How Shaun White Found a Winning Partner in Nina Dobrev

Nina Dobrev’s romantic journey with Olympian Shaun White may have had a slow start, but after three years together, this travel-loving and adventurous couple seems to be heading towards a lifelong commitment.

When you date in Hollywood for long enough, you inevitably develop a plan for handling relationships when they take unexpected turns.

For Nina Dobrev, her strategy often involves her passport. The Bulgaria-born, Canada-raised actress revealed in a 2018 interview with Cosmopolitan that she has a penchant for traveling and exploring the world. She said, “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.”

In other words, she loves the freedom of having no schedule at all, especially when dealing with the aftermath of a breakup. When asked about her go-to breakup remedy, she said, “A plane ticket, a glass of tequila, and a group of girlfriends.”

However, having a promising new romantic interest by her side works just as well.

In early 2020, just three months after ending a one-year relationship with writer-director Grant Mellon, the 34-year-old actress embarked on a new adventure in South Africa.

At first, nothing seemed out of the ordinary as she shared photos from her trip, including visits to Cheetah Outreach and a hike up Lions Head Mountain. But as she continued to post snapshots from her safari getaway, some of her more observant followers noticed that Olympian Shaun White seemed to be on a parallel adventure, mirroring her travels on his own social media, right down to the artistic, magic-hour solo shot in the middle of Kruger National Park.

At first glance, Nina Dobrev, known for her role in “The Vampire Diaries,” and the three-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White might not have seemed like obvious travel companions, let alone a perfect match. However, three years into their relationship, Dobrev’s friends are wholeheartedly cheering them on.

Having previously dated her TVD co-star Ian Somerhalder for three years and then having relationships with actors Austin Stowell, Glen Powell, and filmmaker Grant Mellon, Dobrev’s choice of Shaun White was a departure from her previous partners, according to a source who spoke to E! News in March 2020. The source stated, “Her friends are pleasantly surprised.”

Meanwhile, Dobrev and White are thrilled that their initial, “let’s see where this goes” connection has evolved into a full-fledged relationship, something they hadn’t quite anticipated when they welcomed 2020 together in Las Vegas, introduced by mutual friends. An insider explained to E! News, “They eased into the relationship slowly.” However, when quarantine struck, and work and social events became scarce, they found themselves with ample time together. The insider added, “Things have really accelerated during this social distancing period.”

They’ve already achieved many relationship milestones, from celebrating their first Thanksgiving and Christmas together to tackling a massive house renovation project. Now, there’s just one major milestone on the horizon.

“They are genuinely so in love and are so cute together,” a source told E! News in late 2020. “They openly talk about their future together. They’re just super happy, and things are going really well with them.”

In retrospect, maybe we should have seen this coming?

When Nina Dobrev described her ideal partner to Cosmo 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,” could she have been referring to the 11-time ESPY winner? Perhaps those record-breaking 15 gold X Games medals fit the bill?

While she appreciated “a man in a suit looking put together and dapper,” she also mentioned, “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.”

Shaun White seems to check off those boxes for Dobrev as well.

During his Olympic journey in 2018, White shared with People what made his relationship with then-girlfriend Phantogram rocker Sarah Barthel work. He mentioned that they lived in different worlds but enjoyed coming together to share stories from the road. Although Dobrev is an avid snowboarder herself, it’s safe to say she won’t be critiquing White’s Double McTwist 1260.

White also expressed his appreciation for someone who not only understands his nomadic lifestyle but lives it themselves, saying, “It’s nice to not have somebody like, ‘When are you coming home?’” He added, “They get it, they understand being on the road.”

It seems that White may have found that forgiving and adventurous partner in Dobrev. Their commonalities extend beyond their demanding careers and love for travel. An insider shared with E! News, “Nina and Shaun share a lot of similarities. They are both very positive, social, and enjoy spending time outdoors and staying active.”

While Dobrev may not boast three Olympic gold medals, she does know how to shred. She revealed during an appearance on E!’s Daily Pop, “I actually have been snowboarding since I was really little. I skied first and then I switched over to snowboarding at probably 8 or 9.”

White was in for a pleasant surprise the first time they hit the slopes together. Dobrev said, “He was expecting to wait for me, and it was quite the opposite. I had already passed him by a landslide. Now I can keep up!”

With their whirlwind adventures, it can be challenging to keep up with this travel-loving couple. In March 2020, they unintentionally went public with their relationship during a joint bike ride in Malibu, abandoning any pretense of secrecy. They openly shared their “#QuaranTrip,” taking fans on a journey through Lake Powell, Utah, Nevada, Arizona’s Red Rock State Park, and a July 4 snowboarding getaway.

By late May, they had fully embraced their public relationship, offering fans a glimpse of Dobrev’s hairstyling skills in their first joint Instagram post. An insider explained to E! News, “Nina doesn’t take sharing her personal life very lightly. It shows how happy and secure she is with Shaun and their relationship that she is willing to take this step.”

Their chemistry is evident, as seen in their August 2020 ocean adventure in Mexico, complete with a piggyback ride and a passionate kiss in deep water, straight out of a romantic comedy highlight reel.

“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.”

Moreover, they are incredibly supportive of each other. Although COVID-19 protocols prevented Dobrev from joining White at his fifth—and final!—Olympic Games in Beijing, she sent him off with a heartfelt farewell. White spoke highly of her efforts on Today, saying, “My sendoff to China was just so beautiful. She made this incredible video of all my friends and family. Really incredible.”

And Dobrev shares his excitement for his achievements, saying, “I am really excited for him,” during her appearance on E!’s Daily Pop. “Just to get into the Olympics at all is one of the hugest accomplishments, let alone to get in five times. I’m so excited. I’m so proud of him.”

Even from afar, White could feel her love and support. “I wish she could have been here,” White said on Today. “She was trying her hardest to sneak in somehow. But, you know, she’s been so supportive and so wonderful, really just in my corner every step of the way.”