Editors Picks: Outdoors and Sports
BEST "HOLY SH*T!"
Although it has only been a mere season and a half since Barry Bonds went loudly into a toxic sunset, the San Francisco Giants have already refocused with a formidable team of unlikely upstarts that boasts one of the best records in the National League. Built around a colorful but humble lineup of players with nicknames like the Freak, Big Unit, and Kung Fu Panda, the current Giants roster is everything that Bonds was not — egoless, team-oriented, and free of baggage. And just as the Tim Lincecum-<\d>led pitching staff was shaping up as the team's best asset for a successful playoff bid, along comes 26-year-old left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, from a demotion in the bullpen, to throw a masterpiece of a pitching performance. The Sanchez no-hitter against the Padres on July 10 was the team's first since 1976. It provided an up-from-the-ashes victory that invoked tremendous optimism for the future, to the point where you can already hear it, clear with conviction and confidence: "Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.!"
BEST KID-FRIENDLY SUICIDE RUN
Never underestimate the urge — especially in somber, grizzle-haired grown-ups and perfectly sensible adults — to jam shiny, decal-stickered helmets on one's head before shrieking downhill in plastic toy vehicles, playfully jockeying with others all the way to the bottom. Having just completed its triumphant ninth annual run this past Easter, the annual Bring Your Own Big Wheel race is spastic, daredevil fun. Any form of transport is legal, as long as it's human-powered and about a third your size. Past races have seen some imaginative entries: office chairs figured in one racer's wobbly run, while others constructed iffy rides from wood planks, masking tape, and a few ingeniously placed nails. Outlandish costumes never hurt, either: Big Bird, bunnies, and aliens run rampant. Once held on Lombard Street, the event now careens down Potrero Hill's twistier Vermont Street. The only thing you can't bring is alcohol. Shucks.
BEST WORKOUT WITH A TWIST
Is it wrong to be kind of turned on by the Victorian-bondage-looking machines at San Francisco Gyrotonic? Even the word "Gyrotonic" makes us gyrate suggestively in our minds. (Pervs!) Intimately connected to the dance community, the Gyrotonic exercise program is an intriguing new approach to working out. The Gyrotonic Expansion System was invented in the 1950s by ballet dancer Juliu Horvath after an Achilles injury left him unable to dance. The workout uses a contraption with raised pulleys, similar to a Pilates machine, but moves your joints in a circular rather than linear motion, training the body to be more flexible. Classes are taught by former ballerinas who've danced in companies such as the San Francisco Ballet, New York's School of American Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera's American Ballet Theatre, and San Francisco's Alonzo King's LINES. In terms of dance workouts, nothing could be further from Billy Blanks' Tae Bo. The studio attracts a fleet of nimble, limber dance-types, but beginners should not be intimidated, nor overexcited.
26 Seventh St. # 4, SF. (415) 863-3719, www.sfgyrotonic.com
BEST YO-YO WHAT'S UP
If we've learned anything from the most recent technological revolution, it's that nerds are way cooler than we thought they were. "I'm a music nerd," people will proudly say, or "I'm an art nerd." Identifying as a nerd grants substantial cultural capital — and not just in a lame hipster sense, like when people wear glasses without lenses or pretend to appreciate B-movies. Skateboarders, cyclists, and gamers are good examples of this phenomenon, but none of these subcultures has a more nonconformist, fuck-you attitude than that of the gonzo yo-yo enthusiast. It's true that yo-yo champion David Capurro and the other members of his local club, the Spin Doctors, probably spend their weekends practicing barrel rolls and smashers instead of drinking, dancing, and posing. But, well, come on, that shit's for nerds. Cool people have better things to do ... like winning tournaments, inventing new tricks, and traveling the world to battle other crews.
BEST WAY TO GET BLOWN AWAY
Perhaps you've seen kiteboarders skimming across the water like wakeboarders and flittering aloft, gliding like skydivers. If you've yearned to partake in the strange but intriguing sport of kiteboarding, but didn't know where to start, look no further than Boardsports School and Shop. With three locations and plenty of certified instructors, it's the most facilitative wind and board shop on the bay. Whether it's kitesurfing, windsurfing, kiteboarding on land, or even stand-up paddle boarding, the staff can help you find what you're after (don't be put off by the dude-bro locutions) and teach you how to catch some major air safely. Boardsports has exclusive teaching rights in two of the bay's best beginner spots, Alameda's Crown Beach and Coyote Point in San Mateo, and offers lessons for first-time kite flyers or can arrange pro instruction for experienced boarders looking to push their skills to the next level. Boardsports also offers tidy deals on kite packages and equipment to help you lift off without lifting your wallet.
