No strings attached! Want the chance to win a high quality, brand-new Coalition snowboard? go to the website above to be see the details. 5 snowboards will be given out in the month of November. You might just get lucky this time! I ride these boards and they are the bomb!
“Let’s go on an adventure!” was my response. I was stoked that this tall, good-looking Portuguese-Italian I liked whom I had only known for about 2 weeks wanted to spend his 26th birthday with just me, and he was asking me where I wanted to go.
All other traditional “date” options seemed boring. Too conventional, too expensive, not unique enough. I was a junior in college and had never once been on a “date” in my life. Not even prom, not even homecoming, not even one of the casual parties I had been to in college. I was always the one “single friend” through high school and the college I had been through so far. Never kissed, never held hands, never been liked back, and I was nineteen years old.
Hiking seemed like a good idea because it was free and we both shared the same sense of adventure and athleticism. I knew a place I had been before, but I wasn’t even sure exactly where it was or how long the hike would take. It was up by Donner, a small lake by Truckee, just north of Tahoe. We agreed to go there and wing it, or as I like to say, “send it.”
We drove up Old Highway 40 with the windows rolled down; it was a nice, bright-cherry-red Subaru Impreza with a roof rack and a manual transmission. Not saying I would ever like a guy just for his car — but damn. As we drove up the road, we began to see “road closure ahead” warning signs.
“Why would the road even be closed now? I bet those signs are left there from the winter,” he said. Before we got to the trailhead however, there were police cars and cones across the road, so we drove back a little. When we saw another trailhead, we parked there and got out of the car. It was a simple trailhead — no bathroom or lodge, just a sign with a map and a few facts about the place.
“Let’s just send it”, I said. We started down the trail. It was nearing sunset on fall equinox, the last day when the days are longer than the nights. The weather was at that point where you were kind of cold in a sweatshirt but you knew you’d warm up if you hiked a little. It was a dense forest with this trail carved out, and tall trees on either side of it. The ground was rocky and dusty, and was slightly uphill. You couldn’t really see the trail ahead or even how long it was because of the trees and winding nature of the path. There weren’t many people out at the time, but we did see one old man.
“How far to the top?” we asked.
Hiking poles in hand, seeming tired and a little worn out, he wheezed, “About three hours.”
“Think you can run?” he asked. The elevation of the base of the trail was about 7000 feet, and we were only going uphill. Not wanting to seem like the weaker one, I agreed to run, and we started up the mountain. We naturally took turns leading the way, like we were both trying to impress each other. My lungs were burning from the thin air, but I kept on running. There were some near-ankle-rolls and face plants, but we were having a great time.
Finally, after only about half an hour since setting off, we reached what looked like the end of the trail, but we were not on the top of a mountain. We looked up. There was an abandoned train tunnel that snaked through the mountain for miles. There was no trail up there but we were young, adventurous, and determined.
“Where now?” I asked.
“Up,” he said.
“Hiking” wasn’t the right word, but neither was “rock climbing.” It was a steep incline all the way up, and the ground was covered in loose rocks, ranging in size from boulders to pebbles. Sometimes, the only way forward was to walk right through a bush.
“You know,” he said, “There aren’t many girls who would do this.”
“Yeah, I agree,” I replied, “There aren’t.”
Another half an hour or so passed since the end of the designated trail, and we reached the outside of the train tunnel. We couldn’t find a way inside, so the next best thing was to climb up on top of it. It was about 20 or 30 feet tall, but there was a part where the tunnel intersected with the mountain, and we could climb up the rocks to get to the top of the tunnel. It was a steep sheet of granite, with a few footholds and a thin, sketchy electrical cable attached to a metal rod at the top. I tugged on the cable.
“Seems stable enough,” I said, making him lead the way.
The view from the top was spectacular, and not only because of the pink hues of the sunset over the blue lake, surrounded by dense forest and the tall mountains in the background. What was also amazing was the graffiti. Yes, most of it was just lame vandalism and profanity, but a few pieces shone as works of art. One piece, about 15 feet long and 15 feet wide, looked like a sunset and featured every color of the rainbow. There were stripes of color separated by black lines of spray paint, starting with purple at the bottom, and transitioning to yellow, then red and orange, and back to purple. It was simple but beautiful.
Some featured deep, inspiring quotes. One piece was written in plain, black spray paint and simple handwriting, It is not the length of life but the depth. Another featured a colorful fish painted into the side of the wall and the words Just keep swimming.
“They’ve probably broken up by now,” I joked, looking at all the marks left behind by couples that had written their initials in a heart. Other pieces showed frustration with the system. Question everything was written multiple times along the tunnel in a simple, purple scrawl. Enjoy your fluoride ya F****** sheep, another wrote.
We walked along the top of tunnel until it intersected the mountain again. It was getting dark, and we had no flashlights and were in the middle of nowhere. In the distance, we could see Donner Pass, a scenic, winding road with many narrow, hairpin turns that meandered around the mountains by Donner Lake. We decided if we just made it there, we could follow it and make it back to the car. There was only one problem: between the road and us was an army of alder trees, which were really thick, dense bushes about 6 feet tall or more.
Every step, the branches poked against us or whacked us. In the face, between the legs, you name it. I feared one would eventually poke me right in the eye. The ground beneath was not smooth either. At one point, we had to step over a 5-foot-wide crevasse, all while still going through the alder bushes. The sun had already set, and you could just see enough to get through.
We whooped with joy when our feet finally met the road. There was no walking path, but we knew we would end up back at the car if we followed the road down the hill for about a mile. There were not many cars going down, which was kind of a good thing because it was a winding road with no bike lane or walk path, and there was a serious danger of being hit if someone were to speed down close to the edge. As we walked, we held up our thumbs at the three cars that passed by, trying to get a ride down the road. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, no one stopped for us.
On the way down we talked. We talked about our pasts and our lives and our shared love for Jesus. We talked about the winter — how excited we both were to snowboard together. We talked about our shared frustration with the system, and how we both didn’t like watching TV. We talked the Illuminati. By the time we finally got back to his car at the trailhead, it was completely dark. We had made it, and it felt so good to be out of danger. He apologized for taking me through such a crazy, difficult trail. I said I had fun — probably more fun than if we had gone out to a movie and a nice restaurant.
This wasn’t really a “date” when we originally planned, but in retrospect it was. I went and visited him again that week and hung out more. We finally kissed. He said he wished he had done that at the top of the train tunnel, but didn’t have the guts to. I said I was waiting for it that whole time. That’s the thing — you can be so scared to do something because you don’t know how it will turn out, but in the end, it would have been just fine. This was September 21st, and we decided we were “officially a couple” on October 1st. In those short 9 or so days, we went rock climbing, scrambling on the boulders by Lake Tahoe, and skateboarding and rollerblading at the local skate park. I think we’ll get along pretty well.
Having all your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins half way across the world makes a different kind of family dynamic for a child. Thanksgiving dinners were often just my parents and brother and I — not just because of the geographical distance, but also the fact that British people don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Although I saw my grandparents about once a year at most, and less often as flight ticket prices went up, they were still able to leave an impression. As I have grown older, I have learned some of the very interesting, and quite frankly, very cool and badass history. We seem to live in a society where old people are thought less of than they used to — that they aren’t “cool” or “hip” enough for the new generation.
My Father’s mother, whom my brother and I have always called “Oms” or “Omi” was born in Java, Indonesia, and is of Dutch descent. She attended her first years of school there in Indonesia, which was actually the same school president Barack Obama went to. At the age of nine, in 1939, WWII broke out and the Japanese took over, putting everyone in prisoner of war camps. Between the ages of 9 and 14, she was in one of those camps, and many of her friends died from disease or conditions, or were raped. In 1945, just days before all the prisoners were about to be killed, the British navy came in and saved them. “I’ll never forget the sound of their bagpipes,” she said, “It was the most beautiful sound because we knew life would finally be normal again.”
After the war, my grandmother was sent to boarding school in England when her parents went back to Indonesia, and after that went to a farm in Cornwall, England. She had to learn English as a second language in a short amount of time.
She then worked as a nurse, and then as a flight attendant, since back in that time, flight attendants had to meet that requirement. She met my grandfather, who also worked in the airline industry, and they were married and had three children, with my father as the middle child. I remember she would tell funny stories of my aunt, uncle, and father, such as when my uncle swallowed a coin, or when the detached head of one of my aunt’s dolls ended up in the apple basket, giving her a right old scare.
Whenever we go back to England, we stay at her home in Crawley, a small town about an hour drive south of London. It is the same house my father and his siblings were born and raised in. That town feels like home even though I never lived there. On street corners, there are those classic red phone booths and red mailboxes you see in movies. There is a park my brother and I would always walk to and play on the flying fox – a seat attached to a rope that slid down a cable about 100 feet long. That kind of unregulated park feature would never exist in the U.S. — too many lawsuits.
