Posted by: Mark | March 26, 2009

Skiing and Surfing

One of my first posts on this blog was comparing mountain lions and sharks, and which I would rather be attacked by if I had the choice. As far as I’m concerned it was a hilarious post and since it was early on it hasn’t gotten the credit it was due, which is why I’m opening up this new post with this plug.

So anyway, I’m now onto another comparison: surfing and skiing. Both are “extreme” outdoor sports that have gained in popularity over the last decade or so, and I just got back from a trip to Tahoe after not having skied in a while. With surfing on the mind as much as it is for me, I was making constant comparisons. It should come as no surprise that I prefer surfing over skiing, and here’s why, in no particular order:

1) The cold factor. I think I need to start by dispelling a major myth about this argument. Whenever I’m in SF and telling people that I surf, the common response is “wow that must be so cold! You’re crazy! It’s too cold for me!” and then they slyly sip their martini. However, this same noob will with great joy drive 8 billion hours up to Tahoe to the SNOW in order to ski over the weekend. Oh yeah, I said it, skiing involves snow. So while you won’t put on a wetsuit to go surf in the ocean, you’ll put on like 6 sweaters, jackets, scarves, deal with burning snow stinging your face, and not call that cold? So the “cold argument,” which I think many people use in their advantage when trying to prove that skiing is better than surfing, is just flat-out ridiculous.

2) Driving. I already kind of insinuated this in the last list, but Tahoe is really far away. You are almost guaranteed traffic. It took us 7.5 hours to get home from Tahoe last weekend! I could have watched most of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in that time, probably right up to the really bizarre scene in “Return of the King” when one of the hobbits is hanging with the king and they’re eating berries together. Super weird. However, I go like 2 minutes to surf at Ocean Beach. Granted, this advantage has to deal with my location, but since this is my perspective on things, it’s totally valid. Likewise, if a Tahoe-dwelling dude was to tell me that surfing would be out of the way for him, I’d give him total credit for that as well.

3) Friends. I gotta admit that this one falls in skiing’s advantage. I’m surprised by the amount of people that are willing to ski. So, the chances are good that you can talk a big group of people into going skiing, and everyone will be out hitting the slopes. However, I don’t think I could in a million years talk the same friends into going on a surf trip. Skiing just more accessible to people, so you’re guaranteed that more people will partake.

4) Equipment. I used to complain that putting a wetsuit on is a pain in the butt. That was of course until I put on ski boots. Are you kidding me with these things. They are the worst ever. It’s like impossible to do anything in ski boots besides ski. I feel like my feet turned into RoboCop and I really don’t like it. You’d think with modern technology we could invent better ski boots. We can put a man on the moon, but why the hell do I have to wear his boots to ski? Wetsuits have gotten noticeably more flexible and comfortable, but ski boot technology is about as dynamic as research and development on new saran wrap.

5) Wiping out. Yes, wiping out can hurt while surfing. I made a video of a 26-second hold down I had at Ocean Beach which sucked, big time. However, you’re in water. Hitting water hurts, but it doesn’t hurt nearly as bad as hitting ice or a tree. And it seems like a lot more people get hurt on the slopes, and then buzzed around the snow while strapped on a backboard behind a snowmobile (speaking of which, boy would that be awful. You’ve wiped out pretty bad, and now you gotta get strapped down and dragged down the mountain behind a snowmobile? That’d be like putting victims in red wagons and tying them on a rope to the back of a car to get them to the hospital.) than I ever see getting really badly hurt while surfing. Yes, the occasional drowning happens, but it’s less regular than the fatalities or broken limbs on the slopes.

6) Environmental. So I gotta get my sincerity cap back on for this one. A lot of people see skiing as being out with nature, which I think is a bit of a stretch. Skiing takes a pretty tangible toll on the mountains. You gotta clear out trails, set up lifts, lodges, and all that other stuff. In some places they even use snow-making machines. That poor mountain takes a pretty severe beating when being groomed to allow us to ski on it and “be with nature.” Surfing, on the other hand, is about as non-damaging as you can get when it comes to extreme sports. You get in the water and surf the waves that are already there. You leave no trace behind, and a lot of surfers even pick up trash on the way out of the water.

7) Back to sarcasm. Cost. Skiing is ridiculous. You gotta pay for lift tickets, gas to get to Tahoe, a place to stay (as a caveat, our group organizer got us an insanely awesome house and we paid really really cheap, but you still gotta pay for it), and let’s not forget food. A guy I was with paid $8 for a slice of pizza. Are. you. kidding. $8 for pizza. And I won’t even pay $0.99 for a good iphone app, so let’s just say I didn’t eat on the slopes. Then the skis themselves. You can buy them, or else rent them. Compare this to surfing. House: free. Surfboard: about the same as skis. Wetsuit: about the same as ski outfit, except they don’t go out of style and you don’t need to get matching hats. wax: $1. This will last you a month. in other words, a piece of pizza at Tahoe will buy you 8 months worth of surf wax. Food: $6 burrito that will fill you up for the rest of the day. Need I say more?

I think you all get the point by now. I loved skiing and hanging with friends, but let’s just say it was a good thing that the weekend we were up there the surf was flat, and I wasn’t missing surf at Ocean Beach, otherwise this post would be about about 2,500 words longer than it already is.



  1. For the record, I once injured myself while attempting to learn to snowboard, and I was strapped in a toboggan, which was harnessed to a skier, and taken to their little emergency room thing. It was a humiliating experience, and it smelled awful in the toboggan. I do not recommend it.

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