A Product of My Environment
I often wonder these days. I wonder about what might have been. I wonder about what’s to come. I guess that’s the nature of getting older.
A Product of My Environment
Words and Photos / Jason Borgstede
I often wonder these days. I wonder about what might have been. I wonder about what’s to come. I guess that’s the nature of getting older. I find myself living less in the moment and more in the past and future. When I was younger I didn’t think about living in the moment; I just did. I didn’t have many points of reference. I hadn’t been through enough to base life on, so I just lived and it happened to be in the moment. Now it seems as though a lifetime has passed and for all intents and purposes it has. I’ve watched a dream become a career and seen that career end. I’ve found companionship and lost it. I’ve seen most of my immediate family pass on. I’ve seen the scene I love, build itself up and slowly fall to pieces.
I moved to Alaska around 1988. I was 13 and had grown up playing baseball in southern California. I was going to play for the Dodgers. I know it sounds like a lofty goal but baseball was my life. I practiced any way I could, any time I could and in California that is just about every day of the year. I went to baseball camps that were about an hour away. I played on a lot of teams and studied the game as much as I could. I had a dream and the tunnel vision required to give that dream a chance at reality. Then I moved to Alaska.
I had no choice in the move. I was spending the summer with my Aunt and cousin, two years my junior, in Hawaii (Navy family) when my mom called and announced she was marrying her boyfriend and we would be moving to Alaska. Upon arrival I joined a new school in 8th grade and tried to figure out how I would play ball in the frozen wasteland that was now my home.
Just as spring was approaching and sledding season was coming to an end, I managed to break my throwing hand by punching a kid in the face. That’s an interesting sentence. I had a habit of swinging first and asking questions later in my early years. It was a mistake that may well have led to a completely different life path than I ever anticipated. At the very least, that decision led me to a fork in the road. The healing of my broken hand would take up the first half of the baseball season and cost me a spot on a team.
This new school also introduced me to the division of forces in the war of teenage popularity. I learned about the jocks, preps, stoners, and the group that would simultaneously capture my attention and absolutely zero peer group popularity: the skaters. I happened to sit next to a kid that skated in one of my classes. This kid showed me that there just happened to be a halfpipe no more than 50 yards from the side-door of the school. The bug bit me and I took my board and decided it was time to do more than have my dog pull me on it. It was that tiny window of time that I can look back on and see my life taking a turn that would forever change its direction.
The following winter I saw a TV ad for the local snowboard shop (G&B) that showed a guy riding a snowboard. It’s hard to avoid taking a trip to cliché-ville, but when I saw that commercial I knew I had to snowboard. I saved $25 and went halves with my mom on a plastic BlackSnow board that had no metal edges. I learned to go straight down the sledding hill by my house and it was at the bottom of that hill that the truth revealed itself: The truth was that I would never play baseball again. The truth was that I was a skater and a snowboarder and that would never change. Riding a board was now the sole focus of my life. I traded baseball camp for snowboard camp. I traded baseball games for halfpipe and mogul contests. I traded the sun-flooded grassy fields for frozen toes and waxed curbs. When I came to that fork in the road, I chose…. I can’t even really say I chose anything. As I think about it, I didn’t make a choice at all. I just got on a board and have been trying to enjoy the ride ever since.
Snowboarding got me into something that was positive. I think everybody is searching for something to belong to. Some find a gang, some find a book club, and some find a board. So much of how life turns out seems like it’s luck of the draw. The type of kids that are doing what I did, the resources that are around when I was doing my thing, the way people viewed what I did all influenced who I became. The fact that skating wasn’t cool and skiers hated snowboarders tested my resolve. The kids I met through skating and snowboarding, that I became tight with, focused on doing the things we loved rather than getting high on Robitussin. What if my best friend hadn’t introduced me to punk music? What if Boarderline (the local shop) didn’t put on contests and push their riders to do them? What if they didn’t support the scene with the dedication and heart that they did? All these questions and all these circumstances keep me wondering.
I often wonder what would have been if my mom never married that guy or if I never threw that punch. I wonder what my life would be like if I never sat next to that kid that skated or if I never saw that TV commercial. All these moments come together to form the scenes that play out as the movie of our lives. In my movie I got to be a pro snowboarder, I got to be a part of a scene and a time that will likely never be recreated, and I got the chance to take on a life that I would never have imagined.
During my pro shredding years I repped AK through the drawings on my boards, the graphics on my signature gear, and the way I rode a mountain. I always remembered Jay Liska giving me props this one time I did a trick off a cornice and telling me “if you butt check, it doesn’t count.” I made movies with Jesse Burtner to showcase Alaskan skaters and snowboarders and the way we saw the world. And now I’ve returned to AK after a hiatus of a few years.
I wonder if this life is a perfect storm of random events. I wonder if anybody will read this puddle of words. I wonder if I’ll ever land a double cork. I wonder if Alyeska will ever build a park that matches the mountains potential. What I don’t wonder about is where I belong. The snow, the cold, the sun, the harshness, the people, the shop, the legacy, the heroes, the laughs, the rails, the animals, the seclusion, the struggle, and the pride all make up this place that made me who I am. I am a product of my environment.