Soaring numbers, soaring boards
Teens say it's great exercise and lots of fun

by P.J. Harston
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 05/97) - You may not know what a caballerial is, or a quadratic sidecut, but surely you've heard of snowboarding.

Mitchell Knapp and Blaine Talbot have not only heard of it, they excel at it.

The 17-year-olds spend hours every day at the Jackfish Lake hill, honing their skills, such as the above-noted aerial tricks.

They're two of an estimated 60 Yellowknifers who have taken up the hobby-sport that has become a part of Canada's popular culture.

Snowboarding isn't simply surfing on snow -- it's a lifestyle. Music, clothing, reading material, jargon and dreams of the big ride are all part of it.

"My dad built me my first board about four years ago. There was boarding down south, but it hadn't reached the north yet and I was already interested," said Talbot.

He's on his fourth board now, and it's far from home-made. But Talbot's love of the pastime hasn't changed.

"I loved it right off the start and I'm still getting a lot out of it."

Knapp's been boarding since December 1995. He's on his third board now, a $450 Liquid, a far cry from his first $100 starter model.

"You start off with a cheap board and it's so much fun you buy a better board. It gets even funner, so you buy an even better board and it just keeps going," he said.

Knapp likes to spend up to four hours a day either boarding or building ramps out at Jackfish.

"But if it gets too cold, like below -40 C, you can't board. The best is between -15 C and -25 C."

Both teens have boarded at mountain resorts in Vermont recently, when they've gone for rides of up to 45 minutes. Compare that to Jackfish's two-minute run.

On any given top-quality ski hill across Canada or the United States, half the people on the hill will be riding boards, not skis -- that's how popular it is.

"It just keeps getting bigger and better every year," said Knapp.

While the history of snowboarding isn't easy to pin down, some experts say skateboarders who got bored in the winter invented it.

Most agree that snowboarding is easier to learn than downhill skiing. And with good equipment and some common sense, it can be a safe, healthy pastime.

Keep in mind, however, that like any other sport that involves speed, dexterity and co-ordination, when you first strap on a board, you will fall down.

"But if you get back up and try it again, then you know what? You'll start to love it," said Talbot.