The inaugural California Decathlon
By Dave Zook
In 1912 at the Olympics in Stockholm, King Gustav of Sweden told the American Jim Thorpe, “You sir, are the world’s greatest athlete.”
Thorpe had just won the Olympic Decathlon, a track and field event held over two days with ten disciplines. It has informally been said since that the world’s greatest athlete title goes to the Decathlon winner.
Well, I did ten events in one day on May 21, 2017, so will I be getting recognition from any Swedish royalty?
No. Absolutely not. But I, and several others, did have an absurdly fun time in my sport-packed version of a ten-event day, dubbing the day the “California Decathlon,” as it was all done in Cali, from Tahoe to Santa Cruz.
The day started tranquil with a pre-dawn start to go 1) hiking up to Eagle Rock on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe with friends Dylan and Shannon and my girlfriend Kelly. The hike was about ten minutes up, and many “sports” were designed for ease, but some slack would be appreciated as running logistics on such a day proved tough. Next we hit the sheet-glass waters of Tahoe for a 2) SUP session and doddled peacefully about, enjoying the fact I was well ahead of my strict, Excel Spreadsheet-written itinerary.
If there was any meaning to the day (which let’s be clear, there was not), it would have been to celebrate the epic 2016/17 winter. The thick May snowpack allowed us a short skin up the backside of the closed Alpine Meadows resort, and the snow turned soft as we dropped for a 3) backcountry ski.
Post breakfast burritos, Dylan, Kelly, and myself headed to Squaw Valley — with 724” of snow for the season — to meet Anthony at Squaw Valley for some 4) park skiing (yes I realize it’s still skiing, but backcountry and park skiing are two different animals in my book). We popped a few jumps on the still-well maintained terrain park.
Now disconcertingly behind schedule, Kelly and myself drove to Santa Cruz. Then we got stuck in traffic. Then a friend bailed on the day, then it hit almost 100 in Sacramento. But finally making it to SC, I rolled around and called it 5) skateboarding at Ken Wormhoudt skate park with enormous concrete walls. That was a truly sad effort, I’ll concede, and I really suck at skating.
In the parking lot a small group assembled — including my brother Andrew — to resurrect the time-honored stoner sport of 6) hackey sacking (hacking in a skate parking lot? So Cali). It took us nearly 20 minutes to complete a hack, but dammit we did it.
My friend Gato and I zipped up to the rolling hills behind UCSC for a quick 7) mountain bike rip down some clean banked turns, tight trees, and quality dirt. Re-invigorated from my skating shame I linked back up with my brother at the ever-classic Steamer Lane for an evening 8) surf with Kelly.
There was no one else out at the Lane, which is amazing — until you realize why. It was tiny, high tide, and almost dark. Luckily my brother squeaked away with a wave, as the surfing performance was not off the charts, regretfully.
It was essentially dark but Kelly and I headed to nearby It’s beach for a 9) boogie boarding sesh. One slider to the beach and I was done, but it brought back some pre-teen thrills and memories.
The finale was to run a 10) beer mile. For the unknowing: You chug a beer, run a quarter mile and repeat four times making for one mile and four beers. Lacking a proper track, I did it on the Santa Cruz wharf, guesstimating what a quarter mile was. Kelly was on support, cracking beers for me. Swaying on my feet, a little dizzy, and quite nauseous, I ran like a hurt turtle through the finish line, pumped my fist and belched several times. Crown me athlete Numero Uno Gustav!