Almost every memory I have with my grandmother is positive. With the advent of Facetime video calls, I was able to see her almost every day when my dad would talk to her. Last time I went to Europe, when I was eighteen and my brother fifteen, was one of the most memorable. We went to Holland and she was able to meet up with some of her high school friends, and we saw some of the places she grew up in, as she visited Holland for a few months a year before and after the war. For some reason, my brother and I decided we would act like turtles around her, and she became the queen of our turtle society. To this day, she is still “Queen Turtle”, and we act like a turtle whenever we see her.
I remember she would care about the things my brother and I cared about, such as out favorite TV show, Futurama. She would send me articles about snowboarding in the mail, and would hand-craft the most beautiful, personalized cards for birthdays, Christmases, and my parents’ anniversaries. I remember I even found a snowboarding magazine at her house, although she didn’t seem to know how it got there.
It was not until recently that I learned more about her past with the war camps. The prisoners were scared all the time because uncertainty loomed over their every day like the clouds that loom over England. The prisoners didn’t even have the luxury of knowing that they will see the next day. What amazes me is her ability to be still so light-hearted and able to pour into my life as a young girl. It’s almost as if she made sure I had a smooth time going through my formative age — the same ages she spent in war camp.
It took her a long time to forgive the Japanese for what they had done. They had robbed her of her childhood and killed her friends, even though she had done them no wrong. One time, she and her father watched a Japanese man be forced to shovel dirt from one side of a road to the other, shovel by shovel, only to have to do it all over again for humiliation. Her father thought it would be right for her to jeer at the man. After all, the Japanese had put them to work like that for years and she had every right to jeer. She couldn’t bring herself to do it.
It was only upon reading the book about the Hiroshima bombings that she realized how much pain the Japanese had gone through in the war as well. “I hope you never have to live through a big war like that,” she says. That’s thing with war – it sucks for everyone.
She learned not to take freedom for granted after the war. People don’t often think of the fact that they usually have control over their day-to-day life. She shut out her experience in war camp for many years, as in those days there weren’t many options for counseling. That’s what people did back then — they just had to “suck it up”. Although this was a grim time of her life, she is still able to make light of some of the things that happened, such as when one of the Japanese guard’s shoes came off and was grabbed by a dog, or how they would peek out the windows and giggle at the soldiers standing to attention over and over again whenever the captain walked by.
I am fortunate and grateful to have a good relationship with my grandparents. Through my grandma’s story, I have realized that there are a lot of things that can be taken for granted, such as daily freedoms and, you know, being pretty sure you’re not going to die the next day or not. I have learned that positive, light-hearted people can still have backstories that aren’t so positive, and I have learned that old people can be cool if the people of my generation would learn to take the time to find out their stories.
Last week I got to go to the Grand canyon for the first time on a family road trip. I got to do some cool stuff like hike Yosemite and the Bright Angel trail. I also got to take some cool pictures!
Here are some of the pictures I took during sunrise over the canyon with my phone.
And here are some pictures I edited using the prisma app on my phone.
Working with hundreds of kids at an action sports camp has made me realize what the word “fearless” means. With some kids, if they want to try something new, they just do it. Double backflip off the trampoline? Can’t be too hard. Send the megaramp on a skateboard? Easy. They don’t need someone to make them try something new. They just get out there and do it. They seem to lack that part of the brain that gets them thinking about the worst-case scenario. They can shut off their brain and just go for it.
All that is just because they’re kids, right? Well, not all children are the same. Meet 8-year-old me. She didn’t wand to go on Disneyland’s Splash Mountain. She stayed far away from diving boards and the deep end. She never picked up a snowboard until she was 14. She never went through this phase of recklessness.
Despite this, for some inexplicable reason, I have since then found my love and passion in freestyle snowboarding. I absolutely love it, even though it goes against everything my overthinking brain tells me. You know, the sport that was considered being taken out of the Olympics because it was “too dangerous”. The one where the sign looks like this?
I like my brain. It’s smart. It got me through high school in three years. It got me through calculus at the top of my class. It remembers things really well, sometimes with the craziest, most unnecessary detail. There’s no way I can say I hate my brain. It just thinks a lot. Always working, always finding ways to make life easier. However, there are moments when I wish I had a different brain. Those moments when I have the perfect speed for a jump but I throw in a few too many speed checks and case it. Those moments when I totally mean to do a backflip but I end up bailing and doing yet another straight air.
So there’s something I tell myself in those moments. As much as I’d like to deny it, I’ve got to face the facts. I’m just not born “fearless”. But here’s the catch: I’ve become really good at pretending. Instead of trying to shut off my brain, I get it to override the default system of self-preservation built into my body and subconscious mind.
