…or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Board: Part 1. 🙂

Hey people, it’s Mal here. Gav’s been kind enough to offer me a guest review here on afterbang. The topic? Boarding lessons at Xscape in Castleford.

A bit of background

For starters, I’d better come clean and point out that I’m not a total novice. I went boarding with Gav for a couple of weeks in Feb 05. For a variety of reasons – mostly pain-related – I didn’t get the most from the holiday and spent half the time in the chalet. I left feeling kinda put off and with my confidence completely blown. That, I figured, was that.


By some fluke of laziness, I failed to sell my boarding gear on Ebay and, at the start of this year, promised to take a friend for lessons. Given how much I feel I’m missing out when Gav and the gang swap boarding stories, I decided to give it another go myself too. It was to be a slippery slope. Boom boom!

The first lesson

As it turned out, my friend couldn’t make it, but I still took the lesson. I went for the Fast-Track 1 & 2 option, lasting 3 hours and costing $72. I figured the fast track stuff was right for me and it meant I’d only need 2 visits before I qualified for recreational boarding.

You can, however, do it in smaller chunks, if you want. There are 4 key lessons, designed to get you to the stage where you’re safe to play on the main slope. I just wanted to get through it quickly and the fast-track lets you take 1 & 2 together and 3 & 4 together at a later date.

All lessons at Xscape include equipment hire in the price, including the use of a minging, stinky helmet (no jokes, please). The price doesn’t include hire of any clothing, mind. This wasn’t a problem for me, but it’s worth bearing in mind if you’ve got no cold-weather gear. Hire of jacket and pants will set you back only a few quid more (I suspect it’s a fiver, but I’ll check next time I’m down there).

Quick tip for those with bins: don’t worry about getting goggles. You won’t need them. I have to admit to being pretty clueless, mind, and nearly took mine along, just in case I took a dodgy fall. Glad I didn’t in the end, as I would’ve looked a complete dork and you’ll not be going quickly enough to knock your specs off anyway.

So, on arrival, I picked up my pass (which was never checked), got changed and waited for the instructor — a guy called Ollie (what a mint name!). With his assistance, the two others in my class and I got our boards, boots and helmets. Looking suitably lame, we were taken through the bindings and all the rest of the usual newbie stuff before heading out to the baby slope.

The lesson was all very basic stuff:

  • Falling over painlessly
  • Strapping in and not moving
  • Side-slipping on the toe edge
  • Side-slipping on the heel edge
  • Toe-edge traverse
  • Heel-edge traverse

And that was about it, really. It won’t sound like much to a veteran like Gav, but I was really grateful for the gentle re-introduction. When I first got back on the board after 14 months of abstinence, I was wobbly as all hell. It really did feel like Chamonix simply hadn’t happened at that point. I steadily got back into it, though, thanks in large part to Ollie. He made a great instructor – really patient, laid-back, non-judgemental and all-round helpful.

It did make me realise how much I need to work on fitness! What muscles does snowboarding work out? It turns out it’s pretty much all of them. I’d better hit the gym.

As for how I fared, well, I was star pupil. Somewhat slyly, I’d not told anyone that I actually had experience (even if no confidence), so I had an unfair advantage. I’d not meant to hide it; it just never came up and the longer I said nowt, the harder it became to let out the little secret. It made it a bit awkward towards the end, as I was desperate to put a turn or two in. However, we’d not been taught to do turns, so I didn’t bother. Last thing I wanted was to lose Ol’s respect by showing off.

So, at the end of the first fast-track lesson, I’d passed with flying colours. Only problem was that work was getting mental and I knew it might be a while before I could get back on the slope. I’d really enjoyed it so far and was keen to keep going. How long would it be before I could do it again? Stay tuned to find out. 🙂

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