"THIS DROP HAUNTED ME."
ITWAS A BIG DROP – ABOUT 1,5 METRES DOWN. Long, too: you had to clear a metre or more of rocks to reach the landing. This drop had been haunting me since I first saw it two years before.
On this particular day, I’d already been standing on the edge for nearly 20 minutes. I had ridden the slower B-line around it in a race the day before, and losing that time bothered me immensely. I had come back specifically to conquer it, and I knew I could – if only I could beat down my fear.
The longer I stood, the more I realised something: I wasn’t afraid of the drop. I was afraid of how my fear might cause me to act. I knew I had the skills to sail safely to the landing; but what if I panicked, and slammed on the brakes at the worst possible moment?
I rolled in. Once, twice, six times, each time skidding to a stop and aborting at the last minute. Seven roll-ins. I cried. I yelled. I tried to visualise success, but all I saw was myself being carried out on a stretcher. Eight. Nine. Ten.
And then something snapped. I was tired of being scared. I was tired of thinking about this damn drop. While I was still afraid, my frustration had overwhelmed the fear, and suddenly I could visualise myself hitting it – and landing smoothly. With that image in my mind, I could see that it was actually easy.
I went back to my starting point, and rolled in one more time. I let off the brakes, looked beyond the landing, and pushed off the lip of the jump just the right amount. I landed exactly where I wanted to. And then it was over. I was fine.
I was overcome by a relief so intense I nearly vomited. I never wanted to do it again. But I knew I needed to – I had to cement it in my mind now as something I could do, so that when I came back, I wouldn’t think twice. I hiked back up to the take-off and did it twice more. By my third time, my stomach no longer lurched and my hands no longer shook. Where there had once been fear, there was now confidence.
WHAT SHE DID RIGHT REPEAT! Syd was still afraid, even after landing the feature once. That stemmed from a lack of confidence in her skills, says Wise. But by nailing the drop three times, she gave herself hard evidence that she could do it. In other words, “She hit her fear over the head with a hammer, then whacked it a few more times to make sure it was dead,” Wise says.