[the Goldies: Best of Santa Cruz 1998

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Staff Picks - Sports and Recreation

[whitespace] Best Place to Shoot Solo Hoops
Brommer Park

Until Parks & Rec launches a league called Over 40, Overweight and Under Six Feet, some basketball players are going to need a few warm-up laps to get in shape for pickup-ball season. Don't show up at the Louden Nelson courts until you've dialed in your outside shot--you'll just amuse your opponents and embarrass your teammates. A week or two of obsessive one-on-one with yourself, however, and a couple of those heaved bricks are bound to find their way into the hole. There are a handful of unpopular courts around town where a bad but addicted b-baller can find the solitude necessary to make a sweaty, ugly mess, rims remote enough so that stinking up the place won't offend anyone. Oceanview Park, with its rutted asphalt, is empty except on weekends. It offers a lovely view, even if it is dangerous to your ankles. But Brommer Park, which is in the middle of nowhere and is nothing more than backboards stuck in a tennis court, rules. If you're lucky, a couple of eight-year-old girls from the neighborhood will drop by and you can cream 'em.
Eric Johnson

Best Way to While Away
a Rainy Sunday Evening
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Casino

Parking is free on winter evenings, and while the slot machines will cost you, there are no critical crowds to evaluate your performance. Instead, you can saunter in and take your pick of everything from gator-bashing and swamp-stomping machines to simulated skiing and skateboarding (you can crash into mountain sides or have sudden impacts with the sidewalk without any expensive and lengthy recuperation periods). In fact, if you don't have health insurance, this is definitely the cheapest and safest way to do extreme sports. And when that's done, you can ascend to the jewel in the crown, upstairs Neptune's Kingdom, where you can thrash your paramour at air hockey under the highfalutin' dome of what was once an indoor and seawater-filled swimming pool.
Sarah Phelan

Best Sunset Viewing
Davenport Coast

Zero in on this incomparably lovely stretch of north coast directly in front of the hamlet of Davenport around five in the afternoon and park at The Whale (aka Whale City Bakery, formerly the notorious down and dirty Whaler, some of whose clientele seem to have permanently lost their way and refused to leave though the place has since cleaned up its act and serves normal people, even German tour groups). Here's the deal. You know where the sun sets, and you can keep an eye out for the momentary bliss of the green flash before the sun slides into the sea. But why not go early enough to grab a serious cheeseburger and fries? Sit outside on the tiny porch along with the resident philosophers, and watch the cliffs shape-shift into gold. You really don't need to move, but if you're so inclined, take your wine glass--as long as you bring it back--across Highway 1 and perch at the edge of the grassy knoll for an even more lovely hit of sunset. Remember, the best colors start after the sun has dipped below the waves.
Christina Waters

Best Wading Spot
San Lorenzo River,
Half a Mile South of Henry Cowell Trestle

People don't think about wading too much in these parts, but the truth is that when the dog days of summer come to lie down on the porch, nothing feels better than a trek up to the cool of the redwoods and a slow, careful walk through the chilly San Lorenzo River. Up Highway 9, about a half-mile south of the trestle in Henry Cowell State Park, is a bend in the river accessible both from the park trail leading south to the sand hill lookout and from Highway 9 (look for cars parked on a dirt patch off the right of the road, just before it bends left heading north about two miles south of Felton). The highway side has a nice, small beach that's sometimes sand, sometimes smooth river rocks, but it's always a good place to heat up on a lazy afternoon before taking the plunge in the crick.
Traci Hukill

Kickboxing Best Trendy Workout

John Cusack's Lloyd Dobler knew it was the sport of the future way back in 1989, but it took the rest of the world, oh, just almost a decade to catch up to the Say Anything's character's prediction that kickboxing would take the world by storm. Combining elements of martial arts--like tae kwon do's concentration and tai chi's relaxation--with the stress-relieving intensity of boxing, this workout is now on the must-do list of hip aerobicizers across the board. No gym class schedule is complete without it, and those who would never have dreamed of stepping into a martial arts studio now plug up their classes with spandex and scrunchies. But kickboxing does provide a great workout and is even seen as helpful in developing self-esteem in girls and women. Lloyd would be proud.
Karen Reardanz

