“Do Something Awesome!” — When It Comes to Pushing Your Riding Level, it Helps to Have Your Own “Danny” on the Water with You
By Ginette Buffone
I recently got inspired when I saw the Ro-Sham Throwdown in Hood River in July. I swore I would soon get out and try to ride some of the features for the first time ever, and made this affirmation aloud to my friend Danny.
About a week after the event, ready or not, I went for it. I started out by just cruising around a little ways away from the Slider Project terrain park, practicing my load and pop. In my first session with boots and no fins (this is only my second time out with this board setup), I realized that I was either popping wrong with fins or it was just totally different without the grip of the fins, because I found myself having to learn how to pop all over again.
“Push off hard with your back foot” was the advice I was told by a few people so I started focusing on this. Soon thereafter, I saw my friend Danny riding toward me. Oftentimes when I ride with Danny, he yells to me out on the water, “DO SOMETHING AWESOME!” and he’ll trail me until I show him something. It pushes me. It’s fun. And, it always results in me having a better session in the end.
So, yup, there was Danny, tacking upwind straight for me. I knew exactly what was coming next. “GET YOUR ASS DOWN THERE!” So, I followed Danny down to the features and planned to linger a bit to get a closer look at how folks were approaching these things, what they were doing with their kite, when they were unhooking, and what they did after they left the feature.
As I rode up to observe, I thankfully met up with Claire Lutz and two other guys readjusting another feature. I came to a stop in the shin deep water to ask Claire, a leading lady in the slider division, for any advice on hitting a slider for the first time. “Keep your body weight over the board, unhook just before you pop up onto the slider, and don’t worry if you land on your ass the first couple of times” are some of the tips she shared.
I repeated them in my head as I did a few more tacks around the Liquid Force Dance Floor. If it were actually a dance floor, I’d for sure be “the lurker” at this point. And Danny sensed this bit of meandering on my part. “COME ON! HIT IT!” he finally yelled to me.
Alright, here we go. As I got five feet from the dance floor, I knew there was no turning back. So, boom, I leveled out the board. Boom, I unhooked. Then, with my stomach fluttering, I breathed out, and up the ramp I went. I popped up to the top, keeping my body over my board, and slid my way across. Before I knew it, I was riding off the end. I sunk a little in the water, then hooked back in and rode away. Holy sh*t! I just did it. I am sure I looked pretty awkward, but there you go. I hit my first slider, rode it all the way and it felt awesome.
It turned out that the first run was my best one. On the next few attempts, I was only making it halfway across and then dropping off of the side. And then…well, then I am not sure what exactly happened. I am pretty sure I steered my kite a little too high to try to adjust my slide, and that is a big mistake.
The kite whipped across the window as I held on with one hand — even more of a cardinal mistake. I slammed into the water and the kite inverted. Ugh, that hurt a bit. It was probably with the help of Danny shouting from afar, “That was awesome!” that allowed me to more quickly shake myself off, get re-situated, and figure out my next move.
After trying to do the whole throw the bar through the center lines deal and not quite getting it right, Danny lets me know that I could still fly the kite with my lines jacked, so I settled on doing that. He grabbed my kite, helping me with the relaunch. I make a couple of tacks upwind to the sandbar and landed it.
I was still a bit rattled and the wind had picked up quite a bit, so I called it a session, packed up, and celebrated my first, but certainly not last, slider session with one of Hood River’s own glorious twice-baked potatoes from Big Papas — a perfect ending to an awesome session.
LESSONS LEARNED. Although I’ve been told time and time again to let go of the bar when things go wrong while unhooked, you only really learn the lesson when you have an opportunity to apply it, or in my case, not apply it and experience the consequences. And learn my lesson I did, because I was totally on it during my next slider session.
Something went wrong and just like that, I immediately let go. My other lesson learned is that it’s important to have a “Danny” to get out and ride with. It’s someone that will push you out of your comfort zone, help you progress in your riding, share in your successes with a “YEAHHHHHH!” and be there to help when things go wrong.
With that said, I want to give a big thank you to my very good friends, Danny and Molly Schwarz, for opening their home to me this summer. Their hospitality, witty dispositions balanced with lowbrow humor, and backyard BBQs are unmatched, and I am so grateful for them and everything they have allowed me to experience these past few months.