Words: James – Photos: Jonas
Ending an amazing day of powder riding on the mountain, we carve our boards into the terrain park for a final run of the day, cresting the hill at the top of the park. Over to our left, a few kids are eyeing up the park features, some whispering to one another, while others stare wide eyed with the trepidation and anxiety that the lineup and challenging obstacles conjure up in the deep recesses of the mind. The braver one in the group glances over and volunteers, “you guys can go first.” With that, Jonas and I drop in one after the other to slide and jump our way through. I didn’t give it a second thought in the moment, but later realize, we’ve all been that kid before.
Somewhere in a vacant lot in the mid 1970’s I stood on a dirt mound with a dozen other kids on bikes, eyeing several other dirt mounds with a similar level of anxiety and trepidation. The leader of our biker gang, Max, was a fearless kid who’d had been riding a bit longer than the rest of us. He’d casually roll to the top of our makeshift start hill, drop in, and glide through jumps one after the other, throwing in a little style to add an extra cool factor and a little insult to injury for the rest of us. I saw the lineup bring Max to life, and quickly learned there was a pecking order and interesting social dynamic taking place, although I couldn’t explain it at the time. I also couldn’t decipher why watching Max take that drop and glide his way through the jump line sparked something in me.
Progression in the lineup involves a little bit of nature and and a whole lot of nurture. Genetically, we’re all predisposed to a certain level of risk tolerance, be it in sports, music, public speaking, or business. Some people are simply more willing to put themselves out there and take calculated risks in their discipline of choice. The varying degrees of success achieved cause growth and an increased willingness to further extend, leading to an even greater progression. The risk taken on a two foot wave turns into three feet, then four, six, and so on.
My adolescent and adult life have been riddled with lineups of many varieties: skate, surf, bikes, snowboard, skydiving, climbing, entrepreneurship, and perhaps a few others. The risk taking, failures, successes, learning, and growth in the lineups of my youth have most certainly contributed to the person I am today. The lineups taught me about focus, staying present, and being in the moment. They taught me that taking a risk and crashing a dozen times will eventually lead to success. They also taught me that without taking that drop, there is no reward. Always take the drop.
Earlier in the day Jonas and I were up at “The Stash,” our favorite spot on the mountain, high above it all. Following a few warm up runs, we frequently head straight there. We check the snowpack, then get right down to the business of building a kicker, a jump that sends us into the abyss, then a field of fresh powder that we’ll enjoy for the rest of the day. The Stash is always a quiet place. We see maybe half a dozen others all day, letting each of them know about the fun little feature we’ve added to the mountain. A few ride over and take a look, then quietly slide by. A 35’ish year old guy crests the hill and Jonas eagerly fills him in, wanting to share the opportunity and stoke with others. “Nah, I’m too old for that.” The lineup isn’t for everyone.
We smile and fist bump. Jonas and I live for the lineup, even if today it’s just him and I. We’ve both grown up in action sports and taken our fair share of risks and tumbles. We’ve also had that moment in time when everything went right, and risk led to reward. It’s that knowledge that continues to fuel us on. I take the drop, a quick speed check, and carry the momentum over the lip. I’m airborne as I hear him hoot in excitement. I wait in anticipation, watching his approach. He hits the jump clean and gets a crisp pop off the lip. “Wooooo” I yell! ‘Damn! That was sick. He went bigger than me. I need to crank it up a notch next time.’
It’s not ego or outdoing each other that drives us to go bigger. It’s the energy and stoke that the lineup provides. Throughout the day we drop in around the mountain, following, slashing, challenging, and motivating. If only there was a way to bottle and sell this kind of energy. One thing’s for certain. I always know where to find it.