The Cali Rally Paddles Through OC

The lagoon-style pool of the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel is surrounded by lounge chairs and palm trees, with groupings of wicker furniture around ornate fire pits. Most of the sun-worshipers look like they can afford to soak up the $500-per-night sunshine, though it’s not clear how the young men at the bar can afford to drink $7 beers all day. Maybe they’re faking it. The clouds have burned off, and the hotel suites surrounding the pool are mostly quiet. A man is reading Haruki Murakami’s novel Dance Dance Dance; a young girl in a white uniform that looks like a tennis outfit weaves around the chairs gathering used towels and plastic cocktail cups. All in all, it’s a very swanky Sunday afternoon at the Ritz-Carlton.

And then Molt and EG show up with a surfboard and a camera.

Right at the pool’s edge, Molt, a rough-around-the edges, pushing-40 guy, rips off his shirt but leaves on his jeans. EG stands in the shade of tropical shrub, camera in hand. Molt pauses in front of the pool, looks back to make sure EG is ready, then throws himself into the water with the shortboard in front of him. The board lands the water, and he lands on top of the board on his knees and starts paddling. EG snaps photos. A few people notice but seem content to ignore it. The security guard standing nearby is talking into her walkie-talkie—but that’s all she’s doing about these interlopers.

By the time a curious pool guest gets out of a cushy lounge chair to ask the pair what they’re doing, exactly, Molt already has one of those $7 beers in his hand. EG looks at the guard, still muttering into her walkie-talkie, then back at Molt and his dripping-wet jeans.

“You better chug that before they kick us out.”

“You wanna be in our mission?” Molt asks the questioner with a manic look in his eyes.

It turns out this apparently random act of jackassery has a purpose: Molt and EG are from Sector 9 Longboard Skateboards and Apparel, based in San Diego, and they’re teammates in Transworld Surf magazine’s Cali Rally. The Rally is in its third year of scavenger-hunt-style madness spanning the California coast from San Diego to Santa Cruz—nearly 500 miles of bro-tastic action sport antics.

There are four teams of four to six members each: Team Analog, the reigning champions; Team Sector 9; Team Ergo; and Team Rusty. The Rally began last weekend, at the Action Sports Retailers (ASR) convention in San Diego, where each team received a book listing more than 100 missions. Each one they complete, with photo proof, gets points for the team. Extra points can be awarded if the mission is completed with extra flair. The people back at the Transworld base tally it all up at the end.

The event’s kickoff was the Rally’s first checkpoint challenge—one of four along their journey north—which involved the Long Beach Roller Derby girls sharing a track with all these sweaty boys, oblivious to the body-contact rules and ruthlessly driving one another into the cold, hard floor. Someone dislocated a shoulder. In the end, Team Rusty won, in its “Where’s Waldo,” red-and-white-striped shirts and beanies. (Team Sector 9 wore leather jackets that looked like costumes from Grease 2.)

The real madness, though, happens between the checkpoints, when the boys are let loose upon the world with a set of ludicrous tasks meant to both rile up the locals and test how far each team will go to win. Paddling through public fountains, playing tennis naked, making out with MILFs—that kind of thing.

“We’re definitely doing illegal stuff,” says team captain EG.

Team Rusty also won checkpoint challenge two. At Fox’s Sidehack BMX Race of Death at Fox Headquarters in Irvine, bikes were Frankensteined into two-man machines. A driver, with a rider standing on the sidecar platform, circled the small dirt track behind the building.

EG isn’t worried, though. “It’s still anybody’s game,” he says.

The rules are flexible. Take, for example, the “Pose like a queen on the Queen Mary” challenge. EG suspects the other teams will dress in drag on the ship. He’s thinking he’ll get some extra points for creativity and style if the team dresses up as actual queens—a full, royal court of dudes in costume.

At some point between the Fox checkpoint and the Rally’s third in LA, the boys of Sector 9 drop off the map. According to the Transworld Surf blog, which tracks the teams’ progress, no one had heard from them. Then, all of a sudden, there’s a captioned photo of shirtless Molt and two team members, standing among a group of women on a street at night. The text reads, “Sector 9 got a bit sidetracked when they ran into a bachelorette party in downtown San Diego.”

There’s also a photo of another team member with a fresh “Transworld Surf HB” tattoo on his foot. Maybe there are a lot of extra points in showing that kind of commitment; three different guys in the Rally have been inked for the occasion thus far.

The mission at the Ritz-Carlton—which fell between checkpoints one and two—was called, simply, “Paddle across the Ritz-Carlton pool.” They could have used a kayak, but they stuck with a surfboard.

The predictable route didn’t leave EG satisfied with the first set of photos. In the end, a shot of one man in jeans kneeling on a board while paddling across the turquoise waters isn’t that crazy, especially if everyone is just ignoring them. EG orchestrates one last round of shots before the hotel’s security guard tires of their antics and tells them to move along.

“Okay. I want you to chug your beer, then throw the cup at the ground, then jump in again with your board and paddle,” EG directs.

Molt chugs the beer, throws the plastic cup to his side, and then slaps the surface of the water with his board again. He paddles to the other side, climbs out and takes his surfboard with him. The pair leaves from a back gate, trailing water and the security guard, calmly following them in her dark-blue skirt-suit, still holding the walkie-talkie to her mouth. No one else stirs. The man keeps reading, and the water smooths to a bare ripple—until a kid wearing floaties jumps in.

In spite of bachelorette parties and severe sleep deprivation that EG says he has after spending his free time at night editing the photo and video proof, the boys make it to the Long Beach Hooters for another checkpoint challenge. It turns out to be some mad combination of relay race, eating contest, hula-hoops and wet T-shirts. On the guys. (Team Ergo won.)

Having a conversation with EG about the Rally sometime after the Ritz-Carlton stunt isn’t easy. He answers the phone, saying, “Hold on, hold on, I’m at the register. I hate walking up there on my cell phone.”

The captain is managing a few things at once: getting food, talking on the phone, talking to his team, and then, from the sound of it, getting into a car. So where are they heading next?

“Right now,” he answers, “we’re on our way to pick a team member up from jail.”

But that’s standard operating procedure in the Cali Rally. Countless bystanders left behind, scratching their chins while asking, Why? What’s the point of all this? Cops, girls, beer and boards. Broken bones, bruises and tattoos. In this case, the journey is the destination.

“If you can’t multitask at the Cali Rally,” says EG, “you may as well go home and lock yourself in the closet.”



This article appeared in print as “Rally Junkies: Why did a couple of dudes paddle across the Ritz-Carlton pool? For the Cali Rally, of course.”

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