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LEARNING TO RIDE: FREEBORD FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Anyone who has ever stepped on a Freebord knows there’s a learning curve. There are a lucky few who pick it up quickly, but for the rest of us there’s a period of uncertainty about how the board works that can be frustrating. That’s why earlier this year we hooked up a snowboard instructor with a Freebord so he could document his experiences learning to ride. The following is the first in a series of blog posts designed to address the learning difficulties Freeborders face from a technical/teaching perspective. If you’re new to Freebording and have had difficulty learning to ride, read on and stay tune for the next installment of “Learning to Ride: Freebord First Impressions.”

Part I: Reality Check
By Michael Harrington
AASI-Certified Snowboard Instructor

“Just like learning to snowboard, it may take several days or weeks to get the hang of it – even if you rip on snow.” — www.Freebord.com

“Yeah, but I’ve been teaching snowboarding longer than some of these guys have been alive,” I thought to myself. “If it’s just like snowboarding, I’m crushing this thing in minutes.”

I should probably explain the bold statement above. My name is Michael Harrington and I live in Stoughton, MA (halfway inbetween Boston & Providence), where I am an AASI (American Association of Snowboard Instructors)-certified Level 1 snowboard instructor. I’ve been snowboarding since 1990, teaching since 1991 and I’m currently the staff trainer at my local ski area.

Another staff trainer from a Vermont mountain turned me on to the Freebord a few months ago and I thought it had some serious potential as a tool for training our new and returning instructors in the early-season. At an area that wasn’t able to open until the day after Christmas last year, that’s a lot of lost training time for the staff.

So I contacted Freebord and after a couple e-mails and phone calls, they were gracious enough to send me two decks so that my buddy Dan (the other snowboard trainer at Blue Hills, MA) and I could put it through its paces to see if our theories held water: Could we teach ourselves to learn to Freebord using our considerable experience teaching people how to snowboard? Would what we teach beginners on the snow work on the pavement?

Fast-forward to Sunday, March 11th — an extra hour of sunlight, temps in the low-60′s– perfect. The board is all set up and I take it to the parking lot of my kids’ elementary school, which had a nice mellow pitch with a good fall-line and no car traffic. I’m all geared up — in addition to my helmet, I’ve got my vert ramp kneepads on, wristguards, and a pair of impact shorts. I stand on the board, get myself into the bindings, hop myself into pointing straight downhill, and…nothing. It won’t roll. Not being comfortable skate-pushing into a downhill start, I look for some slightly steeper pitch. OK, let’s try over here…OK, NOW it’s rolling. Yeah, it’s moving, alright, but in completely the opposite direction I want it to. I can’t get it to roll straight downhill, and when I can, it feels like it wants to do nothing but spin 360 underneath my feet. Shouldn’t I be able to get this thing to make a J-turn, or at least travel across my little “hill” in a shallow traverse?

OK, Merriam-Webster “Word-of-The-Day” time. Today’s word is hubris. Hubris means “exaggerated pride or self-confidence” as in, “Michael’s inability to immediately rip on the Freebord was brought on by his hubris.” I’m more than a little disappointed right now — I really thought I was going to crush this thing. To borrow a phrase from the Red Sox radio guys, “And, at the end of one, it’s Freebord–1, Harrington–nothing.”

Tomorrow is going to be another 60+-degree day, though, and, being the stubborn Irishman that I am, I am not TOTALLY defeated. Round Two soon approaches…stay tuned for the next installment of “The Geezer Freebord Chronicles,” coming soon.

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