To Catalina Island, by Water Skis

Call the annual race the most invigorating way to visit Avalon.

HOW MANY WAYS... are there to get to Catalina Island from mainland Southern California? "A boat" is a fine initial answer, as that's how most people do it. "A helicopter" or "a plane" are both on the list, so feel free to hit the buzzer and shout it out, because you'll get a gold star. "Swimming"? Well, yes, there are many people who've donned a bathing suit and championed the Catalina Channel, but no day-tripper to Avalon would likely go this route, as a channel swim requires a team of supporters, lots of training, and the incredibly impressive ability to plow, hand over hand, through open ocean waves. As for other ways to get to the island that's a famous 22 miles from the coast? Nope, as much as you wish for it a Catalina bison won't swim over and pick you up. Nope, there's not an under-the-Pacific Chunnel of sorts from Los Angeles to Catalina (not yet, anyway).

BUT WATER SKIS? Ah yes: You can reach Catalina Island by being pulled, at a high speed, by a speedy vessel. In fact, several bold water skiers do just this, each summer, and have for well over a half century. The annual Catalina Ski Race has been zooming for 67 years, in fact, which puts it in the "venerable" category in terms of long-running California competitions. Even if you don't feel like taking a very fast trip to Avalon, and back to Long Beach, while hanging fast to a rope and handle, you can still head out to the Queen Mary on the morning of Saturday, July 18 to cheer the hardy adventurers on who shall make the much-photographed yearly run.

MAKE THAT VERY EARLY MORNING: The legendary Long Beach ocean-liner is opening a viewing area to the starting line, and spectators can sip upon Bloody Marys and mimosas as the competitors don their helmets and sunscreen. Start time at the ship is 7 a.m., and if you're wondering how many miles total the water ski brigade'll cover, 62 is the answer. It's a rousing morning full of old-fashioned sport and derring-do, but one that is fun to watch and ponder, too. And it is quite charming how there are not that many ways to reach Avalon in our now super-accessible world, and it is charming that "water skis" is one of the principal ways come a very special summer morning. Though we still wish we could ride over, once, like some mythical character on the back of a bison, but we're pretty sure those ol' Catalina bison are doing just fine sticking to the island's hillsides far above the Pacific Ocean.

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