Pretty much the only things you are born knowing how to do are breathing and sleeping. So when you see someone doing something you would love to try, at a level you can't imagine getting to, just remember that at one point they were a beginner too. They had to overcome the fear of trying something new, just like you. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone doing these sports and activities have some level of natural talent for it, which as a beginner, it can feel like you don't have. But what we don't see are the hours of practice, gradual improvement, trial and error, and fun that being a beginner entails. To help illustrate the importance of that one first step we asked a few of the most talented athletes we know to talk about the joys of being a beginner and the importance of trying something new. Listen to their stories and then check out the bottom of the page where we outline some useful info for tearing down the barriers of entry into a new sport or activity.
- Renting - while not the most efficient method over a long period of time, renting gear is an excellent way to try something out if you aren't yet sure you will love it enough to go more than just once. Dipping your toes in is a great way to find out if something is for you!
- Buying used gear - New gear is NOT mandatory! When you are starting out the features found in the 'latest' models will likely be things you wouldn't benefit from or even notice at the beginner level. So looking at used gear is almost always the best choice! Each year there are usually some events for sales of used gear, or even discounted gear, if that sport is currently out of season. These can happen at individual stores or even bigger events with multiple companies. Search around your local area or ask around online and you might just find a much cheaper way in than all new gear! When buying used items from an individual seller though there is no guarantee coming with the gear you are buying, so it is best if you have a friend who is knowledgeable who can help you make sure you are getting a decent deal.
- Borrowing from friends - This method does require a decent network of friends and isn't always possible, but is one of the main benefits of finding a group of people who are already engrained in the sport to go adventure with (which is discussed more in the next section).
- Joining your friends - This is without a doubt the most ideal circumstance for trying a new activity in the outdoors. Having friends who are already knowledgeable allows you to get guidance, a possibility of being able to borrow gear, AND you get to spend time with your friends. Even if they aren't the closest of friends, a lot of people get really excited to take new people along. This is why it is often a good idea to make your desire to try a certain sport or activity known, and possibly link up with friends you didn't even know were into it too!
- Going with friends who are also new - while this method doesn't come with the same benefits as we just mentioned, one huge advantage to going with friends who are also beginners is the reassurance of not being alone at your skill level. When dipping your toes in it is much more comforting to have a shared experience of learning and if needed going at a slower pace.
- Finding brand new friends - Most outdoor sports and activities have groups dedicated to outings and almost all of these have an online presence. Some quick searches online and maybe a few posts on a message board and you can often find one of these groups and they can be an amazingly supportive and fun entry point to any sport.
- Unfamiliar environments - many outdoor sports will take you into landscapes and weather you might not be used to. The first thing you'll want to check is what clothing you might need. Will it be windy, snowing, raining? Are any special types of footwear recommended? Would a wind-proof shell be better or a fully insulated waterproof jacket? Correct clothing is the first step in making sure you're happy in the outdoors.
- Hazards - These unfamiliar environments can sometimes come with inherent risks; for example, typical types of hazards include icy roads at higher elevations which require tire chains, erosion creating unstable bluffs, risk of avalanches, or simply just uneven terrain. Practically all these risks can be mitigated with some simple research. Knowing where (or where not) and when (or when not) to go and having a basic idea of what to watch out for can allow you to get adventuring safely.
- etiquette - In the outdoors there are often formal rules you have to follow, but sometimes there are some unwritten (but equally important) ones as well. The official rules can usually be found on the official website for whatever institution manages the space you're planning to visit. For example the website for a state or national park. But to learn the more subtle and unspoken etiquette a great place to look is YouTube or blogs from nearby communities and people who frequent these spaces. There are tons of videos on park etiquette for skiing and snowboarding, tips for camping near others, and pretty much any activity you can think of.
Getting Hurt – From walking down the street to climbing an ice glacier, it is undeniable that any adventure carries an inherent risk of injury. However, proper training, equipment and precautions can help mitigate the risk major injury. The level of risk varies wildly based on the activity, but you should be prepared to get a few booboo ouchies every now and again when trying something new. The amazing thing though is how quickly you can toughen up from these experiences. You will notice a heightened tolerance for these sorts of things and, as a side effect, your self-confidence usually skyrockets. This is why many experienced outdoors enthusiasts consider the risk of getting hurt to be one of the biggest attractions of their chosen activity.
- fear of embarrassment - For a lot of people this one is actually more frightening than the risk of injury. We've all heard about aggressive "experts" being less than welcoming to newcomers, but those are usually blown way out of proportion. If you show genuine interest in the sport or activity people will recognize that and encourage you or sometimes even offer to help you out. A good way to do this is to learn the etiquette (like we mentioned above). Knowing and sticking to which areas are good for beginners and making sure to follow the rules (both written and otherwise) give you the best chance of having fun and being welcomed into that activity's community.
- fear of the unknown - This one should be the biggest transformation in your journey into the outdoors. When you are starting out the idea of jumping headfirst into something when you have no frame of reference for what to expect can be terrifying. But if you do it right, eventually, this will start to be exactly what you look for in life.