Best LeisureActivity 2007 | Going to the Beach | Sports & Recreation | South Florida
Most of us moved to Florida for the sun-drenched coast, but then, paradoxically, never actually go to it. "I don't have any quarters for the meter," we say. "Ugh. Can't deal with traffic on 595." "Bed, Bath, & Beyond is having a sale! It's air-conditioned in there!" Think swimming, scuba diving, sand castles, snorkeling, sailing, surfing, sunrises, sunsets, starry nights, sea turtles, and simple seaside strolls — and those are just the S's! Do you see where we're going with this? Add Broward County's 24 miles of coastline to Palm Beach's 45 and you have a playground that's not only honking big but free! I can't speak for you, but I sure feel lucky.
All beaches are not created equal. Some are lonely; others are crowded. Deerfield Beach splits the difference. Where A1A makes a pretty little S-turn just where it meets Hillsboro Boulevard, some lovely establishments have nestled into this cozy curve along the ocean. The setup offers not only the holy triumvirate of surf, sand, and sexy people but also stuff to do besides swimming. You Ôll find a pier that's perfect for fishing and a red brick path that's kind to bare feet. The athletically inclined can enjoy permanent volleyball nets or take free surfing lessons every Saturday morning (courtesy of Island Water Sports) while the alcoholically inclined can barhop at a cluster of watering holes. Boutiques and restaurants line the strip, and a new parking garage (finally!) alleviates the jockeying for spots that drove drivers insane in the past. Deerfield is pretty, clean, safe, and most important, happy-feeling. Did we mention they sell gelato in the post office?
The best beaches have a split personality: wholesome family fun center by day, make-out/skinny-dip destination after dark. The prior requires cheap and copious parking with a choice of nearby casual dining. The latter requires soft sand, a somewhat deserted feel, lax law enforcement, and a bit of natural lighting to deflect the crazies. Delray Municipal Beach has it all and then some. It's lined by a romantic cluster of trees and shrubbery that horny couples must pass under to reach the beach. The twilight quietude is only occasionally interrupted by some drunken karaoker at Boston's on the Beach, which is not at all reminiscent of the rockin' daytime performances on Saturdays and Sundays. Those factors, on top of the warm water (heated by the Gulf Stream current) and the varied water activities (kite-boarding, swimming, surfing, volleyball, sailing, wind surfing, snorkeling, kite flying, Frisbee, and paddleball) convinced Travel Holiday magazine to rate Delray Municipal Beach in the top 35 public beaches in the southeastern United States a while back. But we prefer it for the face-sucking.
JDMB bills itself as an "island in time," and that's not a vacant marketing slogan. Where else in South Florida are you going to find a two-mile expanse of beach with no condos on it? With 438 acres of protected wildlife refuge? With a beach that's wider than a football field is long and sans those neon-lit seawalls? JDMB gets even better once you go underwater, where snorkelers can see barracudas, nurse sharks, sea turtles, Florida lobsters, and sea anemones that are all attracted to the limestone rock reefs that pepper this throwback of a beach. And just like the old days, the hours are long (8 a.m. till sundown) and the admission fee is small (a measly $4 to park). The only problem: Every other snorkeler in the area knows about this place too. But if you can get away during a weekday, you'll have this huge underwater menagerie all to yourself.
A couple of years ago, during a surf contest on Lake Worth Beach, a local surfer — who wasn't in the contest — took major offense at being asked to move out of the break so contestants could get some waves. In utter defiance of the golden rule of surfing, he dropped in on the same wave that a contestant was already surfing — and the two started throwing punches as they rode. Spectators' reaction was, "Well, the localism isn't as bad as it used to be." In the '70s and '80s, cars would get keyed and faces punched. But because this is one of the few public-access points in mansioned-out Palm Beach County, the turf (and surf) almost begs to be protected. Although the south side of the pier doesn't quite look like Pipeline, double-overhead swells sometimes make their way through, and even on normal, smaller days, waves are about as consistent as they get in South Florida. The beach offers cheap restaurants and colorful people, and a lifeguard and a sandy bottom (as opposed to a reef break) make this a good learning spot for beginners. The downside? Crowds. But these days, the worst you'll get from the old-timers is a condescending stare.
