty and was supposed to be indestructible. Irresistible of course! After not being able to learn frontside 360s after half a day of tries I decided it was the brutally heavy board that was at fault (and not my lack of talent). Me and a sharp rocky surface made an appointment with the Dagger. A single hit made sure it wasn’t going to be a dagger to anyone else’s snowboarding career. I hid the evidence in the woods while I was at it.
3. The K2 “Piezoelectric Techno Monster". Can’t recall the real name of this board, but the silly technology with a light that blinked when the board vibrated kept bugging the crap out of me each time I looked down during a speedy run. After accidentally focusing my sight and concentration on the light mid-air during a corkscrew, I had had enough. After getting up for the crash I pointed it straight for the parking lot and didn’t stop until I was halfway into it. There was no snow on the asphalt, so the lime green base of the board was clearly visible in a long freshly made track behind me. Did save the binding on this one though, as K2 was the only one to make decent step-ins for a lot of years.
So does this make me a happier person? Not necessarily, but my everlasting backup plan keeps me from stressing out on the hill. In particular, I remember one day last year when I was riding with a mate of mine: The conditions were white-out and rainy. He wasn’t riding that well that day and was stressed about some fuss with his girlfriend too. He hardly talked at all on the lift and seemed to be in a hurry to get down during each run, wanting to quit early that day too. I wasn’t riding particularly well either, but still enjoyed the day to its full and by the end of it managed to stick a few new moves. He asked me how I could stay positive during such a shitty day.
“No worries," I smiled back at him, “it’s all about finding your secret power animal." “Like in the movie Fight Club, you mean?" “Yeah, like in Fight Club," I whispered to him, as if it was a valuable secret.
But the real secret was that I, an almost new Burton Vapor, and the frozen coping of the local halfpipe had got together for a little meeting before my friend arrived that morning. The sound of high-tech aluminum honeycomb going to pieces over a force of nature such as blue ice beats thinking about a silly little penguin even on a good day.
Anders Hagman is a Swedish former pro rider who probably went pro just to fuel his bad habits. And were not talking about sex, drugs and rock’n roll in his case obviously.