How Snowboarding Saved My Life and What It Means to Me

Snowboarding is a lifestyle you live to the fullest with those closest to you. I wouldn’t, no I couldn’t, ever give it up for anything.

Photo by Jack S.

Photo by Jack S.

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I woke up in a hospital bed after overdosing on heroin and having been revived in my car on the Westside of Atlanta. A bright light was in my eyes and I couldn’t feel the left side of my face or my shoulder. I felt a jolt go through my body and faded back into darkness and silence. My heart had stopped for two minutes, but I was lucky. My brother, my best friend, would meet a similar fate but not be as lucky as I. I’m sharing this story with you, because I survived these tragic events because of my love for snowboarding.

Photo courtesy of the Vail Daily

Snowboarding is my life, plain and simple. Since I was 10 years old it has always been there for me no matter what and has always provided the same level of joy just as much as the first time I made my first turns. I’ve also been skateboarding for just as long, but for the sake of this article, I will keep the language strictly pertaining to snowboarding. With that said, let’s move on to the greatest recreational sport ever invented that allows you to literally defy the laws of gravity.

Snowboarding never gets old no matter how much you do it or where you do it. I have just as much fun at age 31 as I did at age 11. My life literally revolves around it and I couldn’t be happier. Every single one of my best friends are snowboarders and we make each other better by pushing each other, which leads to strengthening our friendship. It builds a special bond between people that can’t be explained. The beauty is that everyone is out to achieve the same goal, which is simply to have as much fun as possible. I one day hope to have a family of my own and be able to experience the magical feeling of passing on the love of snowboarding to my kids as my dad did with me (he’s a skier, but he can still rip).

Curated expert Jack S.'s father and two brothers

A lot of times you’ll notice most people ride with headphones on. As a man who was forced to learn ballroom dance at a young age (so what, judge me, I had no choice and truth be told it’s helped me in several situations where I was glad I knew it), I like to think of snowboarding in the same sense. If you have no rhythm then you’ll just look ridiculous trying to move to the music, but if you can learn to combine the two and not just hear the music but feel it in your soul and put that together with your riding, then you become the personification of a beautiful symphony. You’re always moving in snowboarding, just like dancing, and you’re always looking for ways to improvise how you move as you ride, whether it be side hits, random jumps, down trees/rails, etc. When I have a good song on and it’s a beautiful day, then I feel like I can’t be stopped and I land everything I go for. It’s like every problem or issue I have or ever have had in life never existed.

This next part of the article is not for the faint-hearted and I apologize, but like I said, this is “What Snowboarding Means To Me”. Snowboarding has saved my life, and more than once I might add. Yes, you read that correctly and I promise I’m not being over dramatic, everything I’m about to tell you is 100% painfully true. I graduated high school in 2009 and went to the University of Alabama to please my parents. I wanted to head straight to Colorado, but I love my parents and thought an education would help me have a leg up in the industry when I decided to enter it. I was a good kid when I left high school but deep down I always had a longing to impress people around me. I have an everlasting fear of being alone, truly nothing scares me more. So most times I would do what it takes to make friends, especially at one of America's biggest universities where I knew absolutely no one.

Long story short, I developed an addiction to OxyContin, which was ultimately discontinued, and thus began my demise with heroin. I’m ashamed to even read that sentence, so ashamed. I failed everyone in my life who had invested some form of hope that I would succeed in the world only to become hated by everyone I knew because of the criminal I had become. It would become the most challenging fight of my life because there was literally nothing in this world that could bring a smile to my face except snowboarding. My parents thought I was crazy, my friends thought I was lying, and I was scared I could be wrong.

But I moved to CO and completely immersed myself into the snowboard life. It was as if I was reborn. No one knew of my past and the only real concern people had was if I wanted to ride as bad as them. For this I owe my life to snowboarding, which is why I love working for Curated, simply because it gives me the opportunity to return the favor and pass along the passion I developed for snowboarding. Also just maybe I can help some young kid like me struggling for a purpose in this hectic world to put down the needle, pick up a board, and call a friend. If I can do that just once then it was all worth it.

I only overdosed once and when I woke up I was temporarily deaf for 16 hours. Never in my life had I been so scared. Usually when you overdose they bring you back and cut you loose. As in my case I passed out in my car and cut off circulation to my carotid artery, which caused severe nerve damage and messed with my pupils (I still can’t feel the left side of my face to this day, which makes shaving really hard sometimes).

The next thing I recall was awakening in the hospital to both of my brothers to my right and my mom to my left. I could see where I was and knew what was happening but I couldn’t hear anything. I could see my brother's mouth moving but I was unaware that I was temporarily deaf and started screaming “I CAN'T HEAR YOU”. My brother Sam got a piece of paper and wrote down that he and Joe had found me by tracking my phone and I just needed to confirm what had happened to help the doctors treat me to which I just screamed “HEROIN YOU KNOW THIS”. My other brother Joe ran out into the hallway and screamed equally as loud “MY BROTHER NEEDS A DOCTOR!”

