Never too late to begin? Really?

One of the first thoughts that crossed my mind after my first downhill run on a snowboard ever was: Damn! And not the kind of “Jean-Claud van Damn this is cool!” but damn: “Why didn’t I do this much, much earlier in life?” At the time I was 38. I am 39 now. It was kind of depressing that one of the coolest things I have ever done, came to me almost half way through my life. If I had paid a bit better attention, I could have been bombing down slopes for years already. True I spent most of my vacations during those years windsurfing or backpacking, but still. Damn.

My problem has always been my impatience and ambition in anything I do, but especially action sports. I want to be really good at it, even though my talent is more in being able to do a lot of different things fairly well, instead of a single thing really well. So my ego keeps writing cheques my body can’t cash (to paraphrase once again Top Gun’s Captain Stinger), especially since my body, unlike my ego, is clearly showing signs of wear and tear. And, god do you crash often and hard when learning how to snowboard. My head, neck, back, butt, shoulders, everything has been bashed a bit too often.
I am getting there however, improving and training. Back in Holland I try to head towards the artifical slope close to where I live on a weekly basis. Preparing for my next trip in january. I am there and tearing it up my way, enjoyig myself tremendously. And at the same time I watch these young kids doing all the stuff I am trying to start to do, with such ease and nonchalance it makes me feel, to be honest, stupid for even trying….and I hesitate to add to this sentence…at my age.

The question begs: am I really thát old? Enter a Q&A with myself:
Q: “Will I ever be as good as I want to be?” A: “Probably not.” (off to a bad start)
Q: “Will I improve as fast as I want to improve?” A: Probably not.”
Q: “What do I actually want?” A: “Ride back country routes.”
Q: “Will I be able to do that?” A: “Sure, why not, some day?”
Q: “Will it hurt?” A “Probably.”
Q: “Will I have fun?” A “I’m gaving fun now, so why not?”

So there you go, maybe I am underestimating my ambition, maybe not. Maybe, being a generalist I will never be able to focus enough to make it to a skill level to be able to do what I want to do safely. Maybe life will get in the way: having kids, a family, a job I enjoy and all those other things I love to do. Maybe, but maybe I will one day find myself out of breath, looking out over the most amazing secenery you can imagine, ready to drop in to deep immaculate virgin powder. Maybe my son will be with me; at 10 years he is skiing like there’s no tomorrow; I can hardly keep up. How cool would that be. Damn!

The age old cliché of a the zen attitude comes to mind: I need to stop thinking about the time I lost, the decents I missed. Every moment on the mountain, every second of thrilling speed is what I need to enjoy. Look around, breath, smile, shrug away the aching back, and drop in to find my line. It may not be as smooth or radical as I want it to be; but it will be mine. I carved it. Makes me look forward to the years ahead, actually: damn!

Mark Stokmans
Mark Stokmans
Since I can remember I have been very active in many different sports: started with baseball, tennis and riding later hockey, football, running and aikido. In addition, since twelve years old I've been into actionports: at first windsurfing, later climbing, inline skating, snowboarding, mountain biking. With the first action cams coming onto the market I've been making action sports videos. Furthermore, I've worked in the sports industry since 1990, sports marketing, media and live TV and until the end of 2016 at the Dutch Olympic Committee. Besides being partner in GearLimits I work as a digital freelancer. Based in the Netherlands, Married with Children (11 and 13 years old)


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