Is skateboarding a substitute for snowboarding?
By Fran Hardy
Published July 2007
Does rolling around on a board with wheels serve to ease the loss of snow underneath ones feet, or is it simply a tease during the dry months, for the far superior (in this writer's opinion) sport of snowboarding? Can snowboarders really be equally satisfied (maybe more so?) by the feeling achieved from skating park or cruising around on a long board as when they are riding pow?
Is skating an extension of the (snow) board game, an equally empowering sport to snowboarding, the perfect substitute when the snow drops no more? Or are these two board sports more different that we think, both searching for different ideals, serving different purposes, meaning skateboarding really is no substitute for sliding on snow?
The question that I think underlies this quandary is what riders are seeking when, board-under-arm, they set off to the hill or off down the road. For me, snowboarding clinches at so many different desires, satisfying me physically and soulfully more than anything ever has, the only thing that has come close is trail running (not a comparison…but I do get a great sense of freedom from running fast through the rough country!) and surfing which gives me a similar buzz.
Snowboarding embraces a commanding connection with nature, letting riders into a big secret which hides behind the mountain's highest peaks, taking you on a path away from the mundane constraints of life, on an adventure that encompasses excitement, exhilaration, wonder, peace, beauty, serenity and freedom under the shade of one umbrella…and if you're open to it, some may say close to our Creator?
But know that the mountain is capable of opening you up without your consciousness, pouring in inspiration and generously doling out a sickness which will be with all those who have experienced its wonder, forever.
Avoiding the clichéd statement that riders become 'one with nature' out there in the backcountry, I prefer to say quite simply that we are 'in nature', enveloped by it; whether on a gaping wide, pristine, glowing, blinding hillside or whether suffering mild, though protecting and an almost comforting, claustrophobia in a dense and silent wood, with only the intermittent thud of snow falling in clumps from the highest branches, or a friend's call who you left far behind.
Snowboarding is an energising skill and a virtually inconceivable amount of fun, but it transcends far beyond the physical dimension, seeping into ones very being, tormenting one's soul when prolonged periods of time are spent away from it, changing your life, altering one's once clear perception of where your life is going, molesting your desires and interfering with your path in life.
So the question is: is skateboarding a substitute for the immense effect snowboarding has on the human psyche? I think this depends whether this is looked at from a free-riding or a free-style perspective.
"Whether one finds the thrill in skateboarding the same as when they're snowboarding depends on the imagination" - the words of one experienced skateboarder-come-snowboarder. He goes on to tell me of one summer's day in the city, waiting for his girlfriend to finish work with his long board as his companion and source of amusement:
"I cruised the streets and started to view the pavement how I used to view the mountain. The curbs and other obstacles in my way became to me, in that moment, like the natural features on a run down the mountain. I was in an altogether alternative mindset and through my imagination, street skating took on a different realm. Of course, most of the time skating is my source of play, something I have to get out of my system every once in a while."
The feeling you get from skating is altogether different from snowboarding, I was told by a once professional snowboard coach who has spent much time coaching other instructors that:
"Skating is of course in the same family as snowboarding and skaters (and surfers) in my experience, generally make better snowboarders because skating is like snowboarding but hurts more!".
And this is true in my own experiences for sure. A similar sense of escapism can be generated by skating as with snowboarding, through the adrenalin, challenge and its overall pleasure, the physical components of the sport intertwine and when there is too much slush on the ground to skate, you snowboard, and a lack of slush on the ground, you skate.
So in trying to determine whether one is a substitute for the other, the discussion of the power of the environment has so far taken centre stage, but the environments are so vastly different how can the street ever match the offerings of the wilderness? They can't, so are we left with a fundamentally simple question as to whether they are as fun as each other?
"Snowboarding is altogether faster, more exciting, the mental dimension is automatically connected to the physical, the two can't be separated…the faster you go, the more excited you get, the freer you feel and that takes its toll on your psychological being."
But from a veteran freestyler's and administrator for snowboardvillage.com and snowboard.com point of view - the tricks involved in skateboarding and snowboarding are naturally significant:
"I need to scale bigger obstacles as a skater, to enjoy the rush as much as snowboarding, although the feeling and the vibe of skating is sometimes better. In order to get a huge adrenaline rush from skating I would probably have to skate some sets or gaps which I usually don't. For me, skating is more about having that stoked feeling after doing a good trick or putting down a tight line in a bowl. With snowboarding I sometimes do bigger lines or airs that get me going and my adrenaline up, with skating I'm mellower and just stoked when all is going well. Maybe it's my style of skating compared to my snowboard style?".
So in the absence of snow, skateboarding can provide the rider with exhilaration and a physical release. I therefore hesitantly conclude that skating and snowboarding are two different disciplines with a definate likeness in terms of their technicalitie, but concurrently impossible to compare.
"What skating does is provide a different phenomenon with its own unique qualities, for example the added challenge that riding on concrete poses, whilst giving the snow rider something to while away the time between seasons".
But in this writer's opinion, skateboarding lacks the distinct deep level of being immersed in nature that is acquired with snowboarding and whether this can ever be achieved with wheels and concrete is surely left to the imagination?
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