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Column: Snowboarding is all the rage in Southern California

Some of the world’s top snowboarders gathered last weekend in Encinitas — a mecca for world-competing skateboarders, surfers and snowboarders — yes, snowboarders.

The attraction was the screening of a new 45-minute film at La Paloma Theatre highlighting death-defying jumps, tricks and breathtaking mountain descents by a fearless group of top young athletes.

The snowboard flick, “Fleeting Time,” took two years to film on slopes in Alaska, British Columbia, California, Idaho, Japan, Oregon and Wyoming.

It marks the directorial debut of Ben Ferguson, a 27-year-old snowboarder from Bend, Ore., working with Homestead Creative and co-producing with Red Bull Media House, which is lead sponsor of a multi-city screening tour. It will be followed by a week-long free digital premiere on Red Bull TV Nov. 3-9.

The irony is that many of the snowboarding film stars have ties (and some own homes) here in sunny San Diego County.

“Southern California is a magnet for world-class athletes regardless of what sport you do,” says Hailey Langland, 22, one of two featured females in the film.

“It’s a great place to get a break from the mountains and resettle before the season starts.”

Veteran snowboarder Hailey Langland, of San Clemente, plays a key role in a new snowboarding film that screened in Encinitas.

Veteran snowboarder Hailey Langland, of San Clemente, plays a key role in a new snowboarding film that screened in Encinitas Oct. 8 and 9.

(Tom Monterosso/Red Bull content pool)

Langland’s boyfriend of four years, Red Gerard, 22, bought a home in Oceanside this summer, where the couple plans to take brief layovers in summer when not on tour.

“For me, surfing and being at the beach complements time I spend in the mountains snowboarding and in the cold weather,” Langland says.

Gerard officially lives in Silverthorne, Colo., where he built a miniature snowboarding park with a rope tow in his back yard.

I caught up with the couple by phone in Switzerland, where they flew after the Encinitas screening to begin training in the Swiss mountains.

Their movie colleague Mark McMorris, a three-time Olympic bronze medalist, is from Saskatchewan, Canada, but has long owned a getaway home in Encinitas. In 2020, McMorris surpassed the 18 X Game medals record of legendary snowboarder Shaun White, and he stars in his own video game.

Brock Crouch, another film participant, lives in Carlsbad and attended the screening. His career was on hold after he was caught in an avalanche in Whistler, Canada, in the spring of 2018.

The ordeal broke his back, ruptured his pancreas and knocked out his front teeth, but he survived after being buried alive for five-to-six minutes under 6 to 7 feet of show. He recalls feeling “like I was just stuck in concrete.”

Crouch, 23, also surfs competitively and has taken part in the Junior World Surfing Championships.

Filmmaker Ferguson, whose grandfather was born in Carlsbad and whose great uncle still lives there, notes that George Burton Carpenter bought a home here. He’s the eldest son of the late Jake Burton Carpenter, who founded Burton Snowboards and is hailed as one of the inventors of the modern snowboard.

And let’s not forget that snowboarding Olympian Shaun White, now 36, graduated from Carlsbad High School.

These athletes are attracted by the strong action sports community, Ferguson says. Plus, an abundance of good surfing spots and parks for skateboarding, often off-season hobbies of the snowboard crowd, are key attractions.

North County also is home to sports magazines, including the new snowboard periodical, “Slush,” and others associated with the industry, its brands and top sponsors.

Langland admits that people seem a bit confused when they learn she grew up in the quaint surf town of San Clemente.

She first went snowboarding at age 5 with her dad at Bear Valley near Lake Tahoe and fell in love. By age 6, she was sponsored by Burton Snowboards. She won an X Games gold medal at age 16 and became an Olympian in 2018.

In “Fleeting Time,” Langland, who specializes in slopestyle, big air and superpipe competitions, was doing everything the guys were doing. She says her biggest challenge was manhandling the heavy snowmobiles up the mountain slopes at her diminutive weight of about 100 pounds and height of 5 feet.

“She has some amazing footage in the film,” Ferguson says. “People were losing it for her” — especially her frontside 720 (an aerial maneuver incorporating two full spins). “It was probably one of the best a female has ever done.”

Langland admits that maneuver was her most fearful moment of the film. She had just driven 7.5 hours from Washington state to reach Whistler, had gotten little sleep and was exhausted. Despite her reticence, she says it only took two tries to land the jump.

She found it especially gratifying that several females approached her after the La Paloma Theatre screening to say it was so inspiring to see (two) gals in the movie hitting the same maneuvers as the guys.

Ferguson describes “Fleeting Time” as a classic snowboarding movie with crazy big jumps, big tricks, high-octane shredding and big line riding — all captured in amazing photography and drone footage. A soundtrack of dramatic heavy metal, rock and punk heightens the adrenalin rush.

The most challenging aspect, he says, was trying to keep calm during the slow production times.

“We just chased storms. A week in advance we’d find out where it was going to snow the most, roll the dice and helicopter or drive snowmobiles in,” says Ferguson, who co-stars in the film with his brother, Gabe, and several of their friends.

Every participant is highly trained in safety, takes avalanche recognition and rescue courses and is equipped with first aid and survival gear. The closest avalanche call they had was in Haines, Alaska, where they encountered a sketchy layer of snowpack. Some movement occurred and airs in the film.

Ferguson and Gerard hope to collaborate on a future snowboarding film project that’s less time consuming, perhaps for release on YouTube.

“I just hope this inspires younger kids to get out there and snowboard,” Gerard says of “Fleeting Time.” Judging by its audience of about 500 in Encinitas, it will.