For the past few years, the "men" in my family have been road-tripping up to South Lake Tahoe during the winter months to make our run at the mountain. My father (aka Pops) is not a jock in the traditional sense but has always been an avid surfer. About a decade ago he decided to take up snowboarding as an alternative for winter.
He quickly fell for his new sport and would constantly tell us how free and at peace he felt standing on top of the summit, ready to "shred" down a mountain freshly dusted with powder. And he was anxious to get my older brother, Blake, and me involved.
As a little kid, the draw of the mountains was just the simple thought of playing in the snow. The pure, icy white, fluffy stuff, ideal for making snowballs, snowmen and sledding down hills all bundled up and cozy in my snow gear.
But learning to snowboard way back in fifth grade was a whole other thing. It started off just fine with a trip to a local store that sold surf and snow equipment (a common combination, by the way). There I was given the opportunity to pick out my very first snowboard. The actual design styles of the boards were so cool, and I was excited by the chance to express my individuality. The total package was completed with boots and bindings along with a helmet, goggles and of course a cool set of duds.
I was even more excited about the possibilities of spending quality time with my brother and Pops. But my early attempts at "boarding" were dreadfully unsuccessful. In fact, it sometimes felt like I was in a nightmare I'd never wake up from.
Ski lifts and trauma
I vividly remember my first encounter with the ski lift, an ill-fated trip up a steep and intimidating mountain that ended in trauma. I managed to get on the motorized chair all right and was lifted up toward a seemingly blissful winter playground. Then suddenly we were at the top and it was time to push off onto the snow. Klutz that I am, I tumbled face first down the mountain, until I was abruptly halted by a rather massive pine tree.
As I lay there motionless and stunned, out of the corner of my eye, I watched a group of small kids, first-graders at most, shredding from left to right like miniature versions of Shawn White. I had watched many times as Pops flew down the mountain with ease. My brother had caught on relatively easy as well. What part of my DNA was missing?
Luckily, my family never gave up on me. We continued to make that journey up to Tahoe, spending time together, making lots of fun memories along the way, and somewhere along the line I got the hang of it.
Now as a teenager, I still love that peaceful mountain vibe, and with it the fun and irreplaceable time spent with "the guys." Each time I head down a slope, I work a little bit harder and stumble a little less and get constant encouragement from my Pops and brother. Snapping into my board, riding up the now not-so-daunting ski lift, I feel a sense of freedom and triumph. No longer a "newbie," I love exploring the snow-covered slopes and varied terrain at our park of choice, Sierra-at-Tahoe. As it turns out, snowboarding is also a great escape from the daily grind of homework, tests and general drama that is high school.
'100 percent fun'
As my interest and love of the sport has grown, I really looked forward to watching the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi. When I found out that Kaitlyn Farrington, who won the gold medal in the women's half pipe, is the cousin of my world history teacher, I felt like I was just two degrees of separation from the podium.
Even though I will likely never achieve Olympic greatness, I can now truly appreciate the hard work it takes to be a pro snowboarder along with how lucky I am to have the unwavering support of family.
According to Kaitlyn's twitter bio, she's having 100 percent fun as well. And isn't that the most important thing?
The Life in Perspective board is made up of teens who write for the features sections. Brandon Garnsey attends San Ramon Valley School in Danville. Reach him at email@example.com.