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Learn From California’s Top Athletes and Pros

Learn From California’s Top Athletes and Pros
Learn how to surf, race cars, golf, and more, with lessons from some of the world’s best athletes and pros

There’s good reason why California is home to a plethora of world-class athletes—it’s the ultimate outdoor playground, year-round. But don’t just take our word for it. These pros want to show you why (and how) they train and play in the Golden State. Embark on one of these only-in-California experiences for a big-time athletic boost.

Catch a Wave Like Keanu Reeves

Think of any Hollywood flick with a surfing-related plot line (Point Break, Blue Crush, Soul Surfer, to name a few), and chances are John Philbin taught the starring actors how to surf. But you needn’t be an A-lister to paddle out with Philbin—the lifelong surfer who founded Malibu-based Pro Surf Instruction in 1999 to teach anyone how to ride waves. When he’s not traveling the world in pursuit of good surf or for film gigs, he offers both group and private lessons on ocean safety, surfing etiquette, and how to paddle through—and catch—waves, all with a mind-set of appreciation. “[Surfing is] a rare gift and a privilege, something very few people on our planet have the opportunity to do,” says Philbin. “I try to teach gratitude, respect, and humility for that privilege.”

Run Wild in Mammoth  

The Mammoth Lakes area supplies the stunning mountain scenery, and Olympian Deena Kastor provides the pro coaching for her Escape camp for runners of all levels. Kastor, the American women’s record-holder in the half marathon and marathon, shares her favourite trails in this iconic running town during a weekend that’s more focused on wellness and fun than hardcore workouts. You’ll experience firsthand Kastor’s passion for helping other runners become better—and happier—by nurturing a positive, grateful attitude. And because Kastor is also a gourmet chef, she’s made eating well at camp a top priority. Campers even have the chance to roll up their sleeves with her in the kitchen during a cooking class. Home base is the upscale Westin Monache Resort, where you’ll stay in a private mountain-chic suite.

Up Your Golf Game With a Hall of Famer

Love golf? The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe rolls out the red carpet for golfers during a weekend with LPGA superstar Annika Sörenstam. She makes an annual visit to this luxury resort at Northstar California to mingle and play with guests. Winner of 72 LPGA tournaments (10 of them major championships), Sörenstam is widely heralded as one of the best women to ever play the game. If you’re a member of The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Program, you can hang with Sorenstam during a private reception, then take part in a 90-minute golf clinic with her the next day. The weekend includes a two-night stay in a deluxe room and 18 holes at the Old Greenwood Golf Course, a Jack Nicklaus signature course, in nearby Truckee.

Rev Your Engine

There’s no better place to fulfil your need for speed than the Skip Barber Racing School at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey. Here you can take to the famed road-racing track for instruction and behind-the-wheel time with veteran racers (student alumni over the school’s 40-year history include NASCAR and Indy-car stars like Jeff Gordon and all of the Andrettis). If you’re newer to the motorsports world, sign up for the Intro to Racing School, a three-hour session that puts you in the driver’s seat of a formula car for intense lead-follow sessions. For a more immersive experience, opt for the 1 Day Racing School (there is also a three-day program), which gives drivers deeper instruction on vehicle dynamics, plus more car options and time on the track.

Bump, Set, Spike…With an Olympian

Nothing reflects quintessential SoCal culture like a rousing game of beach volleyball. Now you can play at Santa Barbara’s iconic East Beach with American beach volleyball legend (and long-time local) Todd Rogers through the Biltmore Four Seasons Santa Barbara. The two-time Olympian and gold medallist will help you hone your volleyball skills (instruction can be tailored to any age and skill level), then you’ll play a match. Want to know what it’s like to be a top player on the pro beach volleyball tour for 19 years? There’ll be plenty of time to talk and relax during your catered picnic lunch. And because Rogers is a native, he’s also happy to share tips for making the most of your time on and off the beach in his fair city. 

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