Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Now Boarding! You Too Can Take the Ups, Downs, Twists, and Turns of Snowboarding like a Pro

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Now Boarding! You Too Can Take the Ups, Downs, Twists, and Turns of Snowboarding like a Pro

Article excerpt

The blazing sun over Breckenridge, Colo., is invigorating. It's March 20, and I'm hurtling down an icy hill at 40-plus miles per hour on a piece of wood barely wider than a skateboard, attempting to push aside doubts placed in my head by cultural taboos about gays in sports and, um, trying to ignore the other 100 men in tight Lycra bodysuits. I'm here at the 2004 Alpine Snowboard National Championships as the only openly gay snowboarder on the North American FIS snowboard tour.

Snowboarding, though similar to skiing, surfing, and skateboarding, is much more physically demanding than those sports. A day on the slopes is equivalent to a day of nonstop crunches, twists, squats, and lateral raises. When you're turning on a snowboard, your whole body arts like a spring that's being wound from both ends. As your head focuses on where you're trying to go, your shoulders are perpendicular to the board and your hands and arms are out to each side as if you're walking a tightrope, which in a way you are, since you're riding a piece of metal the width of a pencil and as long as you are tall. Your hips are parallel to your board, your oblique abs are pulling your upper body downhill, your knees and ankles are bent, and the board is trying to catch up with your head. Now, as if that weren't enough, as you enter the next turn everything relaxes for a fraction of a second only to start all over again--in the opposite direction. You'll definitely sweat! Unlike a gym workout, however, snowboarding is actually enjoyable.

I started snuffing (as snowboarding was first known) during my preteen years in southeastern Pennsylvania. In college, after years of trial and error on a tiny 375-foot hill near my hometown, I turned my attention to competing. Upon joining the now-defunct U.S. Pro Snowboard Team, I came out to my coach and teammates. Their reaction was less than ideal--they ostracized me, forcing me to switch teams (literally, not figuratively). The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club welcomed me with open arms, and as a member of that organization I placed 18th overall in the 2004 U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team qualifying competitions, this despite suffering two broken vertebrae in a training accident just two days prior to the start of the first event.

The sensations of racing are truly hard to explain. Things tend to slow down, much as they do in the fight scenes in The Matrix. My breathing becomes slow and rhythmic, as if I'm doing yoga. My vision narrows. Sounds diminish--the idle chatter of the cute boys in Lycra, the frantic calls for assistance between course keepers and the starters, the advice of coaches--and then, as I take a deep breath and launch myself into the air, the MP3 player in my head kicks in with a song to match the rhythm of the course ahead. Sometimes it's Garth Brooks, other times Metallica. The cue is as random as the weather in the Colorado mountains.

Here in sunny Breckenridge, after two days of competing, working on my tan, and overcoming broken equipment, I finish in 20th place, my best performance in a major event since the Olympic team qualifiers. So where does the lone queer in a sport dominated by straight dudes go once the season ends? Steamboat Springs, of course, to help organize Outboard, the largest gay and lesbian snowboarding event in the world. It's March 31, and I'm surrounded by hundreds of other gay and lesbian boarders. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.