The Snowboarding Phenomenon

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It#s not skiing. It#s not surfing. It#s not skateboarding. But it is a strange combination of these, and one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S.

Originating in the 1960s, snowboarding finally made it to the big leagues in 1998 when it made its Olympic debut at the winter games in Nagano, Japan and will return to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City with two events, the halfpipe and parallel giant slalom.

Snowboarders (also called riders) stand sideways on the snowboard, which is usually constructed with materials similar to skis and measures only 150 cm long and 25 cm wide.

While Gwinnett may not ever receive enough snow for snowboarders, nearby mountains make it possible for locals to enjoy the growing popularity of this sport. Short drives to resorts like Beech Mountain or Wolf Laurel in North Carolina will produce a weekend of winter fun for aspiring snowboarders.

If you#re a first-timer, follow these tips for a safe and fun experience.

1. Rent or buy your gear at home, not at the resort. This gives you time to try on your boots, make adjustments and get familiar with the equipment.

2. Take a lesson. A one- or two-hour group lesson will take away some of the first-time frustrations.

3. Take a break during the day. Refuel and rest. Drink plenty of fluids, and eat a hearty lunch.

4. Stick with it. Don#t quit if you don#t get the hang of it right away. Snowboarding can be difficult, but the rewards are worth it.

If you experiment this winter and decide snowboarding is right for you, consider purchasing your own equipment for next season at the new REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) store opening near the Mall of Georgia in spring 2003.

REI is a national retailer of outdoor gear and apparel and is known for knowledgeable employees who can help you select the right equipment for your needs.

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