Riverside resident Ian Hughes was 11 when his father, who would drive him to the beach to surf, suggested that he try taking the train.
Hughes, however, found that per its policy, Metrolink did not allow surfboards on board.
“They were really against it and we really wanted to do it, so it was kind of annoying,” Hughes, now 16, recalled of attempts he and his friends made. “They allow bikes, why shouldn’t they allow surfboards?”
As the young Hughes grew upset that he couldn’t go surfing, his father suggested that he write to Metrolink and elected officials and make that suggestion. Hughes’ efforts caught the attention of Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, and Borja Leon, another avid surfer and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s director of transportation. Both pushed for policy change.
“Getting staff to start wrapping their heads around this concept, I think that took a lot of kind of pressure to have them look into it, evaluate it and really convince them that it would be a good idea,” said Leon, who is an alternate on the Metrolink Board of Directors.
Two years ago, the Metrolink board voted to modify its policy and allow surfboards. But it wasn’t a smooth ride from there – designing the netted shelves and bumping out bicycle racks to make room for them took time.
But finally, on May 6, every train in the system was equipped with a bike/surfboard car capable of accommodating up to five, 6-foot-4 boards.
“It’s funny, but when I began there was a bit of frustration, saying, ‘Oh, I’ll have my driver license by the time this happens, I won’t need to take the train,’ and of course that’s what happened,” said Hughes, who got his license in November. “But the train is nicer. When you factor in gas and convenience, I will honestly take the train.”
Inland residents such as Hughes can avoid traffic on the 91 Freeway and I-5 by taking the Inland Empire-Orange County Line and the Orange County Line to the San Clemente and Oceanside stations, right by the sand. Alternatively, riders can take Metrolink to Los Angeles Union Station and then take Metro, which began allowing surfboards on its subways and light rail systems with the launch last year of Expo Line service to Santa Monica.
Though the policy change took time, there wasn’t much opposition, including from bikers.
“We feel it’s a nice blend of two very Southern California-esque activities that would be of interest for a large scope of people,” Metrolink spokesman Scott Johnson said.
Metrolink began offering summer beach trains for weekend riders to the Orange County and San Diego coasts in 2012, and those connections have become part of the system’s…