They kept me for five days for observation and brought clinical teams in from Emory University to study me and my symptoms. The lead Doctor asked me what I planned to do with my life and the most I could say was “snowboard”. To which he replied “if that’s all you ever do again then I’ll be happy knowing I didn’t waste my time or resources”. I still keep in touch with Dr. Lee to this day. I tell you all of this to help you understand it hasn't been an easy road for me to get to where I’m at. It is truly by the grace of God I am alive, I have amazing friends I would never trade for the world, and snowboarding is God's gift to man

Curated expert Jack S. with his two brothers

Photo by Cindy Sherwood

But there’s a flipside to this coin. May 7th, 2017 6:30 PM my little brother Joe overdosed on Meth, Heroin, Xanax, and Cocaine. He was dead before the EMTs ever arrived and the people around him took everything valuable off of him. My parents will probably read this, so out of respect for them, I don’t want to go too deep into it. Joe was supposed to be moving to Colorado with me that season, but sometimes we don’t get to choose our destiny.

For a long time I was angry, sad, violent, vengeful at God for taking my best friend. There was no good answer to it. Everywhere I looked I saw him, everytime I slept I heard his voice. I truly didn’t think I would ever get over it but life goes on regardless of whether we want it to or not. I must mention the first three calls I got were from my best friends in CO. I mean they called while I was still at the hospital identifying his body, I don’t know how they found out so fast. I wish I could describe the feeling I felt when they called me just to see how I was doing and the best part is the fact that this was all thanks to snowboarding.

Snowboarders don’t use the term friends, we say “homies” and that’s because a homie will hold you down to the grave or jail cell. They’re in it with you to the end no matter what because we share that bond of riding. Most people reading this will say that’s the most ridiculous, absurd thing I’ve ever heard. But my homies have been put to the test and I know without thinking twice I can call on them whenever I need them and they will be there. Snowboarding isn’t just something fun to do at your leisure. It’s a lifestyle you live to the fullest with those closest to you. I wouldn’t, no I couldn’t, ever give it up for anything. I would rather die poor and happy than rich and overworked.

This is where the spiritual side of snowboarding comes into play. I’ve never ridden in Europe but I plan on making that happen very soon, but in the meantime, I’m lucky enough to call Vail, CO home. The Colorado Rockies are the most majestic mountains in the world in my opinion. After spending a whole summer grieving over losing one, if not my best, friend, the snow finally started to fall. On my first day off, I strapped in and kind of just rode around in a trance. I went to a secret spot my friends and I would usually go to everyday that has a single and double cliff drop.

I was in such a careless state I wanted to do a back 360 off the double. Before I could though, I sat on a rock and smoked a cigarette thinking of all the good memories I had riding that same mountain with my dad and brothers growing up. Eventually my eyes teared up and then I started sobbing uncontrollably after finally I just started screaming. I wasn’t mad or anything but I had kept all these emotions in check to be strong for my family. Being the oldest child comes with a lot of responsibility. I must’ve sat on that rock for an hour just crying and thinking how he’s gone forever and I’ll never get a chance to let him know how much I loved him and I would’ve done anything to help him. But again like I said, sometimes we don’t get to pick our destiny in life.

I couldn’t sit there forever so I either had to do what I came there to do or break myself trying. I hit the lip at a good speed and launched off my toes, the spin felt perfect, I cleared the rocks and I could see exactly where I was going to land. It was exactly how I pictured doing it and that small trick carried me just a little bit farther in my life. I just wish my brother could have been there with me to cheer me on or tell me I was too scared to do it. You’re probably wondering why I’m speaking in such detail about such a minimal experience. Sometimes we find hope in the most painful circumstances and we can channel those emotions to do things we never thought we could do.

Snowboarding has taught me many life lessons such as never give up, think of your friends, don’t be selfish, be considerate of and respect nature, I’m not the most powerful entity in the world, among a plethora of other things. Ever since that day I dedicate at least three hours of one of my off days to find a desolate spot and think of life, my brother, my family and friends, and to be thankful I made it out alive with a passion that gives me a reason to live. Now I know not everyone enjoys snowboarding as much as me, and that’s fine, but please find something meaningful that gives you a purpose to get out of bed everyday. Time is something you can’t get back no matter how hard you try. I really hope some of you understand where I’m coming from and can take away something from this article. Maybe snowboarding can save your life and mental health like it did mine. God bless and tell your family you love them everyday no matter how much they annoy you.

Curated expert Jack S. with his mother and two brothers

Photo by Brenda Hulsey

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Written By
Jack S.
Jack S.
Snowboard Expert
Hello all, ​ My name is Jack (My birth name is John but everyone knows me as Jack) Sherwood and I'm from a small town south of Atlanta called Newnan. I was lucky and born with a dad who hated the beach and loved taking us out west at an early age. From 12 years old I knew I would spend the rest of m...
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