On paper, it's simple. To turn one direction you raise your toes, rock your ankles back, and apply pressure to your heels. You keep your knees bent slightly, and your torso tall. Your head guides your direction, and your board begins to follow.
To turn the other way is much the same. You point your front knee forward, and rock back to the ball of your foot and toes. You alternate direction to form and s, and then you form a ribbon of s's, some wide, some thin, you're snowboarding.
But of course, snowboarding isn't done on paper, it's done in freezing cold weather, often with low visibility, on unforgiving terrain. It's done at high altitudes, in bodies that probably aren't in shape. And most importantly, it's done with minds who rarely face such dyer consequence. For my 7 year old mind, the thought of leaning down a mountain to turn was far too terrifying to attempt.
In fact, despite a love for the mountains and the experience that was fostered on that initial trip, for the next decade, I stuck exclusively to the seated comforts of my heel edge. I'd slide around the mountain and even slip down a few intermediate runs from time to time, but only ever as a "heelside hero". I was cheating myself out of the full experience.
Then, at age 17, I took a trip with my father, and I had no choice. In order to keep up with him, I had to use my toe edge, so I did. And after all that time, I found myself able to make more precise turns with it than I ever had on my heels.
This year, as an instructor, I encountered numerous Heelside Heros. People of all shapes and sizes, various ages and fitness levels, all held back by the same thing, fear.
Often pitched as an extreme sport, these days I find snowboarding to be nearly meditative at times. When it's just me and my board, carving softly across an untouched hill. The trees towering above me, but at times revealing vast views. The silence of fresh snow below me, as the board floats with ease.
For the majority of my life I was scared of snowboarding, and now, after allowing myself to give it a try, it affords me a connection with nature and adventure that I've never known elsewhere.
About an hour ago I boarded a plane. This flight is to Dallas, but my next one is to Seoul. All my life I've dreamt of travel, and all my life I've been scared to go too far. I had an opportunity to study abroad in college, but didn't. I talked about teaching English for years, and never pursued it. But after a season of instructing, of watching the limiting effects of fear, of experiencing the rewards of a leap, I'm leaning down this mountain and taking control. I'm finally using my toe edge.