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Critics' Choice Awards

Best month of the year

September-Plus

It's a good thing tourists aren't here yet to see this, but we all know that September-plus is the great climate month in Santa Cruz. It starts the day after the visitors leave (just kidding)--actually, it begins Sept. 15 and goes to Oct. 15, the day the rains used to begin.

Bruce Bratton


Best surfing contest

Longboard Club Invitational

The Santa Cruz Longboard Union's event enters its 16th year in 2000 (on Memorial Day weekend) as the world's longest-running longboarding contest. Surfing men, women and children get together to ride waves in this friendly rivalry, catch up on the past year's happenings, swap surf stories (my wife calls them "surf lies") and generally put on one heck of a party. The SCLU holds a traditional raffle to raise funds for local charities such as the Surfrider Foundation, the Surfing Museum and the Junior Lifeguards with lots of surf-related prizes.

Dan Young


Best drinking water

Andrew P. Hill Memorial Drinking Fountain, Big Basin State Park

If you're drinking from the Andrew P. Hill Memorial Drinking Fountain (the "APHMDF" for short), life is good. First of all, the APHMDF is located on a half-mile loop trail that takes visitors past some of the most stunning redwoods at Big Basin. The APHMDF site is within viewing distance of the Mother of the Forest* (329 feet high) and directly behind the Father of the Forest (250 feet, 2,000 years old), which means that awe-inspiring beauty is everywhere. But the most wonderful thing is that the water from the APHMDF tastes as if it has been aged in an underground oak cistern. It hasn't, but it tastes that way (the water comes from Sempervirens Creek, and yes, it's filtered). The water is mellow, flavorful and refreshing. In fact, the APHMDF might be the closest thing Santa Cruz has to aqua vitae, and in a town where the pap from the tap tastes like crap, it's good to know there's an alternative.

* For anyone who has ever wondered why the Mother of the Forest is so much taller than the Father of the Forest, the answer, as explained by a bashful park ranger, is "They're anatomically correct. The Mother of the Forest has a--a hole, I guess you'd call it--and the Father of the Forest has a big burl on its side."

Traci Hukill


Best view from a treadmill

UCSC Gym

Gone are the days of Frisbee golf and hackey-sack, hippie sports long associated with anti-athletic Banana Slugs at UCSC. These days, exercise-addicted Slug buff up in the university's newest addition: a double-decker, window-filled gym complete with free weights, treadmills and stair-climbers. The view from these cardiovascular heart-pumpers--which line the south wall, overlooking the Monterey Bay--beats that of any others in town. Not only does the gorgeous campus scenery help the grind time fly by, it also reminds gym goers that there are nicer views than the butt of the treadmiller straight ahead.

Kelly Altshuler


Best surf crew

Members of the 1936 Santa Cruz Surfing Club

Hands down, these pioneering guys and gals who rode 100-pound redwood planks off of Cowell's Beach in the days before wet suits or fiberglass are my all-time favorites. They led carefree lives in the years before World War II, but these surfmasters dropped their boards and served their country when the time came. In 1986, members of the club, now grandfathers and grandmothers, again stepped forward to become the driving spirit behind the creation of the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum at Lighthouse, the first of its kind in the world.

Dan Young


Best place to shoot hoops and hops

Brady's Yacht Club

The worst thing about planning a Saturday on the basketball court is the driving. Precious time is wasted scouting available court space while the sun fades and frustrations flare. For the price of a pair of tennies, a basketball and a couple of beers, patrons of Eastside Santa Cruz's Brady's Yacht Club can revel in drunken pleasures like shooting pool in the bar--or hoops in the street out back. Seemingly extended to a plot of street-lit asphalt by the grace of some god, the always-available game space allows hours of tipsy basketball pleasure--and, for players relatively sober, the joy of being one up on everyone else. (413 Seabright Ave., SC)

Kelly Altshuler


Best mental and physical workout combo

Spa Fitness and Capitola Book Cafe

I can hardly wait to get up on a Sunday morning. No breakfast in bed, no automatic coffee machine--it's my day to get a thorough workout, both mentally and physically, and the two best places to do so are just blocks apart. First, I hit the gym at Spa Fitness and push and pull on things for a couple of hours. After a sauna and Jacuzzi, I head two blocks up the road to the Capitola Book Cafe and buy a double nonfat latte. Burying myself in the Sunday papers (they have a huge selection), I lollygag for another two hours. Friends and neighbors drop by and chat as I go into mental and physical overload, coffee working its magic. For a news and exercise junkie, it's heaven.

John Yewell


Best public park

Lighthouse Field

Even drive-through tourists have to think about the naturalness and nondeveloped quality of this most precious land. As decades pass, the park will revert to an even wilder setting. It's also proof that winning land-use battles against developers of all kinds and sizes is worth doing.

Bruce Bratton

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From the March 22-29, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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