Saturday, December 25, 2010

A New Thing

When I was in my second year of college/university in 1990/91, I had a teaching assistant (TA) in my Sports Psychology class share with the class that he was into snowboarding. Back then, snowboarding sounded like something futuristic. I honestly thought back then that the sport would be a fad and my mindset then was, “This to shall pass.” Was I wrong! Snowboarding is immensely popular, it is an Olympic sport, and I find it to be a very cool sport (no pun intended). I remember watching an interview with the singer Seal years ago and he was describing how he had gotten into snowboarding and during the interview, there was a clip of him gracefully, casually, and in a very cool manner slaloming and gliding down a steep snowy slope. I said to myself while watching that clip, “I have to try that.”

Fast forward to a month ago. After attending a meeting in Dubai recently, I had some time to myself and I said, “This is the time I will finally take snowboarding lessons.” I know, Dubai? Not a skier’s paradise by any stretch of the imagination, but a wildly popular Middle East skiing destination called Ski Dubai is located in the Mall of The Emirates and it is something to check out. An indoor ski slope which is constantly kept at -3 degrees Celsius (27 degrees Fahrenheit) in what should otherwise be a desert, go figure, but here it is. My oldest son took skiing lessons there last year and he loved it! So, this evening, my oldest son is serving as my muse and I signed up for a snowboarding lesson. After I signed up for the lesson, I went to acquire my gear. If one arrives at Ski Dubai without skiing gear, Ski Dubai will provide it to you; a snowsuit, boots, and a snowboard. After I acquired my gear and got all fitted, I waited for the instructor and the rest of my group. My group consisted of only one other person, a friendly guy from Egypt named Farooq. Our instructor shortly thereafter appeared, a young guy; early to mid 20’s, his name was Mohammed, and he was from Morocco. I just had this vibe from Mohammed that he thought that Farooq and I knew more about snowboarding than what our beginning status indicated, but we didn’t.

Mohammed began the lesson in the lobby where he showed us how to open up the bindings on the board, how to clip one’s feet into the bindings, the positioning of one’s feet based on hand dominance, and then he looked at us and said, “Ok, let’s hit the slopes.”

Ski Dubai is surrounded by a restaurant and the ground level of the restaurant faces the slope where all beginning snowboarders and skiers take their lessons. Therefore, one has a little or big audience depending on the crowd at the restaurant when one takes lessons.

Mohammed had Farooq and I clip in and out of our boards several times. He had us have the board on our dominant foot and he had us hop on one foot while clipped into the board. He then had us push off on one foot and glide, similar to the motion one uses to push off/glide when on a skateboard (I think that skateboarders would have no problem learning how to snowboard). After these drills, Mohammed showed us how to walk up a slope with one foot attached to the board. We got halfway up the practice slope, Mohammed then showed us how to turn around, how to bend our knees, stay loose on the board, and then it was time to do our first practice run.

Farooq and I were halfway up the practice slope, I clipped both of my feet onto the board and then slid down to the bottom of the hill and it was and incredible feeling! I can’t aptly describe how it felt, but the sensation of gliding on the snow was very cool! Farooq and I climbed halfway up the practice slope a few more times and did a few more runs. Each time I went down the slope, I grew in confidence and Mohammed would have us try different things like bending our knees while gliding so that our chest was to our knees, then having us begin turning. A funny thing happened while I was doing all this, I never fell. I thought for sure that I would be falling all over myself, but I never did. I actually had a more difficult time getting on and off the little lift they had to get to the top of the practice slope than I had snowboarding! At one point, I fell on the lift, got tangled up with a kid behind me and he also ended up falling. The kid then tried to instruct me on what to do in a combination of Arabic and English, but to no avail.  Looking at this scene, Mohammed casually came over, shut off the lift, and assisted us both up. From his calm demeanor and laconic style, I’m sure Mohammed had witnessed ski lift gaffes more than a few times or at least this is what I told myself.
Farooq and I kept going higher and higher up the practice slope and the higher we went, the more skills Mohammed would teach us, such as stopping for example (very important); it just seemed so unnatural to me; raising up sideways on the board, but it is so effective, and how to change direction.

As the hour practice lesson was coming to a close, Mohammed looked at Farooq and I said, “Ok guys, go. Do your thing for the remainder of the lesson.” Mohammed said this to us at the top of the practice slope. Farooq and I just looked at one another and said, “Ok.” Looking down the slope, it looked a little intimidating, especially considering that I just learned how to stop maybe only 5 minutes prior. So, I pushed myself and down the  slope I went. I was able to change direction and I was able to stop. Towards the bottom of the hill I got a little adventurous and tried to pull off a move I saw someone do earlier and I fell and rightfully so! One fall in an hour, I’ll take that.

At the conclusion of lesson, Farooq and I were all smiles. Snowboarding is fantastic and I look forwarding to doing it again, hopefully, soon. Taking snowboarding lessons and the process of learning a new a skill reminded me to continue to be open to new experiences. 

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