Editor's note: Costa Mesa High sophomore Sammy Swanson, a decorated snowboarder, is in Colorado to compete in the 2014 USA Snowboarding Assn. nationals in boardercross. This is his first-person diary of the trip:
I've been snowboarding since I was 4 1/2 years old, after I got a snowboard from Santa. My parents have been taking me to Big Bear every weekend since. This long road to nationals has been fun and frustrating at the same time. From winning qualifier competitions, to breaking bones, this journey has been time well spent.
Snowboarding has helped me make friends from all over the country and has taught me to be humble and courageous. This week, along with 70 other kids from around the country, I am competing in an all-out race called boardercross. This is the most unpredictable competition of all of the snowboarding disciplines because your success could be based on somebody else's failure while racing to the bottom with four other people.
Our road to nationals this year began at 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday. We packed up our minivan and headed for Copper Mountain. The 14-hour drive was filled with music, junk food, and my mom talking. Although the drive was long and tedious, we did see some historic landmarks and lots of natural beauty.
We rolled in and I immediately went to a waxing clinic hosted by Bud Keene, Shaun White's coach, to learn how to make my board run smoother and faster.
The next day I woke up bright and early and headed over to Keystone Mountain Resort to check out different parts of Colorado. After a successful day of riding, I picked up some more waxing tips from the wax technician for the USA team in Vancouver. I immediately headed back to the condo and started working on my snowboard.
I ended my day by watching UCLA play in the NCAA men's basketball tournament and eating a big fulfilling dinner before my first big practice day.
Saturday morning, I woke up energized and ready for a big day. I ate a bowl of cereal that my dad made and started gearing up. Before heading out, I had to make sure I put the lucky penny I found on the floor the night before in my pocket. As I got up on the hill I saw tons of competitors. I instantly popped in my headphones and listened to some Bobby McFerrin to keep my nerves from running high.
I got down to the course and got into my zone. No talking. Just visualizing my moves on the course and focusing on my music. As I got up to the start gate, I instantly got fired up. The course martial tapped me on the shoulder and I instantly jumped out of the gate like a spider monkey.
I took a couple of these practice runs and my nerves instantly went away.
The practice day was a big confidence booster and I now feel I am ready for Sunday, competition day.