Tuesday, April 1, 2008

reunited, and it feels so good.

chicken-jam-08.jpgAfter two weeks of knitting my brows over one injustice or another, I'm kinda worked. Good thing one of my favorite occasions in snowboarding rescued me from a run of the mean reds this weekend: The Contest.

Before you jump down to the comments box and start cursing me for enjoying one of the biggest reasons most pro women don't get to chase storms, let me say this: Competitive riding is the thing I like least about playing outside. For a girl who grew up happily farming bruises via a variety of team sports, getting to play snowboarding* remains a treasured experience for all the ways it's dissimilar from pennant races. Don't get me wrong -- I loved every rah-rah second of strategizing with my teammates to take the enemy down. Besting your opponent is the whole point of stick-and-ball sports. But when I moved to Southern California, I stumbled into things like mountain biking and surfing. Things that you can do solo. Things that don't get called off because you don't have enough kids to play. Things that allow you to move at your own pace without compromising your team's performance.

It was nice. It was also kind of a shock when I realized that people actually compete in these activities.

I'll never forget the first time I attended a surf contest: the NSSA Nationals, down at Trestles. Here I was, bronzing (yes, I know) with a girlfriend on our beach blanket, stoked on the summer weather and the chance to see great surfers get after it at one of California's most beloved breaks. I was relaxed. Mellow. Until the mini-groms paddled out.

Lo and behold, I witnessed a scene I thought I'd turned in with my polyester uniform: parents lining the shoreline, monitoring their children's every move. And screaming.

I turned to my friend, agape. "What the hell is that?" I asked. "There are soccer moms in surfing?"

Apparently, yes. She horrified me with stories of kids bursting into tears in the lineup and dads channeling Bobby Knight. I couldn't believe it: coastal replications of one of the most nefarious and oft-mocked groups in America.

All this time, I'd considered surfing a savored break from doing "grown-up things that count." From that point forward, competitive past be damned -- I was determined never to confuse a board under the feet with a bat in the hand. And yet I continue to show up to contests...not for the scores, but for the other reason people dress like a cult and hurl the Bronx cheer at each other: It's one hell of a party.

This year, Mammoth hosted the stateside Roxy Chicken Jam, which also happened to be the deciding event for the coveted '07/'08 Ticket to Ride Tour title. There are lots of reasons why I should have been psyched to watch: High stakes. Global talent. Sick terrain. Mascots! But honestly, seeing who took top honors wasn't my motivation. I was just stoked to hang out with the ladies. I had three days to catch up on gossip, dispense overdue hugs, and take non-action snappies for GLTR.

The contest was killer, for sure. Watching the likes of Kelly and Jamie shred your home mountain is a treat, whether they're in it for points or good times. And though there weren't any angry parents crowding the fencing -- a bonus of pro-level events -- I wouldn't have been able to hear them anyway, thanks to the constant volley of "Oh my God! How are you?" and "I'm great! You should come hang out in [insert town here]." and "You look fabulous!" and "Wooooo!" In a few months, I might not remember who stood where on the podium. But I'll definitely remember freezing my boobs off at the bottom of the pipe, hooting at Winnie-the Pooh and Woolly and silently acknowledging that if it weren't for prize purses and bragging rights, I'd have to go to SIA to see this many girlfriends at once. Now there's some real torture.

*Let it from this point on be known: When I'm talking snowboarding, I mean surfing, and skateboarding, and moto, and all the other things GLTR is about. No sense in printing a litany every time. Cool? Cool.

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