Talking about fear might be somewhat on the nose when it comes to snowboarding. I don’t know about you, but for me that nervous feeling never really disappears, no matter how much you progress. It stays with us as we push ourselves, and every time we go that bit higher, deeper or faster, it’s there for us to overcome. A big part of what hooked us is the feeling of overcoming it.
We call snowboarding a lifestyle because we plan our lives around it. We move to the mountains, spend all our money on it and give up anything in the pursuit of snow. We call it a lifestyle because it’s our life, but if that’s true, that fear that excites us can grow into a primal instinct for survival.
Being injured, you fear losing your sport, your friends, your day-to-day, and some lucky ones might fear losing their income. You fear losing your whole life.
Ivika is one of the many snowboarders who knows this feeling. She’s aware that she’s been developing negative mental patterns ever since high school, all of which came to a boiling point when her body didn’t want to heal after three consecutive injuries over the past three winters, and the doctors warning her she might not be able to snowboard anymore.
Last winter, she started journaling and reflecting on her thought processes while filming. It seems like a lot of people are struggling with similar patterns after big injuries, and that’s why we decided to publish Ivika’s journal in the form of a photo book together with Club Sandwich. It’s not necessarily a “fun” read, but if it helps one person find hope in a difficult time then this book is worth it.
The upcoming pages are extracts taken straight from Ivika’s journal, as well as reflections after the winter was over.
Intro & Photos: Tim Schiphorst
Text: Ivika Jürgenson
Interview: Tim Schiphorst
The past few years being injured and riding through pain have caused a bunch of mental issues for me that won’t let me ride spots the way I would like to. I’ve learned that there are some key things that are necessary for me on a day-to-day basis like antidepressants and therapy to have a clear mind, in addition to what works for me at the spots.
Visualisation: Before going on a trip I usually pick out a couple of spots that I’d like to ride. I usually visualise how I’m going to build the spot, the speed I need and the trick I’m doing. By the time I’m actually at the spot I’ve already built it in my head and ridden it a couple of times and landed the trick too. This helps me to prepare mentally for riding and keeps me a lot more calm. Going to a random spot in the morning and figuring things out on the spot can result in worrying about all the little details and not being able to focus on my snowboarding.
Removing pressure: I really don’t like it when other people who aren’t our crew gather around to watch my first try at a spot that I’m a little nervous about. I always ask people nicely to just go about their business and give me some space to concentrate without any extra pressure and say if they like to they can come back later. Some spots also add pressure if they’re busty, if there’s a lot of traffic or if the daylight is going away for example. So preparing and planning to avoid these situations helps creating an environment where it’s easier to focus on the trick. Plan busty spots at the weekend, avoid traffic hours and if there is not enough daylight I ask the crew if we can do it the next day instead.
Rest and diet: When you exercise you deplete glycogen from your muscles. Your muscles need rest and sleep to restock on glucose. Your brain is a muscle too. If I wake up unrested and have a heavy morning, I can guarantee it’s not gonna get easier when I start riding.
Coffee: Are there any problems a morning coffee doesn’t solve?
Crew: If I have doubts then it’s nice to have people around that you can talk to.
Three try rule: This is not really for at the spots but for getting over mental blocks with certain movements. I can’t remember where I read this tip in a book, but when I ride I give myself three tries to get over a mental block with a trick. If I can’t do it in three tries then I’m gonna stop trying this trick and do something else instead. Otherwise I’m just gonna mentally drain myself and go home frustrated at myself because I ‘failed’ again. And I’d bring that frustration back the next day, making the pressure to try it even greater. You can see how you can end up in a spiral this way. These three tries I really commit with all I have. Once I tried the trick and the mental block is gone, I keep trying as long as it takes.
Positive self-talk and mindset: This is the most difficult one for me. The ‘what if’ thoughts are the hardest to control for me. My therapist gave me a good point the other day, she’s saying that I should try to be conscious about my thoughts, what’s a fact, what’s speculation. All of my ‘what if IT happens again’ thoughts are a speculation and I have no concrete information that ‘IT’ will happen again. So rather than thinking ‘what if IT happens’ I can channel my thinking process to ‘let’s see what happens’ attitude. Easier said than done, but this is something I’ve recently been working on. Another thing is associating similar circumstances to a previous trauma. For example if it would be snowing I would tell myself I’ll get hurt because last time I broke my elbow while it was snowing. It took a lot of work and a lot of time to create positive memories where I landed a trick or had a good day in snowy weather for example. Now that I have these memories I can tell myself that just because it’s snowing heavily it doesn’t mean that I will for sure get hurt. It’s difficult to turn negative thoughts into positive ones when it comes to getting hurt while riding. Negative self-talk is just our mind’s way to protect ourselves in a dangerous situation and has a positive intention.
How was the end of the season compared to the beginning?
In the beginning, I felt kinda helpless. I was on this sinking boat shovelling out the water, but the water was coming from all directions. But it got colder, and the water froze *laughs*. I’d like to think that the journal helped. It was proof that the anxiety I had at the spot was misplaced. Having written exactly those words repeatedly after landing a trick showed that I can do it. Getting more and more shots was another visual proof that I can do things. The more proof I got, the more I believed in myself. By the end of the winter, there were spots that I really wanted to ride. I didn’t really have that feeling at the beginning of the winter because my anxiety and depression got in the way.
In the end, the season was really good. The best season I have had since filming Honey. By the end of the season, I had made a lot of progress compared to where I was in the beginning. I think the anxiety got less. At the end of the season, I recognised the old me in myself again, and it felt really good. I don’t know. I have high hopes that I can keep improving for next season and maybe become my old self again…
How has this journal helped you? Has it helped at all?
When I wrote things down, it gave me a different perspective. My inner voice tells me so many shitty things. There were so many spots where I was having anxiety attacks, but in the end, I did it. So reading back my thoughts after I’ve gotten over it proves that the initial fear was misplaced. While reading the diary, I can see a pattern. Once I went through all that, I could see what triggers me and what I should do to keep myself calmer.
Writing this in the summertime, what are some memories that stand out about last winter?
It was pretty cool that I actually got to speak to the police in my own language in Estonia. Trying to convince them to let us ride. It worked out so good! The amount of snow in Helsinki. I’ve never seen that much snow in Helsinki! Dominik’s cooking! And just having dinner with the crew every day after filming. The blue downrail, because it was such a great day. Everything went so smooth, from picking the lock, moving the snow, and the support of the crew. I also really like the shot. Going to New York was so exciting. Seeing the Northern Lights while hitting a spot. Ice cream rewards after landing a trick. Talking to Venla in English-Finnish-Estonian hybrid language. She taught me the Finnish word for spider, and now I think about that trip every time I see
one *laughs*. She was so scared of the spiders.
Is it safe to say that most of the memories from last winter that stuck with you are positive?
Yes. I forget the negative. I guess that when I’m going through a difficult day, I should tell myself that a year from now, only the positive memories stand out.
The full Vitamin book is available from Club Sandwich