Some people surf, some people snowboard, some people surf and snowboard, and evidently in Southern California, some people surf and snowboard in one day! Referred by some as the “California Double,” it’s a goal every winter for many to go snowboarding and surfing in Southern California in one day. It’s one of the perks of Southern California, especially, where you have access to miles of coastline to the west and towering mountain ranges to the east. And evidently I am now one of those Californians.
Growing up in
Middle Earth the Piedmont of North Carolina, my parents would use every excuse possible to break for either the mountains or beach, since they were both equal distances away. I would sit and watch skiers and surfers with such envy on every trip, wishing if nothing else, to feel a part of that culture. So when I moved to California, as cliche as it would make me feel, I was resolved to give surfing and snowboarding a shot.
Two years later and all of a sudden snowboarding and paddleboarding are among my favorite things to do. Alright, so I didn’t become a surfer. As it turns out, I have terrible balance and it took me a full week of surf camp to actually get up on a surfboard. Let’s just say that I have an asterisk every year when I say I’ve done the California Double of snowboarding and surfing in Southern California in one day.
Southern California is unique in that it’s one of the only places where you can so easily (we’ll use that term lightly) surf and ski or snowboard in the same day, largely thanks to the accessibility of Bear Mountain, considered on of the best terrain parks in North America, being just 120 miles away from Los Angeles beaches. However, it requires some careful planning. For example, on a good day, you could be up to Bear Mountain in a little more than two hours. However, go on a Friday afternoon and you’re looking at several hours.
I’ve done the California Double differently in the last couple years. Last year, I was in the water in Malibu (getting pummeled by waves I may add) by sunrise, and then on the road to Bear Mountain (on its last day of the season) before rush hour traffic hit. It kind of became the California Triple, as I got back home in time to do a quick sunset hike up Runyon Canyon in Hollywood.
This year’s California Double, however, was much less planned. I got up a couple Fridays ago well before sunrise to get on the road to spend the day snowboarding at Bear Mountain, intending on arriving when the lifts opened. And I did, and with such a great winter we’ve had for skiing in California this year (Thanks El Niño), it was some of the best snowboarding I’ve done in Big Bear. By late morning, however, it was starting to get more crowded, and after getting plowed over twice…by the same skier…on the same run, I decided I was going to call it a day. So I bellied up to the bar at the bottom of Bear Mountain and enjoyed a $9 craft beer while I thought about what I wanted to do with the rest of my day off.
A couple hours later and I was pulling into Los Angeles by 2 p.m., with at least 3 hours of sunlight left. Needless to say, the decision had been made for me to make a beeline for Malibu. Unsure if I’d have time to pick up my board from home, I headed straight for Malibu to Malibu Surf Shack, located directly across the street from Malibu Pier. When the surf instructor told me I’d only have a couple hours to paddle, I told him that after spending the entire morning snowboarding, I’d be lucky if I was out there for an hour. And with that statement, it was like I had been initiated into a fraternity. He gave me a fist bump and turned to his co-worker, saying, “See dude, I told you it was possible to snowboard and surf in one day here.” It was the equivalent of getting carded, as I felt like I was back in college hanging with the bros. I considered asking them to take a photo with me, but I didn’t want to push my luck. And yes, as a matter of a fact, I was wearing a surf hat.
As it turns out, the afternoon turned into one of the most pleasant days I can ever remember having on the water in Southern California, allowing me about an hour and a half to paddle around the Malibu Pier before sunset, even catching a couple waves. What had started out as an impromptu day off to take a road trip, turned into my second, and favorite California Double.
Having snowboarded and surfed (or rather paddlesurfed) twice in one day now, I feel like I’ve learned a thing or two about doing the California Double, which I hope turns into an annual adventure for me. First and foremost, Southern California is probably the most accessible place to ski/snowboard and surf in one day, thanks to the proximity of the mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Theoretically, this winter you could be to the beach from the ski lifts in an hour and a half, thanks to smaller ski areas, such as Mt. Baldy, which have opened ski lifts this year after not being open in past years. With accessibility like that from Los Angeles, you could surf and ski all before lunchtime. Most other places in the world you’ll be in the car for several hours.
The success of it, however, in my opinion all depends on how you time it. Luckily, I managed to avoid both morning and evening rush hour traffic. It meant leaving by sunset and returning to Los Angeles early in the afternoon, but it meant only a few minutes of traffic, and then allowed me to be sitting in a bar having burgers and beers with friends at happy hour. Additionally, doing it on the weekend is going to produce different results, namely that the highways, mountain, and beach are likely to be much more crowded than if it was a weekday.
Last, but not least, doing the California Double this year was better with donuts and tacos. Let’s be honest, is there a more California trio than tacos, surfing, and snowboarding? Even for you health-conscious folks, you’ve deserved all of that and more. NOW, I feel like I can call myself a Californian, right? Cue SNL sketch.