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Powder Surfing with Steve Andrews

While standing at the top of the line my mood shoots from overconfidence to a swarm of butterflies swirling in my stomach. Up until this point I thought it would be easy but now, with the board under my feet, I feel like a beginner again. That’s because I am: even though I have been snowboarding for 20 years, the board was always firmly attached to my feet. Now, looking down at the 1,000 or so foot run in knee-deep powder, I’m about to drop in for my first-ever powder surfing run.

I step onto the board and shift my weight forward, and I’m off. As I pick up speed I feel the sensation of a 3D surface underneath my feet. All the rules for riding snow have gone out the window. I see a tree fast approaching ahead and begin to lean into a toeside turn.  As the board responds to the shift in weight, I feel something closer to what I feel on water than on snow. It’s freedom, nerves, and elation all rolled up into one two-second turn. I let out a holler of excitement as I shift my weight to my heels into the other direction. My confidence gets the best of me, and the board flies out under my feet as I wipe out into the deep snow. I’m absolutely covered in white but I can’t stop laughing—even though I only carved out one and a half turns, I’m now hooked—powder surfing is the real deal.

My opportunity to try out powder surfing came just a week earlier when I met Tim Wesley, owner of Shark Snowsurf. I had seen his demo video years before and was always intrigued by the quality and detail he put into each handcrafted board.  Luck had us in Revelstoke at the same time. Tim comes to Revelstoke from his home in Leavenworth, Washington a few times a year, as the terrain and snow here is pretty much ideal for snow surfing. Especially this season there is more than enough powder to satisfy anyone’s craving.

Another part of powder surfing in Revelstoke is the community here. Although small in numbers, the people who have taken up the sport are passionate. They come together like the old days of snowboarding when simply seeing another person with a board made an instant friendship. When Tim came up for a late season pilgrimage, assembling a crew was as easy as calling up his customer list. It didn’t take much convincing for a small crew to get together and squeeze out the last days of a banner season.

To really get the most out of powder surfing you’ll want a snowmobile, something I did not have on this trip. But luckily Revelstoke is also a mecca for snowmobiling, and there are plenty of rental companies in town. I found a beautiful 2016 Skidoo Rev 850 at Full Speed Rentals, just outside of town. They have mountain access right out their back door, or if you have a truck you can load it up and take it away for the day. One of the other guys in the crew graciously picked up the sled on his truck and we headed to out to get the most out of the day.

Back to that first run from the beginning of the story: As I picked myself up from the first wipeout, I knew that this was a different activity altogether that used different muscles and balance than when I’m bound to a board. The freedom to adjust your stance mid-ride opens up a whole new set of options. There is also a huge degree of self-confidence that has to surface – any doubt that creeps into your psyche will undoubtedly result in a crash. But I do not fear the crash; not when the snow is this deep and good. Thanks to a quality leash on the board I simply reel it back in to my feet, stand back on, and drop in again. By the end of the first run I really felt as though I had the hang of it. Having the shaper bring out his new models was a treat that did not go unnoticed. Trying different styles of shapes was an experience in iteself; each shape provides a slightly different feeling. I know that I was spoiled being able to ride the boards with the guy who made them; it’s not often you can discuss the nuances of each board with the mind and hands behind each rideable work of art.

After a full day in the backcountry we made our way back to town for beers and dinner; worn out but with a grin that wouldn’t disappear due to the new thrills and friends made along the way. It’s exciting to get involved in a new sport during it’s infancy when the stoke is so high. The attitude with powder surfing is to not take things too seriously and have as much fun along the way as possible. For the small but passionate Shark Snowsurf crew here in Revelstoke, they are succeeding on all counts.

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