For this split second it takes to jump onto this rail, let’s just pretend. Just pretend you’re fearless. As I approach the lip of the ramp at the point where you can either send it or ride around it, I pretend. Just pretend you forgot about that time you dislocated your shoulder last time you tried this trick. Pretend you never broke your tailbone on this same jump. When I wonder how on earth I even got myself into a situation standing at the top of a cliff over Lake Tahoe, I pretend. I act like I was born to do backflips off ramps. I’m an actress, an impersonator, a performer. I’m playing a character: Fearless Hanalei, the daredevil.
I almost feel it was not me who did the backflip off that ramp. It wasn’t me who jumped on that rail and balanced all the way to the end, or hit the big ramp with perfect speed. But somehow, I snap into character and do it again.
In an attempt to understand why someone like me was drawn to freestyle snowboarding, I think I’ve got an idea. It’s the satisfaction you get when you stomp that new trick. It’s the adrenaline jitters you get after doing something epic. It’s that horrible gut-feeling you get at the top of the jumps. It’s that floaty feeling you get in the air. Snowboarding is my medium for pushing my comfort zone. I rebel against how my “default mode” wants to act. I exercise authority over animal instinct.
That is why I ride.
“Snowboarder talk is not a language!”
When people ask me how many languages I speak, I say four. That’s English, Chinese, Japanese, and snowboarder talk.
Yes it is. Snowboarder talk is a language.
“Did you see my backside lipslide two-seven off the downflatdown? It was totally FRONT, man. When I stomped it, I was all like BANGERRR!!!! So then I went fakie 50-50 on the battleship but totally biffed. Half cabbed the first kicker, then I was going to throw down a steezy back-five boned out truck driver off the second booter, but this total blazin raisin was right in the tranny! I mean, who lets these two planking fruit booters in the TP anyway? It’s good thing I took it to the flats because I totally would have slammed that gaper! So then I sent the next booter, but my speed was off after almost eating it so I CASED it! 50 feet lip to knuckle, yeah? It was a major lawn chair air. I must have rolled down about 5 windows! I told that freak with the sticks to go 50-50 a rail or run down a staircase. That’ll teach him! Let’s go back and sesh that jump line, bro. I need to show you my suitcase!”
Dude, and then, when I was exiting the park, there was this squad of bowling pins falling leaf down the bunny hill, so I rode the chair up and dropped a load on them! One of them scorpioned so hard! That's what they get for snaking me all the time. Those gapers. I swear each one was rocking like a 4-inch gap, you know?
Tomorrow should be so epic with 70 inches of fresh. Its gonna puke tonight. I’m going to build a backcountry booter and throw some rodeos. Maybe I’ll go for an underflip or a cork 5. Just gotta watch out for those off piste death cookies. Gotta get some poaching in too, yeah? Get some sick footie.
Between coming home from College and going off to my summer job, I had three weeks at home in the Bay area. It was hard to get hired because I was only there for such as short time, and I had no plans. Nothing to do, no routine, no time constraints or deadlines, no commitments. So I decided to continue something I had started about three years prior. That was a healthy, gourmet, catering business for family friends.
My company motto is “good food that just happens to be healthy”. You may be surprised when you see items such as clam chowder, alfredo linguini, chocolate-citrus cake, and shepherd’s pie on a “health food” menu. But those are all there, and yes, are indeed, healthy. It became my goal to spread the idea that healthy food doesn’t have to be boring or limited.
When I started the Paleo diet 3 years ago, I didn’t want to “cut out” any of my favorite foods, and I soon discovered that there was a healthy way to adapt practically any dish. Doing this business has not only taught me more about cooking, but about business.
I learned that you’re never too young to go ahead and start something. My business started as a way to raise a few hundred dollars for a missions trip in 2013 when I was 16. In a few months, I had raised enough money, but I didn’t want to stop there. I continued it on and off and saved the money for my snowboarding pursuit. When I started, I had no idea about business or accounting. All I knew was that I had to price the menu items more than the cost of the ingredients, and boom! Profit. I learned that other people are willing to pay more than I am willing to pay for something. I guess if you’re used to eating out at restaurants, my menu was pretty cheap, and probably healthier.
I learned about target markets. It would be great to be that cool, hip new startup serving the twenty-somethings. I wanted to cook for my friends, and people like myself. However, when I first began selling my meals, 100% of my customers were my parents’ age. It made a lot of sense. Who makes the decisions about what the family eats for dinner? Probably not the children. I hadn’t set a target market at the beginning, but I soon figured it out.
