Help Me Get Over My Sports-Related Fear

When I bounced onto the packed snow, landing on my back, not only did I get the wind knocked out of me, I got every ounce of bravery knocked out of me as well.
Publish date:
April 20, 2012
advice, fear of heights, High Fives Foundation, snowboarding, M

I’m scared of heights. Like I used to be convinced when I was a kid that my mom was going to hurl the car off of a cliff whenever we were driving anywhere with a steep cliff on one side (which is pretty much everywhere in Northern California).

Fine, that might not be technically classified as acrophobia, but regardless of what “fear of being murdered by one’s parent” is called, I am ALSO scared of heights.

So even though I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie, there are a lot of extreme sports that terrify me. Namely all of them, but specifically: rock climbing, kite surfing, hang gliding, and bungee jumping.

Would I love to do all of those things? Absolutely. Am I too chicken shit to try? Sort of. Fine: yes. And believe me. I know that sounds lame. I mean, what am I scared of? Besides falling to my death or breaking every bone in my body and being paralyzed for life.

Oh. Right.

But it hasn’t always been this bad. I didn’t start snowboarding until a few years ago (I grew up skiing and never excelled, so I made the switch in 2008). I picked it up pretty quickly and by my second year, I was hitting jumps in the park. Not like huge jumps. Baby jumps. But jumps nonetheless. Jumps over which I was getting a foot or two of air, four at a time. Jumps over which I was determined to finally do a grab.

That’s it. That’s all I wanted. Not a misty flip or a shifty or a tamedog or a wet cat or any other weird trick whose name I am too old to even pretend to say, much less attempt. I just wanted to go off of the jump, grab my toe edge between the bindings, and land without falling.

Some people dream big; I dream just above average. After all, if you assume every guy will have a 5” penis and be mediocre in bed, how much better is it when you finally get a seven-incher with some skills? Also, sorry boys, the whole “size doesn’t matter” thing is only true if you’re having anal.* Or sex with someone who isn’t me.

ANYWAY, fast-forward to January of last year, my fourth year of riding. Also, unfortunately, the year when I decided to launch a jump in the baby park with too much speed and not enough skill. The year I launched The Compression Fracture Jump.

If you ever injure yourself, make sure someone takes pics. They make the perfect Christmas card!

I know. I know. I’ve already written about fracturing my spine a hundred times on xoJane. Boring! And god, it was. There is nothing more soul sucking than having an injury you can feel every single time you move.

Because when you’re in that much pain, you want to acknowledge it, but if you’re anything like me, you don’t want to be a little bitch, so you refuse to acknowledge it. Which means snowboarding the day after being taken off the mountain in a stretcher and waiting seven weeks to see a doctor.

So why am I bringing this up again? Because something happened to me that day that might be worse than chronic physical pain I still experience. When I bounced onto the packed snow, landing on my back, not only did I get the wind knocked out of me, I got every ounce of bravery knocked out of me as well. I went from wannabe teenager to full-fledged adult in one afternoon.

Last Saturday, Alpine Meadows hosted the 5th Annual TRAINS Ski and Snowboard Event. The slopestyle contest was held to spread the mission of the High Fives Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising money and awareness for athletes that have suffered a life-altering injury while pursuing their dream in the winter action sports community.

Picture taken from the Alpine Meadows Facebook page.

Picture taken from the Alpine Meadows Facebook page.

Picture taken from the Alpine Meadows Facebook page.

I got to watch top-ranked professional skiers and snowboarders pull off the craziest tricks I’ve ever seen up close. Even cooler, the second part of the contest involves teams of 10 launching rapid-fire jumps one after another with as many as five people in the air at one time. Hence: trains. It’s hard to explain why this is so awesome, so check out the video (taken with my phone, so excuse the quality) to better understand.

I don’t expect to ever be on the same level as these guys. I’m too scared to do a flip off of the diving board, so I’m probably not going to launch one tens of feet into the air on a snow-covered mountain, but it was inspiring to see these kids go balls-out. Plus, there was free beer.

I haven’t been through the terrain park since that day in January 2011. Mostly, I tell myself that it’s not worth it. Once you sustain an injury as painful as the one I experienced, I think there’s a part of your brain that has a hard time forgetting about it. But women give birth and then get pregnant again two days later (I’m looking at you, Tori Spelling), so clearly that’s not totally accurate.

I guess I just don’t want to feel like I’m too scared. I don’t want to feel like my fear of falling/failing is holding me back from becoming a better snowboarder.

Which is where you come in.

Do you have any advice for overcoming fear?

Or do you have any stories about things you were scared to try, but made yourself do anyway?

Inspire me in the comments, please. The season is coming to an end and I think we all know what I have to accomplish before it’s over. And it's not just getting drunk on the deck... though that's also pretty fun.

Me and my friend Matt on the deck of Alpine. Not doing jumps.

Oh, and though this has nothing to do with snowboarding, I thought you might appreciate this amazing work of art my friend Matt (above) created after being inspired by my last post. Progress, indeed.

Amsterdam, Summer 1997. Tahoe City, Easter 2012.

* I wouldn't actually know; I have to save something for my non-existent wedding night!