(415) 385-1224, www.boardsportsschool.com
BEST WET PUCKS
The Brits have started some internationally contagious sports, like football (soccer) and cricket. Now underwater hockey, which English divers created in the 1950s, is grabbing Americans' attention. Locals are quickly jumping into the game with the San Francisco Underwater Hockey club. If you like swimming, dip your toes in new water and give it a shot. Sean Avent of the San Francisco Sea Lions club team explains its appeal: "Holding your breath, wearing a Speedo, and swimming after a lead puck on the bottom of a swimming pool is no more obtuse than trying to pummel a guy who is carrying a pigskin ball and armored in high-tech plastic. People, in general, are just more familiar with the latter of the two obtuse sports. And the first is just way more fun." Pay $4 at the door of one of the games to try it out, or join the club and play in the Presidio or Bayview pools at a low cost.
BEST YOGA WITH THE FISHES
Million Fishes Gallery, one of our favorite artist collectives in San Francisco, isn't just an awesome place to see great exhibits by a revolving door of local artists and to catch raging late-night shows featuring bands like Jonas Reinhardt, Erase Errata, Tussle, and Lemonade. It also provides an effective and inexpensive way to get your rejuvenating twice-weekly yoga fix. Instructor Beth Hurley teaches a 90-minute vinyasa yoga class from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the gallery's yoga studio (yeah, this artist space comes with its own yoga studio) that draws a nice mix of artists, Mission locals, yoga enthusiasts, and those who see the benefit in working out before hitting up El Metate next door. Hurley's sessions are $7 to $11, which firmly places them among the least expensive yoga classes in San Francisco, and safeguards you from having to deal with yuppie yogis in head-to-toe Lululemon.
2829 23rd St., SF. www.millionfishes.com
BEST EYE-WATERING MEMORABILIA
Mission restaurateur Scott Youkilis has turned out quality American fare at Maverick for a few years now, while his brother Kevin continues to play at an MVP pace for the Boston Red Sox. Scott bottles a great homemade hot sauce; Kevin hits two-out home runs in the bottom of the ninth against the New York Yankees. Could there possibly be a way to merge these exceptional fraternal talents? Voilà: Youk's Hot Sauce, a condiment that attempts to bottle the potency of Kevin's hitting abilities with the flavor of Scott's Southern-tinged cuisine. Available at Maverick or online, bottles go for $10 each, or $25 with Kevin's autograph, and portions of all proceeds go to Kevin's charity, Youk's Hits for Kids. It's a hot souvenir from a future Hall of Famer for the legions of Red Sox fans that make the Bay Area their home away from Fenway.
BEST NATIVE WORKOUT
When it comes to getting in shape, it's almost a crime to have a gym membership in San Francisco. We live in the almost perpetually golden state of California, not Wisconsin in the third week of January. So get the hell outside and tackle some hills or run along the beaches. Better yet, do both with the Baker Beach Sand Ladder. Long known to local triathletes as an endurance-crushing beast, the sand ladder is 400 sheer steps of pulse-pounding "I think I'm gonna die" workout, set against the spectacular backdrop of the Pacfic Ocean flowing into the Golden Gate. Minus the cardiac arrest, it sure beats the fluorescent lighting, smelly funk, and steroidal carnival music of your local gym. The simple fact of the matter is that when you can run nonstop to the top of the sand ladder you're officially in good shape. And best of all, it's free.