I realized how hard it must be to start a “real” business. For me, it was easy. There was no risk, since I only bought the ingredients after receiving an order. Working out of home, I had no extra rent to pay, no overhead, and I didn’t have to pay any employees. My only cost was the ingredients and electricity. Getting customers was hard, but at least my life was not dependent on turning profit – it just was a way for me to get some extra money. Seriously, if this was a real business where I had to get a separate building, hire employees, and pay for permits and insurance, I would have to get a lot more orders – which wasn’t easy. I learned that most of your money comes from repeat customers rather than new ones, and that putting people over profit is important for keeping those customers. If someone didn’t like my food, I would re-do their order for free. I gave out free samples and free gifts for repeat customers. I took “off menu” orders if that’s what my customers wanted, even roaming around the city in search of goats meat to fulfill one of those orders.
Am I going to make this more official and continue it in the future? Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not sure if I will still love cooking if I do it for many hours a day, day in day out. All I know is that I’m very grateful I’ve had people willing to put their trust in me and buy food from a 16-19-year old. Without this experience, I would not have learned so much, and those three weeks at home would have been a drag. Honestly, I would have done it for free. It means the world to a chef when people enjoy and praise their creations.
Dropping – a poem
I’ve said the word
I’ve pulled the trigger
Passed the point of no return
The huge mounds of snow stare at me
Cold, steel rails wait for me
Drawing in, enticing, luring
Ready to launch me into the air
The word is out
I am committed
No turning back.
The choice is Adrenaline or comfort
Excitement or ease
Progression or plateau
Send it or stay
You go too slow, you miss the landing
It’s all or nothing
Fear exists in the mind
I am not a slave
My love is an addiction
I am at peace, confident
Pictures in my head
Perfect landings, hi fives, good vibes
Ready to take on the world
Palms sweating inside my gloves
Every cell fights against the brain
Why do I do it?
I have one life to live
Is this what I’m supposed to do?
It’s only snow and gravity
The choice is one hundred percent up to me
I open my mouth, I say the word:
Ever since I first started snowboarding, I have had the dream of living in a place where the mountains were accessible on a daily basis. Finally, after 5 years of driving up from the Bay, I moved to Tahoe. When the first snows started falling in November, it was like a dream come true. I even arranged my school schedule to I could snowboard 5 full days a week. I got a job next to my favorite ski resort. I didn’t think I would be on my college team, but after walking in on a meeting and asking if I could train with them, I found out I actually could be a part of the team. Everything was so great! I enthusiastically went to every single fall conditioning, thinking about all the pow I would be riding. I thought of all the friends I would make.
My season started early, on November 6, riding the park at Boreal. It seemed like the season was off to a great start! I remember on “dead day” during finals in December, I went out to Northstar instead of studying. I landed 3 or 4 new tricks that day, which I was very happy with so early on in the season. After finals, I moved to Truckee for Winter break, five minutes from the slopes. And then, on day one of break, Injury number one hit. My doctor told me I was out for the season. Suddenly all the promise of the season melted away like the terrain park on a sunny, April day.
I kept my hopes up. Between Christmas and New Years, I was able to snowboard in a sling with my family. It was fun and I was glad to be back. School started up again in mid-January, and I was competing with the college team and individually through USASA. I was back to training 5 days a week, and by the end of January, I felt I had fully recovered. In fact, on January 31, I said “I think I’m finally recovered from my injury! Time to start pushing it again!” So I tried a backflip.
I was so close, but backflips should be done in whole numbers. 0.8 backflips just didn’t cut it, and what-used-to-be-my-good-arm was now my bad arm. That same day, my car broke for the 4th time since it caught on fire in November.
This time, my determination was even greater, and I was back on snow within 4 days. I kept to a rigorous physical therapy routine, and knew that the season still had promise. I felt like I loved snowboarding even more than I did before my injuries. Two weeks after my second injury, I was off to regionals for the Collegiate competition league in Mammoth, where I would compete against the colleges from California and Nevada.
