Wrinkles

Wrinkles

Photo by Will Rochfort

Photo by Will Rochfort

I've come to realize that i'm not what i used to be when it comes to skiing. A flat brimmed ball cap hides my thinning hair. Creases, at the corners of my eyes, from years of smiling, peak out slightly from the edges of my large rectangle sunglasses. Something in me changed a year or so ago. I don't need to go fast anymore. I don't need to scare myself. I don't need to push the limits. I just want to be adventuring with my friends. I don't want to impress them. I want to connect with them. I want to share this passion for nature with them. I find that the people i bond with the most understand this passion, this need to be close to the ocean and engulfed by the mountains.

BTS follow cam with Andrew Bydlon. Photo by Wes Rochfort

BTS follow cam with Andrew Bydlon. Photo by Wes Rochfort

Recently, i went on a shoot with Eider in Colorado and it was not the easiest day for me to say the least. My equipment was failing me and a group of us was relegated to the lower mountain groomers because of it. The mountains had just received a little refresh though, and my equipment problems didn't stop us from shredding together. That's what i enjoy. I used to relish in skiing out front, leading the way, being the first one down and bask in the glory of the ensuing compliments. Now, i like skiing behind or next to someone, choreographing what seems to be an orchestrated symphony, drawing on a soft white canvas, feeling together, not set apart. Togetherness: that's what this sport has become to me and this day on the mountain embodied that. And look at our sweet Eider gear!

Going over the images with Andrew Bydlon. Photo by Will Rochfort

Going over the images with Andrew Bydlon. Photo by Will Rochfort

Photo by Will Rochfort

Photo by Will Rochfort

Choreographing with Anton and Maro. Photo by Wes Rochfort

Choreographing with Anton and Maro. Photo by Wes Rochfort

Smile wrinkles. Photo by Wes Rochfort

Smile wrinkles. Photo by Wes Rochfort

Mammoth

Mammoth

PBR ad?

PBR ad?

Sometimes, i feel as if i am schizophrenic, a conflicting dichotomy sitting down for tea, in my mind. I long for companionship, but am fueled by solitude. I crave intimacy, but fight to be alone. 

Rocket Man

Rocket Man

We tend to give that word such a negative twist, but i relish in it. I've gotten used to the lonely drive, along the Eastern Sierras, to Mammoth. That all too familiar sense of nostalgia creeping in, making way for old memories of being alone on the road flow over the horizon as i inch towards it, even though i'm blasting through the high desert at 78mph, just fast enough not to get a ticket. A song reminds me of a solo drive from the past. I sip my coffee and sigh, soaking in the fond memories of it. On the road, like this, its a good thing. I look at the empty seat next to me, wishing an adventure loving comrade sat there, playing with her hair and the playlist she's concocted for us, all the while offering stimulating views of the world with a voice thats music to my ears. At the same time, i look at that same empty seat and the empty road and relish in a deep seeded sense of pride and accomplishment, that i am a world traveler, an adventurer, and i do it all on my own.

When i arrive in Mammoth, all my grand plans of drinking beers all night with old friends fall through and i end up watching football by myself in my hotel room. I eat a Subway sandwich because i just want to eat quick and go to bed, my big outing for the night, and fall asleep focusing my designs on exercising my rusty "ski legs" in the morning.

Adventures are better with friends

Adventures are better with friends

The next day, I roll into the marketing office at Mammoth Mountain for a meeting, feeling good that i'm skiing, but feeling a little low, the good loneliness eventually giving way, just a little bit, to the longing for companionship. As i'm feeling like this, they slide a contract in front of me and i almost well up in tears. They want me to be an ambassador, to represent the mountain in a positive way, and make it official. They want to pull me into the family! How validating to have someone believe in me, in my value, and want to invest in me! This is why family is so important. I'm not that close with mine, so group bonding means all the world to me. Its funny how our psyche works too. The day before, i skied like crap, falling over, rusty, frustrated, embarrassed. After signing that contract, i skied hard, rocketing down the mountain slicing through the snow with precision and speed, projecting into the fall line with confidence. All it took was someone investing in me. Thank you, Mammoth!!!

I'm Home

I'm Home

The Ocean is my muse. I'm at home with her and she whispers sweet creativity in my ear. When i'm away, i'm not myself and just cannot seem to find the motivation to write. The struggle has been to find balance in those times.  I sleep in, not wanting to get out of bed. I avoid grocery shopping and don't eat as well as i'd like. Every effort seems minimized, but now that i'm back, finally healed from the foot infection in Hawaii last summer, i have a renewed energy. I've been on a few adventures since then and am going to share them with you over the next few weeks. It's been over four months and multiple surgeries, but the fight is won. The Ocean wraps her everlasting and loving arms around me. I'm home.

Photo by Ryan Abribat
Photo by Ryan Abribat

Déjà Vu

Déjà Vu

Another cold wave dumps over, hits me in the face and spins my board away. My grip barely holds as my wrist twists painfully under the pressure, dozens of tiny muscles mustering to keep me from flopping over in the shallow water. I quickly right the board and line up to pull myself on. "Where are my legs? Underneath the board. Damn it! Not again!" I reach down and do my best to awkwardly push my legs behind me, holding on with my other hand. Again, i line up to pull myself on, inch my chest onto the tail and begin to work my way up the long sleek paddleboard. Another wave hits and almost tips me over. I manage to balance but the wave spins me around, facing shore. I can't pull myself on. "What's stuck?" Looking back, i see the leash curled around one of the handles. "Arg! Not again!" Just then, a wave comes up from behind and grabs the board easily, sending me, barely hanging on, riding the wave all the way to shore. Once the wave fizzles out, i slide off, exhausted. That all-too-familiar feeling of Déjà Vu hovers over me in the grey sky as i float on my back...the same feeling i had while training for climbing Bloody Couloir...the reality of how much work i actually need to do setting in. I take a deep breath, fighting frustration.

The road to Molokai is an indescribably monumental endeavor and i am needing to ask myself the question i often pose to others, "Would it be worth it if it wasn't hard as hell?" This presents a unique opportunity, in that i must not just accept the struggle, but embrace it....dive into it in order to feel it fully. Instead of becoming crestfallen when i can't even pull myself on my board, i relish in it with joy and adopt an almost self-punishing, bring-it-on type of attitude.

When i was in college, students would wish each other good luck before an exam, but i would say, "May your hard work pay off," a scowling glare shooting back at me. I don't really believe in luck. I believe our dreams take sacrifice and are most likely not going to jump right into our lap. It takes letting go of something very important: our very precious comfortability. However, the struggle for me has been to find balance in all this and not put pressure on myself. That's always the key isn't it? If we feel pressure, we are visualizing failure, but a healthy sense of responsibility, driven by hope, can take us very far.