Bethany Hamilton: back on snow
It's 9 a.m. Friday morning and Jeremy Jones is waiting patiently in front of the funitel at Squaw Valley. Today, Jones will share a few of his snowboard secrets with pro surfer Bethany Hamilton, who is in town for a speaking engagement with the Squaw Valley Institute. Except Jones' statuesque blonde date is late.
This isn't the first time Jones has had to wait for one of his beach cousins in the mountains. In the past, he's also led the way on the slopes for surf pros like Laird Hamilton, Andy Irons, Shane Dorian, Ian Walsh and Joel Parkinson.
"I love getting surfers in the mountains," says Jones. "When I'm snowboarding, I always pretend to do it the way I would if I surfed. When you line up a nice wave in the mountain, it's very similar to surfing."
Crashing his date are fellow Tahoe locals and pros Tom Burt and Iris Lazzareschi. Today's agenda? Get on the hill, make some turns and forge new friendships.
It's no wonder Hamilton is running a bit behind, though. While snowboarding shares many similarities to surfing, making a quick dash to the beach with a bikini and board isn't one of them. In snowboarding, there are mittens, helmets, jackets and long underwear to find, as well as a trip to the rental shop. And then, after all that, you have to locate the lift.
"I'm so sorry!" Hamilton exclaims when she arrives. But no one is worried. Soon, she's ready to ride -- for the first time in three years.
On the funitel, Jones and Hamilton, who have just met for the first time, hit it off immediately. Jones shows his softer side when he mentions he watched "Soul Surfer" -- the film about Hamilton's 2004 shark attack, during which she lost her left arm -- the night before with his kids, and that he cried. And then, of course, the conversation changes to surfing. Only a few months ago, Hamilton was the first and only woman invited to compete in the Rip Curl Cup Padang Padang Invitational in Indonesia.
When asked which is more intimidating -- speaking in front of a crowd of 500-plus people or riding tubes at Padang -- Hamilton doesn't hesitate to answer. "Padang for sure," she sighs. "I'm actually OK in front of crowds. I like speaking because you are reaching a lot of people. By encouraging other people, it encourages me."
Jones concurs: "I've surfed at Padang before, and it's scary. I'd way rather speak in front of hundreds of people."
At the top of the mountain, Hamilton and Jones strap on their boards and Jones offers Hamilton some simple advice: "With snowboarding, you have to weight your front foot a lot more than you do with surfing. Other than that, it's just hours on the hill."
And then Hamilton is off, her ponytail blowing in the wind as she arcs turns down the hill. In no time at all, she shows that for this girl, one board is as good as another.