First of all, Mammoth is the BOMB! And I felt like I was truly part of the team on that weekend road trip. Out of complete surprise, I ended up earning 3rd place in the Slopestyle event and 4th in snowboard cross. I attributed it entirely to good luck. A month later was Spring break and I skipped the tropical vacation and got to ride every day, including my birthday, on which I received several feet of snow and blue skies. A week later, I was in Colorado, competing in the USASA national championships. It's now the end of the season, and I can happily say I’ve had no more injuries
I didn’t plan on having 2 injuries. I didn’t plan on spending so many of those 89 days by myself. I didn’t plan on having my car catch on fire. Despite all this though, I am extremely grateful for how my season went. Considering my doctor told me I was out for the season with my first injury in December, my season has been phenomenal in comparison. My goal was 100 days. I got 90, and I had to take about 20 days off snow between both injuries. I got so many sunny park laps. Although I feel I did not improve as much as I would have liked, I can say I did my best with the circumstances. I am way more stoked that I tried a backflip than I would be if I had stayed safe and un-injured.
My season is actually not over. A week ago, I found out I would be working at a summer snowboarding camp starting in June. I am extremely stoked to have this opportunity, and to continue progressing in what is usually the off-season. My luck may have turned in December, but it has turned back around. I come out of this season stronger and with more confidence in my own determination. Without my setbacks, I would not have this.
They Say 19 is the stupid age. The most reckless stage of life where decisions are made impulsively and without thought of the future. Next week is my 19th birthday, and I am excited to embrace the next year of my life.
I might be the sort of person who tries a backflip on my snowboard off a 7-foot jump, or goes 75 around a 55-mph corner just for the heck of it. While I may or may not have gone out snowboarding while still in a sling, I feel like I have learned a thing or two in my almost two decades of existence.
1. Education is important, but learning is importanter
Academics aren’t everything – but definitely are something. I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum moving from from Cupertino to Tahoe. Asking someone their GPA in Cupertino was comparable to asking a woman her weight. I worked in a child care for almost a year, and I realized that Kids were being prepared for the SAT from Kindergarten. My boss told me that his boss was the parents, and the stricter and meaner I was, the more they would like me. If a kid went home and complained, “Miss Hanalei Forced me to do math homework and put me on time out when I didn’t!”, that is what kept them coming back. Meanwhile in Tahoe, I’ve met people who skip class because they don’t feel like going, or are too hungover from partying hard on a Monday night. This post is not about why we should all forget about school and go do whatever you want (I would definitely become a ski bum)
What I have realized is that grades do not measure anything, and what motivates me to do well in school is the fact that I am giving my all into everything I do. What matters more than learning set facts is learning how to think for yourself and work with people. While the school system still needs work, I believe you can still go to a public school and get out what you put into it by approaching subjects with genuine interest.
2. Who cares?
Working through the same child care, I did get to do some non-academic stuff in the summer. I remember one day we went to the park to supervise the children on the playground. I had the strong urge to join them, watching them swing, roll down a hill, do cartwheels and ride the spinny-thing. and then I realized – why not join them? Who cares? So I did. and it was awesome. In middle school I cared so much about what people thought of me, but then I realized I was my own worst critic. What could have been a boring day sitting around in mid-June heat watching kids have fun turned into an awesomely fun experience.
3.Life is like a hitting a ramp.
One of the best and worst feelings is standing at the top of the terrain park, strapped into your snowboard (or skis), knowing you’re about to send it. If I want to hit a jump, I have to decide from the top, not at the takeoff. I need to go fast enough, and not hesitate. Approaching a jump timidly or too slowly can cause you to miss the landing and hurt yourself. Snowboarding is not the only place I have realized being decisive and committing are important. Whether I’m stepping up to the stage at Open mic night, or deciding to commit to a binding decision, there are things in life you just can’t “sorta try to do”. At some point you just have to say, “dropping!”, point your snowboard at the jump, and send it (figuratively and literally).
4. Sometimes a little luck is all you need
After 4 car break-downs and two injuries in the space of 3 months, I figured it was time for some good luck. It was regionals weekend and I was at Mammoth with the SNC team. Snowboard cross is an awesome, aggressive, exhilarating event, but to be honest, I sucked at it. I’m just too nice! Strapping in at the start gate, my goal was to not lose the first round by too much. The top two from each round go to the next round, and so forth until the finals. In that first round, everyone fell and I stayed ahead long enough to end up in first place! It came by total surprise! Three rounds later of the same luck and I was in the finals! That day, I learned that sometimes all it takes is a little luck, and when the good luck comes, embrace it!
5. Put downs and criticism are my motivation
I wasn’t going to hit the jump at Northstar, but all it took was some guy saying “all girls just need to grow a pair” to get me to do it. The fact that I was not recruited for the snowboard team and was denied an athletic scholarship motivates me to show up to every practice and try my hardest at every one. I was once told that watching me snowboard was like watching grass grow. If someone tells me I can’t do it, that drives me to prove them wrong. I remember the most determined I ever was to prove someone wrong was when my doctor told me I was out for the season in December after a dislocated shoulder. I was back on snow in two weeks and my arm feels fine. Want to get me to send it? Tell me I’m cautious. Tell me I won’t amount to anything. I dare you. I could crumple or give up with criticism, but I’ve made the choice not to. People create meaning out of things, and to me, I take criticism as an opportunity to prove someone wrong.
