The Coast News Group
Surfing legend Mike Doyle skiing Mammoth on a Bahne Monoski. Courtesy photo

Surfing frozen water

We who live in Southern California are so blessed. We live in one of the few regions of the world where we can surf and ski in the same day.

While I’ve never done both in a day, I have checked out the surf, found it storm-ravaged, and headed for the hills.

I began skiing on stiff, wooden skis and leather boots back in the mid-’60s. I didn’t try it again until the mid ’70s when my friend Ken Eichenberg talked me into (without much effort, I should add) spending a winter skiing in Vail, Colorado.

Friends of Ken’s, Abby Carver (RIP) and her boyfriend, Josh Dean, were living at Abby’s house in Vail and had room for us.

Before leaving, we visited the DAV in Oceanside, bought some used skis and parkas and gloves for around $20. Then we headed to Vail in one of those “we buy the first tank of gas, and you drive the car to its destination” deals.

It turned out to be not much of a deal at all, after the car broke down in Green River Utah, and we had to take a bus the rest of the way to Vail.

Abby, whose father was a major shareholder in Vail, secured a bartender’s job for me. I was given a free ski pass and didn’t start work until 4 each evening.

Upon my return to Southern California, I heard that inventor Bill Bahne was developing a single snow ski. The monoski was basically a snowboard (which was yet to be invented) except that the bindings were set parallel, like they were with standard skis.

Legendary surfer Mike Doyle (RIP) was the ski’s main test pilot, and while he carved deep surf-type arcs over mountain terrain, Bahne’s ski never quite caught on with the masses.

Inventor, entrepreneur, athlete Tom Simms made surfing on snow a reality for millions around the world after he made a single ski with bindings mimicking a surfing stance.

I took up snowboarding for a time after being gifted a snowboard in the late ’80s by surfing legend Joel Tudor. After a few attempts on a hardpacked local mountain, however, I suffered a debilitating shoulder injury caused by repeated falls on a surface so frozen, I could nearly see my reflection in it.

My collisions hurt, but I soon recovered. I hope that the young woman I plowed into while racing out of control down the mountain was as fortunate as I was. Sorry.

While I didn’t continue snowboarding, the sport did me the favor of returning me to the ocean, where a mistimed turn places you gently down into water, rather than slamming you onto ice.

Still, when I look to the east after a cold winter storm, and see the mountains wearing white caps while the ocean is torn up after being pelted by wind and rain, I think about taking a drive to higher elevations again.

We live in a wonderful world, don’t we.

Chris Ahrens’ latest passion project, the YouTube Channel GodnGangsters, can be viewed at: