How Shaun White Found a Winning Partner in Nina Dobrev

Nina Dobrev's romance with Olympian Shaun White started slow, but after nearly six months of quarantining together, the travel-loving, adventurous pair are on solid footing.

By Sarah Grossbart Sep 03, 2020 7:00 AMTags
Watch: Nina Dobrev & Shaun White Spark Romance Rumors

Spend enough time dating in Hollywood, and you'll come up with a plan for how to deal when a relationship goes sideways. 

Nina Dobrev's strategy, for instance, involves her passport. The Bulgaria-born, Canada-bred actress has "been kind of all over," she shared in a 2018 interview with Cosmopolitan. "I don't often splurge on material things; I splurge on flights and travel. I've been to Thailand, Japan, Australia, Brussels, Switzerland. [I like] discovering new cultures, meeting new people, getting away from my normal schedule. When you're in production, the schedules are so regimented. Every minute is scheduled to the T and you can't deviate. So when I'm not working, I like to have no schedule. I crave the opposite. I'm one of those people who works hard and plays hard—I go 130 percent in either direction."

And that wanderlust hits even harder when she's recovering from a split. Asked to share her tried-and-true breakup strategy, she told the mag, "A plane ticket, a glass of tequila and a group of girlfriends."

Though having a promising new romantic prospect tag along works as well. 

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Like clockwork this winter, some three months removed from the end of a one-year romance with writer-director Grant Mellon, the 31-year-old booked it to a new adventure in South Africa.

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary as she posted 'grams from her trip to Cheetah Outreach and an early morning hike to the top of Lions Head Mountain. But as she continued to share snapshots from her safari getaway, a few of her more eagle-eyed followers noted that Olympian Shaun White seemed to be mirroring the actress' trip over on his own feed, down to the artsy, magic-hour solo shot in the middle of Kruger National Park. 

At first glance, The Vampire Diaries alum and the three-time Olympic gold medalist may not have seemed like obvious travel buddies—much less a winning match. And yet, months in to their coupling, Dobrev's pals are enthusiastically rooting them on.  

The actress having dated TVD costar Ian Somerhalder for three years, followed by relationships with actors Austin StowellGlen Powell and then filmmaker Mellon, "Shaun is a departure from previous guys Nina has been with," a source told E! News in March. "Her friends are pleasantly surprised."

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Dobrev and White, meanwhile, are just plain thrilled that their tentative, let's-see-where-this-goes connection has blossomed into a full-fledged thing, something they didn't quite expect when they were ringing in 2020 together in Las Vegas, introduced by mutual friends. "They eased into the relationship slowly," an insider explained to E! News. But once quarantine hit, the absence of work and most social gatherings gave them nothing but time together. Said the insider, "Things have really accelerated during this social distancing period." 

Recently returned from a late August jaunt to Tulum, Mexico—a group trip that, perhaps, served as an early celebration for the snowboarder's 34th birthday today—the pair "are in a great place," the insider continued, adding that the unique situation helped them jell: "Nina and Shaun are passionately connected to each other after spending nearly every day of the last several months together."

And White truly may be the guy Dobrev was always looking for. 

Because tell us she wasn't describing the 10-time ESPY winner when she detailed her ideal partner to Cosmo back in 2013, saying, "You either have chemistry or you don't, but a lot of what attracts me is a guy's mind and humor and talent." Perhaps a record-breaking 13 gold X Games medals?

And while the actress—set to star in and executive produce a television series based on the 2019 novel Woman 99—appreciated "a man in a suit looking put together and dapper," she said, "I also kind of like the I-just-rolled-out-of-bed, a-little-bit-of-scruff, effortless, not-trying-hard-but-still-sexy guy."

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Dobrev checks off White's boxes as well. 

During his last Olympic run in 2018, the athlete described to People what kept his relationship with then-girlfriend Phantogram rocker Sarah Barthel, gliding along. "We live in two different worlds, so that's why it's nice to come together and share stories from the road," he explained. And though Dobrev is an avid snowboarder herself, safe to say she won't be critiquing White's Double McTwist 1260. 

White also said he appreciates someone who not only gets his peripatetic lifestyle, but lives it themselves: "It's nice to not have somebody like, 'When are you coming home?'" he noted. "They get it, they understand being on the road."

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And he just might have found that forgiving, adventurous partner in Dobrev.  

"Their friends were surprised at first about the relationship but now that they've seen them together it actually makes a lot of sense," a source explained to People this spring. Because, as it turns out, their list of commonalities extends far beyond equally demanding careers and a stamp-filled passport. "Nina and Shaun share a lot of similarities," the insider tells E! News, "they are both very positive, and social and enjoy spending time outdoors and staying active."

Unintentionally going public with their coupling in March—a joint bike ride in Malibu blowing their cover—the duo pretty much gave up on pretending they weren't exploring the country together, each posting about their spring "#QuaranTrip" through Lake Powell, Utah, Nevada and Arizona's Red Rock State Park as well as a July 4 snowboarding getaway. 

By late May, they'd fully ripped the band-aid off, giving fans a peek at Dobrev's hairdresser skills in their first joint 'gram. "Nina doesn't take sharing her personal life very lightly," the insider explains to E! News. "It shows how happy and secure she is with Shaun and their relationship that she is willing to take this step."

Nina Dobrev / Instagram

And that chemistry Dobrev mentioned? It's certainly there, as evidenced by their August ocean romp in Mexico—a piggyback ride and deep water smooch the stuff of rom-com highlight reels. 

"Nina and Shaun complement each other very well," the insider told E! News. "They have similar energy, they both are fun, low-maintenance people who like to laugh." 

So the two thrill-seeking, fun-loving, adventure-seekers may just emerge from 2020 as one of the year's best success stories. After nearly six months in quarantine (a stretch we'd estimate is equal to roughly six years in regular time), "Nina and Shaun have made it clear to their friends that they are a serious couple," says the insider. "They feel very strongly about each other and see long-term potential in this relationship." 

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