6. Boring things are as boring as you want them to be
In middle school, I hated school. My favorite thing to say at one point was “I’m bored”. My 13-year-old self never would have guessed that I would eventually get myself to tolerate long distance running and Chemistry. In 10th grade, I learned to “fake it till you make it”. My life consisted of 18 hours a week of cross country, and lots of homework from my Honors chemistry class. After a few weeks of hating it, I realized, “Hey, maybe I don’t have to hate it!”. With every step, I told myself i loved running. With every assignment, I told myself I loved chemistry. And it worked! I didn’t love them, but I definitely tolerated them, and I was surprised at the impact of my fake, forced thoughts.
7. It is impossible to do things without other people
Even before Coming to SNC, I had the vision of starting a christian fellowship club. My greatest fear was that no one would want to join me. I could plan the best events, and choose the best bible verses to study, but if no one came, it would be a huge flop. Seriously, other people rock. Without other people, this club would be nothing. We now host meetings twice a week and are being sponsored by a local church because of our success. All I’ve done is get the people together. I thought starting a christian club at a small, liberal arts college would be difficult, but the amount of support I’ve had has made it possible.
8. Better to aim high and miss than to aim low and make it
Every snowboarding season I set a ton of goals. Last season some of them were pretty out-there. By the end of the season, I was extremely disappointed with my slopestyle line at nationals. I did three straight airs. My disappointment was tangible. Then I realized, so what? I was disappointed but whoopdedoo, big deal. I didn’t die. Just achieve those goals next season!
9. Forget being a hard worker.
Work smart, not hard. When I first started hitting jumps on my snowboard two years ago, I could not land them. I thought the only way was to keep trying the same thing over and over. So I did. I literally busted my ass (most likely fractured my tailbone that season). Last snowboarding season I wanted to take a different approach. I worked on my form and focused on how I hit the jumps.
Bill Gates once said he likes to choose lazy people to do a job, because they will find an easy way to do it. I take this mindset into studying for tests, and other areas of my life. Sure I could study for both the SAT and ACT and take the best score after taking each one multiple times, but why not pick one, study it well, and plan to ace it on the first try?
10. Healthy food doesn't suck.
They say “if it tastes good, spit it out”. I say “If it tastes bad spit it out”. Whoever came up with that saying probably tried to eat raw kale and decided to stay away from all healthy food. I remember when I used to think healthy food was uncool. But you know what’s even uncooler? Feeling tired and sluggish and getting sick every other month.
When people think of healthy food they might think of weird things that weird people eat like Kale, Chia seeds, or Quinoa. You know the food that only “that kind” of person eats. What I’ve learned is that healthy food is rad, and doesn’t have to be a speciality “health food”. It just has to be real food! I never shop at whole foods, and I’m not a big fan of kale or salad. I hate chia seed pudding and I’ve never bought Kombuncha. Healthy food can be totally awesome (and inexpensive) if know what you’re doing!
11. Yes friends on a powder day!
Life is way more fun when you share great experiences with other people. What I’ve realized is that life is not all about me. If I had all the money in the world and could snowboard powder all the time, but could not share it with anyone, I’d be miserable. I’m not only taking about powder days, but life in general.
I could just devote all my time and energy into improving my own snowboarding and winning competitions, but what is the point if I never help other people? To even consider snowboarding as a sport, I am extremely privileged. Not everyone can pursue their passion, and it would be my honor to help other people.
12. You don't have to feel a certain way because it's the norm.
It is the day before my first college finals and I’m out at Northstar hitting the terrain park. what on earth am I doing out there? In 9th grade, I saw how stressed people got during finals week and I vowed not to stress out. It’s hard to describe how to not stress out, you just kind of tell yourself that it is your intention. I planned to go snowboarding the weekend before finals every year and have kept to that tradition. The result? My final grades were often surprisingly higher than my average grade for the semester. I took the same mindset into Junior year (dubbed year of hell and eternal sobbing in Cupertino), and found myself not stressing while everyone else around me was.
