At its best, a swimming pool is a rectangular waterhole, an aquamarine gathering place where the social rituals are played out with all of the underlying rigor of village life in Kenya or Bolivia. There's something about a gently rolling body of water that promotes communal ties. Nowhere is this more evident than the 75-foot pool at the heart of Jefferson at Young Circle, a 235-unit apartment complex in downtown Hollywood. The morning begins with preschoolers taking tentative steps into the shallow end as nannies or stay-at-home moms compare kiddie notes. By midmorning, the first of the sunbathers are out. They stretch out on chaise longues and dig into magazines and bestsellers, with the Walkman plugs coming off as friends stop by. On weekend afternoons, the picnics and birthday parties get started under the shade trees near the back, and a few rowdy kids play loud games in the water. Lots of Spanish, lots of Portuguese, plenty of beer. In the late afternoon, a service supervisor from a local car dealership strolls out, cell phone glued to his ear, and eases into the Jacuzzi. On hot nights, the parties extend well past sunset. At 2 a.m., two young men from Long Island, stockbrokers in training, do cannonballs into the water, which is luminous with submarine light, to punctuate an evening of barhopping on Hollywood Boulevard. A couple of lovers ease their way, hand in hand, into the spa. Then all is quiet, and the pool lies still, its blue surface quilted with soft ripples. Of course, not everyone can enjoy this sublime calm. Want to get in? Rent an apartment in the complex, or get invited by someone who's a tenant.

They call Kevin Garnett "The Freak." They say he's in a class by himself. They're right. Nobody in basketball has so much height, shooting touch, quickness, and floor game in one package. But our man Odom can at least light a candle to K.G.'s brilliance. At six-foot-ten, Lamar's got size (including the best set of shoulders in the NBA), good handles, a decent shooting touch, and a high basketball IQ. It all combines to make him a smoother -- though still lesser -- version of the Timberwolves star. L.O. scores 17 a game, grabs 9.6 boards, and averages a little more than four assists. Those numbers betray awesome all-around skills; Lamar should have been named an All-Star. Next year, which figures to be his best season -- after struggles in Los Angeles (with the Clippers) and adjustment to Miami -- he'll almost surely be playing for the East in the midseason classic. But he's got a ways to go before any Garnett comparisons are taken seriously -- seven more points, five more rebounds, and one extra assist a game, to be exact. He'll likely never achieve those, uh, freakish numbers, but if he can find and keep a competitive fire, the rafters are the limit for what the 24-year-old power forward can do in the game. Readers' Choice: Dwyane Wade

The weather in South Florida is as extreme as it is unpredictable. Some days, it seems as hot as the surface of Venus. Other days, it's raining so hard that you'd think the ground would never lose its thirst. That spells trouble for local athletes. But there's a solution: Sports Mall. This 75,000-square-foot indoor sports complex in Deerfield Beach offers soccer and roller hockey leagues for children and adults. Adult leagues also include basketball, with young whippersnappers and players old enough to be their grandparents. But Sports Mall offers more than competition. It's also a damned fine place to grab a drink. Set in an island between the soccer and hockey fields is a bar serving beer and sports drinks. If you're not the athletic type, buy yourself a draft and have a seat next to one of the fields. You might be lucky enough to watch a face pancaked against plexiglass inches from your beer.

Marlins fans will spend the season bartering with scalpers to sit in the upper levels of what's really a football stadium. But fans further north know real baseball: Roger Dean Stadium. Here, all 7,000 seats are close enough to catch a foul ball, and the only scalpers will sell you tickets for less than the price of a hot dog. There are two home teams, the Palm Beach Cardinals, a farm team for St. Louis; and the Jupiter Hammerheads, a minor-league team connected to the Marlins. Tickets to the minor-league games are just $7 (not much more than a Bud from Pro Player Stadium), and season tickets run from just $100 to $300. The best seats in the house are straight down the first-base line, where fans can spread a blanket across a tiny grassy hill behind where the pitchers warm up. Big-league players often make rehab trips to Jupiter, so this is where, when A.J. Burnett gets injured again, you can tell him what a bum he is.

If this were New England, we'd be touting the "Best Place to Keep Warm." But it's South Florida, where trying to stay cool is the name of the game nearly year-round. And there are scores of people down here, all looking for the same relief. Many head for the beach. Just as many, it seems, head for the Rapids Water Park in West Palm Beach. But what's the fun of waiting in line ten minutes for 30 seconds on a waterslide? Especially after you've made yourself at least $26 poorer just getting into the damned place (stupid private parks). At least Palm Beach County's Coconut Cove Water Park doesn't charge $5 just for parking; parking's free, and admission is only $9.25 for adults, $7.25 for children ages 3 to 11, $3 for toddlers, and free for infants. With a 986-foot river ride, a sea monster walk lagoon, two 220-foot waterslides, and a children's water playground, Coconut Cove proves you can beat the heat without having to fight the crowd.