Best Suburban Wilderness
DeLaveaga Park

There are stretches of trail at DeLaveaga Park that can trick a hiker into feeling like that last bend led past the boundaries of civilization. Located just blocks from Highway 1 and close enough to downtown Santa Cruz to bike to during lunchtime, DeLaveaga is mostly loved for its softball diamond and picnic area. But a rustic set of stairs on the edge of the ballfield leads to a mini-network of trails that end up yielding gorgeous bay vistas--with a little healthy huffing and puffing along the way. OK, technically, it's not the wilderness. The view across Branciforte Canyon includes numerous pricey homes and, up near the top of the trail, Frisbees from the adjoining disc-golf course sometimes outnumber hawks and jays combined. But the abundance of big madrones, Monterey pines and multiple varieties of oaks--along with the surprising quantity of peace and quiet--can provide the basics of a wild experience.
Eric Johnson

Best Time, Place and Manner to
Get Knocked Unconscious
Sunset on West Cliff Drive by a Longboard

Without a doubt the answer is at sunset by a buffed and tanned surfer who accidentally sideswipes you with a longboard along West Cliff as you're walking/ skating/cycling/jogging. As you come to, the truth of the real estate mantra "location, location, location" will become clear. For there you'll be, on your back, staring up at a sky painted in incredible hues of indigo and ink blue. And though your head may throb from the collision with one of Santa Cruz' most revered methods of water transportation, when you roll onto your side and catch sight of the sets of perfect waves below--not to mention the awfully concerned surfer beside you--then you'll realize that though you haven't died and gone to heaven, falling flat on your face in Santa Cruz is probably the next best thing.
Sarah Phelan

Best Place to Get Buzzed
Glider Flying Field at Sunset Beach

Lord help the maverick gliding hobbyist who charts his own airspace on the dunes above Sunset Beach, for the denizens of that remote-controlled empire are bound to send an emissary to "persuade" (but with a look that's all business) the offender to play by the rules--their rules. That means hiking up to a designated bluff, claiming an available frequency, dodging the other players' crafts and enduring their Dungeons and Dragons-bred intensity. Though most of these brooding sportsters exercise the kind of precision over their remotes commonly associated with fighter pilots and 12-year-old Playstation junkies, they occasionally have bad days. Which is to say that occasionally model airplanes and gliders buzz beachcombers' heads, causing the adrenals of buzzer and buzzee alike to discharge epinephrine, commonly known as adrenaline, into the central nervous system of victim as well as perpetrator, resulting in increased blood flow to major muscle groups, shortness of breath and rapid pulse. It's a most pleasant jolt.
Traci Hukill

Best Way to Build Your Agility
Pingpong at the Red Room

Forget about yoga and Tai Chi, pingpong at the Red Room gets those muscles warm and limbered up just as well as any New Age stretching method. Strategically nestled in the far reaches of the bar, the table is used by those skilled at the sport and, unfortunate for those seated in close proximity, those who royally suck. There's just barely enough space between tables, booths and bodies for the table and its players, but those shots requiring any sort of free-range movement are met with nimble, and oftentimes reckless, reaching, scooting and ducking. There are more than a few pingpong casualties each night when those who've had one too many become victimized by an out-of-control ball or a wayward paddle.
Karen Reardanz

Best Place to Play Roller Hockey
Little Helpers Court
at Mike Fox Park off San Lorenzo Avenue

OK, so it's pretty much the only place to play outdoors in Santa Cruz County (as compared to the 1,237 unused jai alai courts in Capitola alone), but this place rules. You can always find a fun-filled, all-age pickup game taking place every Saturday and Sunday at the break of dawn. What makes this place truly ideal for roller hockey is that it's entirely fenced in so you don't have to worry about chasing the puck in the street every 15 seconds. No one keeps any official score (actually, I do, and you're losing 892-147), so it's usually a friendly game. Memorize two quick rules if you decide to play there. Construct a homemade athletic supporter made out of chain mail--guard your gonads!--and don't stand in front of the 2mm-wide goal or people will regard you as the Great Satan.
Matt Koumaras

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From the March 26-April 1, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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