Friday, March 18, 2011

Snowboarding, Part 1

After many long months wondering and worrying about whether I'd still be able take on my favourite pastime, the time and opportunity finally came this past weekend.

From the day I woke up in the hospital it's been a creeping thought in the back of my head. A quiet, cruel teasing thought of "what if I can't do it anymore?".

Outwardly, I told everyone that snowboarding would be simple with the prosthetic as both legs are strapped to the same device, giving me a sort of "helper" control surface from my good leg.

Internally was a different story.

To snowboard properly most of the weight has to be on the lead foot; my lead being the prosthetic leg. Would that hurt, bouncing over the bumps? What about leaning downhill on the leg? Would it twist inside the socket from the motion of the turns? What about edge control, stopping power, the fact that I can't pull back hard from my ankle and toes to make an aggressive turn or correction when I need to (tree avoidance)? What about recovery if I catch an edge?

What about falling?

What would it be like to be an amputee with one fake leg and one broken one? What sort of crutches would THAT take? What if I broke my bad leg, up high? Would that change my shape and socket fit?

Yep, I fell deeply into the trap of my own mind, overthinking and overprocessing, growing more fearful as time went by.

When I was a kid and snowboarding was in its infancy, I was a pretty average skier who hated having to constantly dodge out-of-control boarders. Even the boards themselves looked dangerous: flat on the backside and shaped like nothing more than a wide ski, using thin plastic straps and Sorrel snowboots to hold the heavy thing on. No shaping, no elevated tail, no flexibility. People were being taken away from our local hill by ambulance, bloody and broken.

Naturally I wanted to try it!

One cold winter afternoon, I impulsively (and permanently) traded my new Atomic skis/boots/poles straight across for a crappy, beaten-up Burton with a broken tail and a badly fitting pair of old Sorrels on the slopes of the Innisfail ski-hill, much to the disbelief and irritation of my Dad. He wasn't so much upset I had traded, he just figured I could have done better on the deal.

I never looked back. To me, this was a good trade! I've been snowboarding ever since, even in Australia. This is more than a hobby to me. This sport partly defines who I am, how I grew up and who I want to remain.

So, the time came to strap in and suck it up. Put aside the fear and figure it out.

It was really odd at first but it was only a short run from the parking lot to the lift ticket stand. I wasn't sure how to get up on the board and when I did, I felt like I couldn't steer. I managed to stay upright but decided a helmet would be my first purchase of the day.

The next worry was the lift. Having a board hanging off my prosthetic all the way up the mountain and being totally out of control when I got off wasn't going to be pretty. I took my board off and quickly explained to the lifty that, for the safety of the skiers under the chair, it was best that I hold my board in my arms. He agreed.

I got off at the top... I was really committed now...


  1. I was just wondering the other day when you were going to post again. Was thinking of sending you a nudge. I must have sent it in spirit.

  2. Snowboarding is one of my favorite activities. This is such an inspirational post. I can not help but smile knowing that you are out there enjoying the fresh powder even with your condition. Thanks for the great read.