25th Ave. and El Camino del Mar, SF. www.nps.gov
BEST BITCH-SLAP FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Chevron has always been one of the Bay Area's more vile corporations, whether it's lobbying aggressively against global warming legislation or polluting communities from Richmond to Ecuador, all the while greenwashing its image with warm and fuzzy (and highly deceptive) advertising campaigns. That's why we love to see groups such as the rainforest-protecting Amazon Watch and its anti-Chevron allies giving a little something back. Before this year's Chevron shareholders meeting in San Francisco, activists plastered fake Chevron ads ("I will not complain about my asthma" and "I will give my baby contaminated water") all over the city and staged creative protests outside the event. Ditto when Chevron CEO David O'Reilly spoke at the Commonwealth Club in May, sending Chevron goons into a paranoid frenzy. Amazon Watch and other groups are winning some key battles — voters recently approved steep tax increases on Chevron's Richmond refinery, and a judge rejected plans to expand the facility. To which we can only say, "Hit 'em again!"
BEST PUBLIC ACOUSTIC COCOON
Ear-piercing squeals, gut-rumbling skronks, the occasional wet fart sound — these are the unfortunate hallmarks of beginning brass instrumentalists. Those living in a city as dense and sensitive as our own have it rough when they want to work out their kinks: neighbors who sleep during the day or get up early yell at them, passersby take none too kindly to the squawking on busy sidewalks, and soundproofed studio space is economically out of reach. For all who need a place to practice, there's the blessing of the Conservatory Drive tunnel, which passes under John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park. An array of practicing jazz combos and amateur tooters take up residence at the tunnel's entrance during the day, providing entertainment to nearby Conservatory of Flowers visitors. The tunnel actually seems to crave music pouring into and echoing through its abyss — it forms a protective acoustic cocoon around performers that amplifies mellifluous passages and somehow blurs out less felicitous ones. Spontaneous jam sessions are common, so don't sit on the grass — pick up your brass.
Conservatory Dr. and John F. Kennedy Dr., Golden Gate Park, SF
BEST MOUSETRAP FOR MINOTAURS
Little-known and charmingly miniscule, the Eagle Point Labyrinth is a jumble of twisty turns perched on the lip of a cliff near an offshoot of Lands End Trail. To reach it, you must set out with a compass in hand, hope in your heart, and fingers crossed. The labyrinth, one of three outdoor mazes known to exist in San Francisco, is a mysterious wonder that has so far avoided being marked on any map (although it can be glimpsed via a Google satellite image for those too faint to blindly wander in search of it). The superlative views it affords of the Golden Gate certainly justify hiking, sometimes panicked, through yards of unpruned foliage. The stone-heaped maze is handmade, and while we speculate about its mysterious origins — a mousetrap for Minotaurs, perhaps? — we can't help but appreciate the karmic offerings of those who have reached the center before us, leaving a small pile of baubles. Mythic etiquette mandates you scoop up one of these and leave something of your own behind.
Lands End, Sutro Heights Park, SF.
BEST COMMUNITY STRETCH
Yearning to try yoga but needing to stretch your dollar? Every Monday through Thursday from 7:45 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., YogaKula packs its San Francisco location with eager newcomers for its affordable community class, available on a sliding scale ($8 to $16). Especially lively are the Monday and Wednesday classes with quirky and entertaining instructor Skeeter Barker, who offers genuine, palatable optimism and inspiration along with some much-needed recentering. Barker is an inspirational teacher who, as her Web profile says, "welcomes you to your mat, however you find yourself there." Along with the community classes, YogaKula offers Anusara, a therapeutic style of yoga, in addition to a variety of other wellness practices. Its two locations — one at 16th Street and Mission, and one in North Berkeley — offer courses in yoga training, yoga philosophy, specialized workshops, Pilates, massage, and one-on-one yoga instruction.
3030A 16th St., SF. (415) 934-0000; 1700 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 486-0264, www.yogakula.com
BEST PLACE TO HIDE A JET
To be precise, the best place to hide a jet is behind Door 14 on the Alameda Naval Air Station. While many of the buildings on the former military base have been converted to civilian uses, such as sports clubs and distilleries, some continue to serve military functions, like storing the jet that used to be on display at the base's portside entrance (until high winds blew it off its pedestal two winters ago). The naval station is also the perfect place to hide domesticated bunnies. A herd of them live in and around a tumbledown shed opposite the Port of Oakland. Then there are the jackrabbits, which flash across the base's open spaces at night, hind legs glinting in the moonlight. It's easy to miss the flock of black-crowned night herons, which pose one-legged every winter on the lawns of "The Great Whites"-<\d>houses where the naval officers once lived. But who could forget the hawk that roosts atop the Hangar One distillery and periodically swoops to grab a tasty, unsuspecting victim off the otherwise empty runways where The Matrix Reloaded was shot?