Rocks? In South Florida? Yep. Only 30 miles from downtown West Palm is the only outcropping along the southern Atlantic Coast, in fact. When big-ass waves break along the base of these massive chunks of Anastacia limestone, the salty spray is channeled up through narrow holes leading to the surface. During the highest tides and especially after rough winter weather, the plumes can reach heights of 40 feet or more, hence the park's name. The resultant display is seen by few, especially on weekdays, when visitors may just find large stretches of the ritzy, remote beach all to themselves. The tranquil nooks behind the monolithic stones are home to tidal pools and shells for scavengers and beachcombers. This wild, untamed, and no-frills nature sanctuary (open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, $3 entry, $37 for annual passes) contains one of the most rugged -- and certainly unique -- beaches in the entire state. Readers' Choice: Fort Lauderdale Beach, Red Reef Park (tie)

It's a grueling, five-mile hike to the desolate Scrub Jay campsite deep within Jonathan Dickinson State Park, especially when hauling camping gear, but it's well worth your aching back. The campsite is hidden in the sandy uplands, among a sprawling field dotted with slash pines and filled with saw palmetto bushes. Unlike most state park campsites, mashed together like suburban ranch homes, the Scrub Jay sits all alone in this 11,500-acre park. It's big enough for eight campers, and your only neighbors will be the bobcats, eagles, and osprey. During the dry season, the site is far enough away from the Loxahatchee River and its swampy mosquito breeding grounds. The view isn't Grand Canyon-worthy, but the simplicity of the star-filled sky and wide-open prairies, just ten miles from Interstate 95 insanity, makes you realize what drew early settlers to Florida's wilds. The park charges a measly $4 for the site, but call ahead, as this site is well-known to adventurous campers. Unless you plan to boil your own urine, which isn't recommended unless mixed with two parts vodka and one part grenadine, bring iodine tablets for the untreated well water. The park requires campers to begin the journey at least three hours before sunset, but give yourself more time if you don't have a sherpa to carry in the beer.

Sure, lights are important, and this place has 'em. And a perfect surface is a must. Of course, Jefferson Street's are smooth as an air hockey table. And to be in the middle of a neighborhood so you can walk there is vital, as are a couple of practice walls. Yup, they're there, as well as swing sets and a variety of other sly ways to distract the kids while you hone that cannonball serve. But what makes the courts at Jefferson Street really something is a Peruvian expatriate named Max Aracadier, who gives lessons there. The 25-year-old, who arrived three years ago, has students who range in age from 4.5 to 70. His prices are reasonable at $10 to $15 a shot. And he's the nicest, most patient guy you could imagine. "I just love the sport," he says. Readers' Choice: Holiday Park
Take Flagler Drive north through downtown West Palm Beach, past the Northwood neighborhood mansions facing the Intracoastal Waterway, and you'll find three tennis courts with a stunning view. Currie Park's hard courts sit just a lob away from the water, with a view of Palm Beach mansions across the way. The 11-acre park is more known for its five boat ramps, maritime museum, and Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, so the courts sit largely unoccupied. Unlike stretches of the Intracoastal further north, crowded by boats coming to the Port of Palm Beach, you're more likely to see pelicans diving the water here. The few people who've discovered the courts play as massive yachts pass on the smooth stretch of Intracoastal to their Palm Beach homes. While the wind off the water might play havoc with a few backhands, it makes for great air conditioning during a summertime match. While there, dedicate a game to the park's namesake, George Graham Currie, who is so honored after spending 1901-04 as West Palm's mayor. After all, he got his name on a set of tennis courts with one hell of a view.
Full name: Alan "Ollie" Gelfand

Age: 41

Hometown: Hollywood

Claim to fame: Trendsetting skateboard practitioner.

What he's done for us lately: He recently opened Olliewood Skate Park in Hollywood, parlaying his international rep as a skateboarder into a business. This is no ordinary glide jockey. Gelfand is one of the originators of the sport, the inventor 30 years ago of a technique that has become known worldwide as "the ollie." The Oxford English Dictionary recently included ollie -- "a jump executed by pressing the foot down on the tail of the board to rebound the deck off the ground" -- in its OED Online.

What it takes: "A lot of drive. I'm a little bit hyper. Creative people think different from everybody else. When I was little, I wasn't into team sports. I made rules for myself. That's what puts you ahead of the crowd."

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