Best Skateboard Shop 2004 | B.C. Surf & Sport | Sports | South Florida
Toy Machine. Alien Workshop. Almost. Enjoi . Element. Baker. Black Label. Foundation. If you recognize these brand names and you're salivating right now, you might want to stop reading and start rolling down to B.C. Surf & Sport, a store run by skaters, for skaters. They always have at least 140 decks in stock, plus everything you need in terms of trucks, tools, and wheels. The cheapest deck (the B.C.) costs $35.99, and a complete setup will run you $120 to $220. And if you don't know what we're talking about -- but you want to -- call the shop's team riders, who will hook you up with some lessons.

The logo for Divers Unlimited is a dolphin holding a diploma in its fin. That explains exactly what you need to know about this dive shop, located on Pines Boulevard, just west of the Hollywood border. In addition to being one of the largest and most comprehensive dive shops in South Florida -- with row after row of wet suits, buoyancy-control devices, fins and masks, and even underwater cameras -- Divers Unlimited offers regular weekday and weekend PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors) certification courses, starting at $250. The course includes two days' worth of diving and ocean training as a scuba diver. If you're a South Florida resident with a sense of adventure, you're missing out if you're not already a certified diver. Thanks to the roaring Florida Straights acting as a constant cleaner, the reefs of Broward and Palm Beach counties are some of the most beautiful in the world.

Those who have heard of kiteboarding, the seemingly insane sport of connecting a high-powered kite to a wakeboard, might think of the windy coast of the Dominican Republic or Maui. In February, a new kiteboarding manufacturer called Best Kiteboarding is hoping to make the sport synonymous with Delray Beach. Owned by pro kiteboarder Shannon Best and associates Alex Shogren and Jeff Biege, the company advertises that its online sales will make the sport more affordable to the novice. The company claims to have cut in half the entry price for equipment, down to about $1,000 for the standard kite-and-board setup. The business plan seems to have worked: In its first month after opening in February, the web-only company sold more than a thousand kites, Shogren says. At that pace, the company projects it will become the world's largest kiteboard supplier by year's end. Shogren says South Florida's windy and warm climate make it ideal for the fledgling sport. "We're hoping it's gigantic here," Shogren says with confidence. "Because we're based here, Delray will become known for this."

In the 1980s, skateboarding emerged from burly, backyard pool sessions and into the world of popular culture. But as the decade came to an end, so did the sport's popularity. For skateboarding stalwarts, it was back to the streets -- and back underground. And in the early '90s, a new generation of skateboarding was born -- one that fused the board-flipping technicality of freestyle with the gnarly, high-flying daredevilry of vert skating. A few years later, skateboarding saw a huge resurgence with such mainstream events as ESPN's X Games competition. Add to that the burgeoning popularity of inline skating and the demand for skateparks has never been greater. But today's skateparks have a new responsibility: to accommodate both experienced skaters and the scores of beginners, many of whom are under age 12. Welcome to Sunrise's Boardz-N-Bladez. The 12,000-square-foot park has the right combination of smooth and steep transitions, whether you're learning how to fakie or touching up on frontside airs. The indoor facility features half-pipes (a six-foot mini and a two-and-a-half-foot micro), quarter-pipes, stairs, a quarter-bowl, fun box, rails, ledges, banks, and -- for the more ballsy boarders and bladers -- a vert wall; plus, there's a four-foot miniramp outside. A two-hour session costs $10. On weekends, you can pay $25 for a whole day. And all you need for protection is a helmet!

This 6.5-mile jaunt through the waters around Wilton Manors offers more for the voyeur than the nature lover. The waters are always calm, the folks who rent out the kayaks are friendly (they also organize Full Moon Kayak, a sporadic night kayak ride preceded by a winetasting at a local spirits store), and the trips let you spy on various waterfront residents of Wilton Manors and Fort Lauderdale while learning a little about the history of the area (the whole "loop," which includes Middle River, North Fork, and South Fork and surrounds Wilton Manors, takes about two and a half to three hours to paddle). If you're going it alone, the kayak rental costs $12 an hour; if you've got a partner in crime, the cost is $17 an hour. Kayak rentals are available Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but if you have the urge to boat during the week, arrangements can be made.

This hospital-sized bowling mecca wins on quantity. Sixty-four frickin' lanes (56 in Tamarac). A pro shop, a huge lounge, a massive snack bar, an arcade with air hockey and coin-op basketball. The main room is so large, it could develop its own weather patterns. The high school kids, well, they flock here. You should see the glee on a pimply face after rolling a strike in front of the girls. They may not show it, but they notice. They always notice.

You want a straightaway. A long one. Maybe a few gentle curves to keep it interesting and challenging. You want something to look at -- tropical vegetation, a seascape, a glimpse of sand and waves. Mostly, you want a clear path so you can get a little momentum going. There's a Zen-like rhythm to distance skating. You don't want to be colliding with window-shopping tourists or nannies pushing baby strollers. So where do you go? North Beach Broadwalk -- north of Hayes Street. It's out of the tourist loop, which includes most of the rest of the Broadwalk. It's not a favorite with pedestrians (though watch out for bikers). It has a smooth surface and sea breezes. For the skater, it's freakin' paradise. Readers' Choice: Fort Lauderdale Beach
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.

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