Surf and Ski Before the Sun Sets
We sat on the beach as pro-surfer Damien Hobgood stood in front of us with a welcoming grin. The waves behind him were tumultuous, a stark contrast to his demeanor, as he welcomed and invited everyone to complete the California Double. I immediately got goose bumps all over my body. For those who don’t know, the California Double is an athletic adventure that can only be completed in a few places on earth – surfing and skiing in the same day. Having been a resident of Southern California for roughly three years, I was envious every time I heard the California Double mentioned, so when I had the opportunity to take part in one I was thrilled!
Myself, along with a handful of media members, whose surfing and skiing skills varied from low to intermediate, met in Huntington Beach early one morning. We approached the welcoming tents adorned with the logos of the event sponsors, Chevy and Fox Head Sports Inc. While waiting for Hobgood to finish taking photos, everyone shivered their way into wetsuits and picked out a surfboard from the provided lot. The waves were only moderately big that day, at times overhead, but the rip currents and wind made conditions difficult for all but Mr. Hobgood.
I grabbed my board and headed toward the water, pausing a few moments to wait for a set of waves to finish, then quickly paddled out before the next set started closing out on the shore. It took a few moments before I saw a wave that I thought I had enough of a shoulder to ride, but my patience paid off as a promising wave started to build. I spun around toward shore and paddled quickly. The wave had a lot of energy. I dropped in heading to my left, hunched over, one hand guiding my outside rail. I performed a few turns up and down the face of the wave and ascended one last time, kicking out at the last second to avoid being buried in a frothy salt-laden wash cycle. With a grin on my face and a racing pulse, I had completed phase one of the California Double.
From Huntington Beach, we drove northeast for two hours toward Snow Summit in the San Bernardino Mountains. The beach gradually gave way to desert topography then pine-populated mountains. We crawled up the switchback roads to an elevation of 6,965 feet, and upon arriving were greeted by the warm sun and a cool breeze. I was more concerned with this portion of the Double as I had never skied before. I picked up my rental gear and struggled to put it on. Luckily, a seasoned vet spotted me wrestling with it and showed me how to put on my boots so that they would be comfortable. I exited the locker room, the gentleman’s earlier comment, “This is a gear-centric sport,” echoing in my head with each awkward, wobbly step I took. Moving with the grace of a toddler, I went over to meet my instructor, Laurie, for a lesson. She approached me and was excited to help me “conquer” skiing, confident that she would be able to help me ski down the mountain…at least once.
We set to the task of learning how to propel forward and make a controlled stop. I pressed on, unashamed of my rigid stance and timidness. After a few short conveyor belt rides and slow descents, Laurie instructed me to head for the ski lift. I entered and exited the lift just fine, following Laurie’s instructions exactly. We made two slow, multi-stop runs to the bottom as Laurie gave me pointers from nearby. The park was about to close, so we took one last ride on the lift to the top of the slope. This time Laurie felt confident in my abilities not to kill myself, and exclaimed, “Follow me down this time!” On my final run of the day, I zipped down that bunny slope, triumphantly towering over small children, slowly weaving my way back and forth down the mountain with a grin on my face. Phase two complete!