Lessons Learned from Learning Something New

I’ve just returned from a surf trip to Portugal. It felt like the end of the summer when we left but only a week later the trees are starting to turn. It’s the same every year, the first autumnal days bring telemarking to mind.

In fact, I was thinking a lot about telemarking last week, while catching my breath, sitting on my surf board watching enviously as other people glided smoothly into oncoming waves, popping upright with a gracious ease that I can only dream of.

The Power of Perspective

Yes, I’m afraid I’m a Kook on a surfboard! I’ve got all the gear, and clearly no-idea…I used to think telemarking was such a hard thing to teach and learn, until I took up surfing.

The Key to Learning Something New

As a sports coach, I strongly believe that getting coaching is the way to get better, but sadly the coaching in Portugal was hit and miss to say the least, language barriers, misinterpreted instructions, a group with split levels, a wave that was too steep and fast on take off and closed out very quickly over a few rocks wasn’t in my opinion the best ‘learning environment’.

Surf fail

Being a Beginner…Again!

I soon became tired and frustrated, as I berated myself for not being fitter, for not swimming more or doing any yoga. But it reminded me how important it is to learn new things, to feel slightly anxious over breakfast, to listen intently to all the advice on offer, to struggle with an aching body, to want desperately to be able to smoothly catch waves with gracious ease.

The ‘Takeaways’

Like surfing, telemarking is a hard thing to learn, my journey as an intermediate surfer has taught me to empathise more with anyone learning to tele, the parallels are endless. As a sports coach, I fully appreciate how hard surfing must be to teach, the environment being far more fluid and unpredictable than the mountains, but last week reminded me of some fundamental principles to bear in mind when learning to telemark.

Choice of Terrain

Whether you’ll be skiing with Tele Tracks or not, it’s so important to learn on the correct terrain. Telemarking is fundamentally very challenging in terms of balance, timing and coordination. Varying snow and terrain challenge all three of these skills. Make sure the resort you choose has enough really low angle and wide terrain. Preferably with a chair lift to take you back up and a bar at the top!

Nicko powder

Choice of Equipment

One thing’s for sure, getting the right kit will help you ski better for longer. We love Rottefella NTN bindings, with a big preference for the Freeride over the Freedom, for both performance and durability. The only other NTN binding that I would personally highly recommend is the Outlaw from 22Designs.

Task must be Achievable

To learn, we must be able to achieve the task. Of course, a hard drill or task is a good one, in my coaching, if people can’t achieve the task then I’m happy we’ve found something that needs fixing, but the coach must change the terrain or break down the task into more manageable parts, before building back up again. Give me a wave that I can actually catch, before teaching me how to turn on it…


One of the best outcomes of being a Kook on a surfboard is gym motivation! This summer I’ve been reading a couple of classic weight training books ‘Starting Strength’ and ‘Bigger Leaner Stronger’. The key lesson: The easiest way to get 10% better at your sport is to get stronger.

Sore Quads? Do Some Olympic Lifts…

Both authors preach the importance of compound exercises for the posterior chain, particularly the full depth squat and the deadlift.

If you get sore thighs when telemarking, then try improving your posterior chain. Strong hamstrings and glutes will share the work load with your quads. Now’s the time to start thinking about gym preparation for the winter. I’m doing short weights sessions comprising just three Olympic Lifts. Having read the technical details, I’m very confident it will give me functional strength for telemark skiing.

Telemark fail

The Benefits of Learning

Of course, context is important when we’re learning something new. It’s not just about mastering how to surf, or telemark the powder. Learning keeps us young, motivates us to get fitter, helps us make new friends, travel the world and see new places and importantly understand and respect the environment.

Why Ski With us?

Next winter, if you’d like to ski with us; we’ll choose the right terrain, set achievable tasks, rent you some awesome NTN kit and stop for coffee in the best mountain bar when your quads are on fire.

Most importantly, we know how it feels learning something new, and we know how it feels when you finally nail it. And when you do, we’ll be just as thrilled as you!

Hope to see you on the mountain.

Less Heel More Soul, Enjoy the Journey!

Ben and Nicko