13. If you're not fearless, pretend you are.
Let’s face it. Some people are just born fearless. From a young age they are going big in extreme sports. When I was a kid I was one of the most cautious people you’d meet. I loved to stay in my comfort zone. I chickened out on Disneyland’s splash mountain. So now that I aspire to be in the X-games, all the fear just suddenly melted away, right? Yeah I wish so too. I’ve learned that how you are as a kid does not define your future. I think my cautious nature drew me to snowboarding because it is a tangible way to step out of that comfort zone. Courage is just the by-product of caring enough about something. Fear exists, but I refuse to let it rule my life. I want to go skydiving because I know I don’t want to.
14. There is no set path
I try really hard not to, but I get extremely jealous when I see the little 9 year old girl out there on the snow, ripping it up. In the world of high level sports, 19 is old. I started snowboarding at the age of 14, living 4 hours away from the closest snow. I didn’t go to some fancy mountain academy or compete in the junior Olympics. I knew that I would be competing against people who did take that path. Some people were homeschooled and lived in Tahoe all their lives. How could I possibly make it? There was no way. That was until I heard about Jenny Jones.
Jenny started snowboarding at 17 and lived in England, where there are no mountains. However, at the age of 33, she won a bronze medal in the 2014 Olympics for slopestyle snowboarding. I was inspired, and realized that I too could make it to the Olympics for the sport I love.
There’s nothing wrong with starting really young, going to a private mountain school and riding every day, and going to summer snow camps every year. That is one path. But it is not the only path, and I should not be discouraged. If I focus on where I’m going, and see these people as friends rather than enemies, then I’ll eventually end up where I need to be.
15. Question Everything?
In community college, I got to take an awesome class called Creative minds. Basically, it was about questioning the status quo and rebelling against the system. Coolest. Class. Ever. We learned about vested interests that big corporations had in industries. We learned to think twice about “common sense” things and issues such as gender roles. I thought differently about how the school system worked and how the pharmaceutical industry keeps us unhealthy. Now I always think: why is something the way it is? What is really happening here? I remember when I was in urgent care after a snowboarding crash, I had the wits about me to question every step the doctor performed.
16. We were all once gapers.
If you know what GAPER day is, then you’re awesome! For those of you who don’t know, a gaper is basically a skier or snowboarder who has no clue what they are doing, usually characterized by a gap between their helmet and goggles. It is easy to poke fun at gapers, or even get mad at them when they’re in your way, but I always have to remember – I was once a gaper not too long ago. I think I enjoy gaper day (where everyone dresses up as a gaper) so much because I’m remembering my roots and where I started, and poking fun at myself and what used to be normal for me. I am reminded not to take myself too seriously. Gapers inspire me. They don’t give a damn about what others think and they don’t take themselves too seriously. Any beginner skier or snowboarder will make a fool of themselves on their first day. The fact that they’re out there and trying their best is inspiring. You go gapers!
17. Treat people like it's their last day.
Woah… Getting real deep here. I included this because of my dog, Kona, who died in 2014. One day it was my 17th birthday and everything was going great, then the next day she was so lethargic we took her to the vet where she was diagnosed with cancer. We decided not to have the operation because of the slim chance of success. The vet gave her a few hours. She lived an extra two weeks after that day. I remember every day for those two weeks I would spend as much time with her as I could. I spoiled her and let her on the bed. Eventually she went peacefully in her sleep. If I could treat her like that when I knew any moment could be her last, why can’t I treat people like that every day?
18. Nothing is guaranteed
I had it all planned out – Winter break was five weeks and I had landed a place 2 miles from my favorite ski resort to spend it. There were 35 days I could have injured myself. However, fate chose day one and my epic plans were thwarted. It was so tempting to become bitter and complain about it (not saying I didn’t do that at all), but I soon realized that doing so would achieve absolutely nothing. My winter break of 2015 made me realize that I could plan everything out as carefully as I wanted to – but in the end, it is not me who decides what happens. Realizing that helped me not to lose my mind while I looked out at the bluebird skies and fresh powder that I could not ride. I realized that there is no good or bad, there just is.
19. Never stop failing.
People who don’t ski or snowboard regularly usually end up asking me this question: “do you still fall?” My answer is Yes, yes I do and I plan to continue falling for the rest of my snowboarding career. In snowboarding, falling means you’re trying new things and pushing your limits. Snowboarding is not the only place where this matters. Imagine living a life where you never tried anything new in fear of failing? What a boring life! To me, failure is not trying. This is just one of the lessons snowboarding has taught me. Do the thing! Go get it! and never. Stop. Failing.
Hanalei Sian Souza
Snowboarder. Writer. Chef. Singer. Disciple of Jesus.