First, a huge piece of advice: If you own a cherry ride, get a friend to drive to Lion Country Safari. That's because the 500-acre park has 1,000 wild animals who just don't respect a high-end paint job. Oh, and convertibles aren't allowed. And your windows must remain up at all times. The rules are there for a reason. Lion Country Safari opened in 1967 as the nation's first drive-through safari park, so they've learned a few things (hopefully not through trial and error). The name of the place has become somewhat misleading over the intervening decades, as the Loxahatchee park has added giraffe feeding, a water sprayground, a petting zoo, and even a Ferris wheel. But it's still a deal at $21.99, and it surprises us that no contract killer or rampaging spouse has spotted a bargain: a low-priced way to transport a dead body to a huge expanse of nature populated by hungry wild animals.
Being a good horse trainer requires a "gift from God," says Ronnie Gurfein, a recent inductee into the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame. Horse trainers use similar techniques, Gurfein declares in a booming New York accent, but the drafting of young horses — much like the drafting of NBA or NFL talent — is the most important factor. Gurfein, who has approximately 750 career wins and total earnings of around $25 million, gets a certain feeling about certain horses. That's how he ended up with Possess the Magic, a brown trotting filly who now holds the record for the fastest 2-year-old trotter ever. Last year, she ran a 1:54.2 mile — for laymen, that means she ran a mile in a minute and 54.2 seconds — and won $700,000. Gurfein trains Possess the Magic and 32 other horses at his Delray Beach stables, where he's spent his winters since 1965. Over the summer, he heads back north to New York, along with more than 100 other transient trainers hoping for a gift from God.
Urban legend has it that the peacocks of Rose Drive are a legacy, but about half of the neighbors would rather use the term infestation. Allegedly, a rich eccentric once lived in the street's largest house — it's the one resembling a cross between a castle and a compound. The decrepit man loved peacocks so much that he raised a family of them as pets. Today, they sit like grandiose weathervanes on houses. They wrap their claws around the uppermost branches of the banyan trees. They even stand above the grills of cars, mimicking gargantuan hood ornaments. Rose Drive, meanwhile, is divided into peacock-friendly and peacock-loathing homes. The birds know this too. They spend most of their time on the properties that feed them and nurture their shade-bathing, but sometimes they can't help themselves and go straight to the off-limits areas. That's when you see (otherwise normal-looking) individuals go ballistic with garden hoses and fist shaking. You see, peacocks are extremely loud, and during mating season, well, let's just say they aren't the most thoughtful neighbors. But since you don't have to deal with the 3 a.m. squawking sessions, take a stroll down Rose (bring a bag of birdseed), and enjoy the peacocks for what they are: some of Fort Lauderdale's most beautifully unnoticed oddities.
Almost entirely composed of Mai Kai ex-pats, the hip-shaking, fire-juggling temptresses of O'Tahiti Teie are a spectacle of rhythmic tradition. When the women initially founded the Tahitian dance company, their goal was to be as much a Tiki-party staple as rum and pineapples. It worked. Soon word spread around town and the gals were being asked to jostle their grass skirts nightly at different private and corporate gigs. They expected the crowds to be hypnotized. They predicted the men would drool. But they were caught off-guard when women started calling not for performances, but for lessons. Now equal parts school and troupe, O'Tahiti Teie helps soccer moms and tycoons alike reclaim their misplaced sensuality through this exotic form of dance. But they learn more than simply how to flail previously immobile parts of their anatomies — they discover the traditions and folklore surrounding each movement, allowing them to narrate ancient tales through dance. (And besides, it does wonders for the abs.) For performances or lessons, call Maire.
Titillated by the possibility of electric shock? Does your libido kick into overdrive when you hear the word mummification? Do you have a good sense of humor and the ability to remember a "release word"? Well, you might be eligible for one of Broward's best social groups: the Fort Lauderdale Bondage Club. Gay men 18 and older are learning the ropes and having a scream at the FLBC's monthly how-to events. What's that? You don't know a clothespin clamp from a flogging cane? No problem! That's what makes this club great: There's no room for snobbery. (How condescending can a guy really be when he's telling everyone about his preference to be nipple-clamped with jumper cables?) Besides, by cornering the market with events like Broward's only big White Party affair of Ô06 and a Christmas party called "Season's Beatings," the boys of bondage have shown that while they love being tied up, they aren't uptight.

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