1190 W. Tower, Alameda
BEST PUTT-PUTT ON THE 'CIDE
Since 1998, Cyclecide has been enchanting — and sometimes scaring — audiences with its punk rock-<\d>inspired, pedal-powered mayhem. But after 11 years of taking its bicycle-themed carnival rides, rodeo games, and live band to places like Coachella, Tour de Fat, and Multnomah County Bike Fair, the bicycle club is putting down roots, or rather, fake grass. This year the crew famous for tall bikes, bicycle jousting, and denim jackets with a cackling clown on the back is building Funland, an 18-hole mini golf course in the Bayview. Though sure to be fun for the whole family, rest assured that Funland will retain all of Cyclecide's boundary-pushing humor and lo-fi sensibility. Yes, there will be a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge built by master welder Jay Broemmel, but you can also putt through Closeupofmyass, a landscape of rubber tubes springing from brown Astroturf. What else would you expect from a crew whose interests are "bikes, beer, and building stuff"?
BEST NO FRILLS FIRST AID
It's nice for big companies to notice that women buy things other than cleaning supplies and facial cream. But do they have to make everything targeted toward the female demographic so freakin' floral and pink and cloyingly girlie? Adventure Medical Kits — the Oakland-based company famous in sports circles for outfitting everyone from backcountry skiers to weekend car-campers with durable, complete first-aid packages — says a resounding no. Its women's edition outdoor medical kit comes jam-packed with all the fixings adventurous boys get — wound care materials, mini tweezers, insect-bite salve, a variety of medications, and a first-aid booklet — plus a couple things only ladies need, like tampons, leak-safe tampon bags, menstrual relief meds, and compact expands-in-water disposable towels. And it's all packaged in a sporty blue nylon bag that weighs less than a pound. No lipstick? No diet pills? No frilly, lacy case made to look like a purse or a bra or a tiny dog? We're buying it.
BEST PLACE TO GET ROLLIN'
When one thinks of skate shops these days, one's thoughts travel naturally to wicked Bloodwizard decks, Heartless Creeper wheels, and Venture trucks — everything you'd need to trick out your board before you cruise to Potrero de Sol. All those goodies are available at Cruz Skate Shop, as well as Lowcard tees, recycled skateboard earrings, Protec helmets, and much more. But boarding is boring. You've done it since you were 13. Isn't it time to ditch that deck and take up a real sport like, say, roller skating? Hell, yes. And Cruz has everything you need to get started down that sparkly, disco-bumpy Yellow Brick Road to eight-wheelin' Oz. From the fiercest derby-ready model to mudflap girl bootie shorts, this store will kit you up in the best way for your Sunday afternoon Golden Gate Park debut. We're partial to the Sure-Grip Rock Flame set of wheels with, you guessed it, pink flames streaming up the toes. But an enticing array of more professional-looking speed skates is available, as is a knowledgeable staff to get you rollin'.
3165 Mission, SF. (415) 285-8833, www.cruzskateshop.com
BEST OF THE BAY ON THE BAY
If you're looking to get on the water without getting wet, Ruby Sailing is an affordable option for you and your friends to get a taste of adventure. The Ruby sailboat has been taking guests around the bay for 25 years. For just $40 per person, owner and operator Captain Josh Pryor will lead you on a two and a half hour tour of the bay, passing Alcatraz and looping around Sausalito. Snacks are provided, and the skipper sells wine and beer by the glass for cheap. The Ruby is also available for fishing expeditions, including poles, bait, and tackle; for private parties up to 30 guests; for weddings; and even for funerals at sea. And since the boat boards at the Ramp restaurant on the Dogpatch waterfront, you're covered for pre- and post-splash food and drink, if you have the stomach. No prior sailing experience is required, but, in the words of the skipper, "no two trips are the same," so be ready to hang on.
855 Terry Francois, SF. (415) 272-0631, www.rubysailing.com