Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
"OLLAAAAAAATTEEEEEEE!" That's what you should scream when you're sitting in the nearly deserted spectator area at Dania Jai Alai, watching players in brightly colored suits scoop up a goatskin ball and hurl it against the wall at breakneck speed. At least, that's what we screamed every time we saw this unassuming 38-year-old from Basque country — the birthplace of this perplexing sport — scuttle to the front of the court and deliver a devastating serve return that sent the ball bouncing low against the wall, falling out of play before an opposing team member could catch it. If you have no idea what we're talking about, that's OK. We don't really either. Just go watch a game — it's free, you can drink cheap beer, and thanks to us, you'll be one of the few people in the seats hurling praise instead of insults.
Working 14-hour days and eating meals in your car isn't really conducive to making a love connection. Emerge Broward is the answer. The Fort Lauderdale-based networking organization boasts 500-plus members and frequent events, which feature anything from a happy hour on Las Olas to community service projects elsewhere in the county. A meetup at Tundra earlier this year was just drinks, handshakes, and all the fried goat cheese you could fit in your face — though if you're trying to land a hottie, maybe keep the cheese-pile servings to under a dozen. Membership is $25 a year, and getting acclimated is as easy as showing up and slapping on a nametag. The friendly faces will do the rest.
Shondelle Solomon-Miles, AKA "Coach," has a body as impossibly skinny and taut as Iggy Pop's, a look as fierce as Nicki Minaj's, and a way of making you obey that's like Mom when she means business. Coach's B.A. from Columbia University and master's degree from the University of Miami don't hurt either. At her gym, Synergize, she follows the standard Crossfit methods of team workouts consisting of hard-core, old-school moves like jumping jacks, dead lifts, burpees, sprints, and the terrifying-sounding Turkish get-ups. Whereas other Crossfit gyms can feel too aggro, Solomon-Miles has a winning supply of motherly warmth: Eat foods that are "supportive," she says; push through your fears, she guides. There's also her no-bullshit, get-it-done, drill-sergeant toughness. Men and women alike, she will work you — and then make it all better with a smoothie from the juice bar at the end of class. True, the price ($159 to $199 per month) is steep, but the results are undeniable.
The big, beat-up building just off of Wilton Drive is exactly as vintage as it's supposed to be — the door handles are sticky, and the carpet showcases the standard "bowling pin and explosions" theme, but the lanes are clean, the balls are heavy, and — most important — the games and drinks are cheap. Ten bucks will get you unlimited bowling on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m., and their ordinarily cheap drinks get even cheaper during happy hour, from 4 to 7: Domestic pitchers cost $6.50 to $9, and 16-ounce beers are two bucks a pop. A good place to bowl; a great place to drink. What else do you need?
The vibe in the Retro Arcade isn't exactly a dimly lit cafe where patrons debate Kant or Joyce over glasses of malbec. But there is a special sort of intelligence to be found at the Retro Arcade Night. The monthly gathering brings together the humble stoners; future, present, and former rocket scientists; and perhaps even a retired English professor. And while any female met at this event is likely to be of the superbrained variety as well, she is a bit harder to come by than the dude-nerds. Let's just say the girl/guy ratio at this party is slightly more slanted than a pinball machine.
"Right now, it's time to win in court and then tell the people what the real deal is." That's how Dan Borislow responded to New Times' emailed request for an interview. The media, particularly sports website Deadspin, hasn't been kind to the three-wheeled-motorcycle-riding, West Palm Beach millionaire who made his fortune in the late 1990s in the telecom industry and a decade later invented the magicJack. In December 2010, Borislow spent big to acquire a women's soccer team, move it to Boca Raton, and name it after the magicJack — only to be accused of single-handedly destroying the Women's Professional Soccer league in the ensuing months. The litany of weirdness includes a former player who alleges that Borislow made her call him "daddy;" the firing of a well-respected coach who got the team off to a 3-0 start; emails Borislow sent to league brass calling them a "bunch of blithering idiots"; and rumors that he benched players and threatened their careers if they raised concerns about these antics. In the wake of all the bad publicity, the magicJack team was suspended and the league canceled its 2012 season. It's a tragedy, especially since the magicJack was stacked with talent; the roster included several players from the women's World Cup Soccer team that made a run in 2011 and would have given the league a fighting chance. We're eagerly waiting for litigators to wrap up the show so Borislow can finally tell us the real deal.
