Three months ago, I traded my flannels for board shorts and ventured far from the snowcapped Colorado mountains to the sapphire coastline of Sri Lanka. For many, Sri Lanka remains a palm-speckled mystery that is slowly beginning to unravel among outdoor adventurers. With world-class scuba diving, epic national parks and reserves, and a growing ecotourism scene, this island nation is overflowing with opportunities to be among the wild. It wasn’t an easy decision to leave Summit County, my playground for almost two decades; however, I left with one simple goal in mind: learn to surf.
I can proudly say that I have accomplished this goal. I can catch overhead waves, comfortably navigate larger reef breaks, and keep up with those I used to watch only from the safety of the shore. It wasn’t easy, sometimes spending countless hours paddling and never catching a single wave. It was in these quiet moments where I was able to recognize the similarities of snow sports and surfing. Seemingly opposite, the surfer and skier share a lot more in common than expected.
The most obvious similarity is the etiquette. These sports require a vigilant awareness of your surroundings while respecting and maneuvering around other participants. It’s difficult, often scary, and you’re going to piss people off when you first start. Whether the water is frozen or fluid, it takes some time before you are comfortable. And that’s okay! Just keep at it and try not to be a Jerry on the mountain or a Kook in the ocean.
Next is the culture. Just as life’s problems don’t exist at Rocky Mountain altitudes, they seemingly can’t make their way into the open water either. Anyone from Colorado knows you meet the nicest people on the lift and the same goes for the sea. Although these sports are highly individualistic, the communities that gather because of them are genuinely enthusiastic, magnetic, and mostly just a damn good time. Each has their own scene, icons, and oddities, but what remains are good-hearted people enjoying their time outside with one another. This brings me to my final point.
The largest commonality between skiing, snowboarding, and surfing is that it embodies this unexplained desire to be completely surrounded by nature. It takes practice, patience, and faith in something you can’t control. Speaking from a societal perspective, there’s almost no real value sliding down mountaintops or gliding through the ocean. These environments are not even meant for human survival yet we spend chunks of our time and money to be a part of it. Why is that? It’s because it enables us to be completely consumed by it; the adrenaline, breathlessness, and awe of working alongside these forces is both humbling and empowering.
Joe Santini - @savagesantini