In South Florida, it's easy to live under the assumption that the western edge of civilization lies somewhere around your Aunt Debbie's condo in Tamarac, but that would be a shame. Broward County stretches far beyond the houses and strip malls, into the python-filled plumbing works of the Everglades. Between those two worlds, there is a dividing line: a set of levees that runs from Lake Okeechobee all the way south to Homestead, maintained by the South Florida Water Management District. There's a two-lane packed-dirt path on top that's perfect for mountain biking or a jog. Time it right and catch the sun setting over the sawgrass in the cooler part of the day, but be sure to bring ample water and about-face toward home before dark. For easy access to the trail north of Alligator Alley, park near the dog park at Markham Park and cut down to the access trail at the park's southwestern corner.
Two minutes in West Lake Park is all it takes to get away from the asphalt hell of South Florida sprawl. The trip starts with a light paddle down a serene mangrove tunnel — keep your eyes peeled for the always-awesome manatee and some nice birds. When the trail empties out on the lake, it's your choice. Let the boat float and kick back to relax while soaking in the rays, or cut across the lake — a workout in itself on a windy day — and explore the mangrove-lined, color-coded trails. If it weren't for the not-so-distant skylines peeking up over the trees, you might forget that you're smack in between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Prices aren't bad either: Drop 15 bucks to rent a canoe for an hour, $20 for two hours, or $50 for the whole day.
In the 1920 novel The Skylark of Space, the hero, Dick Seaton, accidentally spills a solution containing "element X" onto a copper tub that is surrounded by an energy field from a nearby "whatssittron" particle accelerator. The copper tub goes shooting through the wall and into the sky, and Seaton uses the technology to develop the first jet pack. The Rocketman jet pack that debuted in Fort Lauderdale on April 1 is almost as cool. The Jet-Lev Flyer JF 250 has "a powerful four-stroke engine, an astonishing 250 horsepower, and water nozzle reaction force to achieve stable, controlled flight," according to its makers. In other words, everyday people can now fly 30 feet in the air via a jet pack that is worn like a backpack, powered by two streams of water, and connected by a hose to an engine floating on the water. It's basically the same technology as a Jet-Ski. A "unicycle-style saddle and leg trapeze" assure safety and comfort. Shell out $250 for a "flight experience" or $4,000 for a full day of jetting.
Certainly, more glamorous destinations are within jetting distance, but a perfect escape excludes any trip that involves traffic on I-95 or getting felt up by a TSA agent. So, yay for us, a high-speed ferry to Grand Bahama Island debuted late last year. It's not exactly the Queen Mary, but it does have hardwood floors, a gift shop, and comfy lounge chairs. Regular tickets cost $75 each way, $50 each if you go there and back the same day, and kids under 6 travel free. Through a link from the Bahamas Express website, you can book a hotel stay. Once on the island, play golf, go snorkeling or fishing, shop for a nice straw hat, or swim with dolphins. Or call the tourist board at 242-352-8044 to get hooked up with a native Bahamian who shares your interests and will pal around with you for the day. That's a solid weekend trip for simple people. Sometimes all we need in life is a conch sandwich, a rum runner, and a new stamp in our passports.
There comes a time every so often when the air-conditioned confines of the office, car, and home begin to feel, well, confining. You don't need to be a nature buff to get a recharge from wandering the two-and-a-half miles of trail in the suburban wilderness of West Palm Beach. Given Florida's topography, it's an easy hike, most of which is shaded by creaky pines. On your walkabout, you might get a peek at a white-tailed deer or a great horned owl. More often than not, you'll come across a gopher tortoise, a threatened species frequently seen waddling at a surprisingly fast clip about the trails. Ever see a turtle running in the woods? It's a trip, man.
You feel like a pro when the lights at Jefferson Park in Hollywood flick on and bathe the soft dirt of the bocce courts in a yellow glow. The crack of one ball crashing off another, the last glimmer of sunset — it's all simply exhilarating. Then your dreams of bocce glory are quickly shattered by the hardened glare of a dozen Italian senior citizens who have been throwing jacks and rolling balls on these courts since the days of yore. They'll critique your technique under their breath, scold you for letting a dog on the dirt, and roll their eyes at the cooler full of empty beer bottles you stashed under the bleachers. The mere presence of this ancient-looking horde rocking tracksuits and loafers is indisputable anthropological proof that these courts are among South Florida's finest.