No contest here, or should we say plenty of contests here? South Beach Park, which is south of Las Olas Boulevard off A1A, has just put up brand-new nets on nine volleyball courts in the sand. Some of the more serious players there swear that the park has the best volleyball courts not only in South Florida but also in the entire state. The competition in the pickup games can be fierce, as the winners move from court to court until they reach the first court, where the best matches can be seen. But you don't have to be a semipro to have fun. Whole families can also play, from the oldest, fattest aunts to the littlest, most awkward children. All that is required is a little waiting to claim a court. It's worth it, as the courts are perfect and the setting, complete with the dark blue Atlantic waters lapping on the beach under swaying palms, is enough to gentle the heart of even the most ruthless volleyballer.
Proving they have more to offer than bingo and tobacco, those savvy Seminoles lure tourists to their Big Cypress Reservation with the promise of panthers and snakes, swamp buggies and airboats, chickees and crafts. Signs lead the way from Alligator Alley to Exit 14, then north on State Road 833 to West Boundary Road and into Billie Swamp Safari. Careen through shallow waters and hardwood hammock on a glorified jeep-bus, stopping at the Oasis to schmooze the predatory, territorial Donald Trump -- the alligator, that is -- then return to the kitschy Seminole village and eat his less-fortunate brethren for lunch. The Swamp Water Cafe waitress aptly describes alligator tail as "a cross between chicken and fish," but on a weekend afternoon, this delicacy may be upstaged by another local attraction: charismatic tribal chairman and aspiring country musician James Billie. Though tour guides decline to discuss the chief, approach him during a break in his tableside jam session, and he'll regale you with off-color folktales about the swamp's namesake, Kissimmee Billie. Up the street the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki ("to know, to remember") Museum gives a more conservative history lesson, with Chief Billie making his big-screen appearance in full CEO regalia. Dioramas re-create native activities: Cypress canoes cross the translucent Everglades, mannequins do the green corn dance. Parents might wish to point out printed anecdotes about traditional disciplinary practices such as the scratching of naughty youth; the power of suggestion should be enough to keep children well-behaved on the ride home.
Ali Witherspoon carries an American flag. His head is draped in camouflage. His biceps are bigger than grapefruits. He is big and mean and scowling. You will listen to him if you know what's good for you. He knows what's good for you, and that's running, crunching, squatting, bending up and down, and running down the beach and back again until you are gasping, wheezing, broken, ready to drop. Get it together, soldier! A former New England Patriot, Witherspoon runs Muscle Beach Gym on the beach in Hollywood, headquarters for the most grueling workout regimen south of Fort Benning. Sign up for his Saturday morning basic training at your own peril. At the end of ten weeks, if you survive, you may be in the best shape of your life.
Certainly it's not the finest pool table you'll come across in South Florida. There are a few divots and funny felt runs, and the rails don't play quite true. But how many bar tables in equivalent stages of disrepair force you to shuck out four quarters to play on? Just about every single one. Here play is gratis. So rack 'em up and knock 'em down. Once the sun sets, the anodyne of alcohol begins to work its magic, and the breeze on the open-air patio kicks in, you won't know the difference. Even when the eight ball rolls to the lip of the pocket and then stops suddenly in a queer little depression -- a cherry for your opponent to pick off -- you'll just chuckle and curse your luck. Besides, while you're waiting for your turn at the table to come around again, you'll have time to enjoy some of the best conch chowder and barbecue available, not to mention the mounted deer's ass hanging from the wall.

Fishing superstar and television personality Rolan Martin can take a camera crew wherever he wants to shoot one of his segments for cable fishing shows, and when he's taping one on bass fishing, he heads to the Everglades. He knows something many savvy South Florida fisherman do, and it might not seem fair: When the South Florida Water Management District drops the water level in the Glades each winter based on predictions of rainfall for the coming year, water starts flowing out of the flats and into canals; at such intersections bass, perch, brim, and tarpon sit with their noses into the current waiting for smaller bait fish to float by. And whether you're an avid angler or a first-timer, you can take advantage of the bountiful pickings in the miles of glades accessible from Everglades Holiday Park. Just follow Griffin Road west, and you'll run into the parking lot, where you can use the boat ramp to put in your own craft or rent a boat ($52.50 plus tax for five hours). From there anyone should be able to find a happening fishing hole, thanks to the marvels of engineering. Park admission is free.

"He's got a tricky little pitch shot from off the green, and we can see his knees shake from here," whispers Johnny Miller of NBC, sitting up in his TV tower next to the filled grandstands surrounding the 18th green. You grip down on the sand wedge, ignore the crowds (and the pressure), and lift the ball out of the four-inch rough and onto the bent-grass greens and sink it! Heron Bay was designed by a pro and is owned by pros, and it's where the pros play when the tour stops here in March. It's one of the few TPC courses where the public is allowed to play. They start growing the rough a few weeks before the tournament and put up the stands so you can have pretensions of tour experience as you hack your way around this difficult layout. The course hugs the eastern edge of the Everglades and has been recognized for its nature-friendly design and, of course, beautiful herons. The Desert Fox, Erwin Rommel, would feel at home here with the number of sand bunkers that come into play. And before reaching into the water for that errant shot, make sure there's no gator.

Weston Hills

If your daily vocabulary includes words like reps, sets, grams, cardio, and pounds, it should also include one more, Gold's. The self-proclaimed "Mecca of Bodybuilding" sprouted up in July 1990, thanks to partners Ed Benson and Bob DeLuca. Over the last ten years, Benson (now sole owner) has turned the original 10,000-square-foot facility into an elite exercise environment. The purchase of three adjacent stores added an 8000 square feet devoted to arms and legs and a spinning and aerobics studio. Four different sets of dumbbells, Ivanko plates and bars, a rock-climbing simulator, and more than 30 pieces of cardio equipment make this the best place to train for the hard-core bodybuilder or the average person wanting to get in shape. Members of the aerobics staff have appeared on ESPN's Corey Everson's Gotta Sweat and ESPN2's Crunch Fitness, and the spinning is coordinated by WSVN-TV (Channel 7) fitness expert Ellen Latham. Gold's motto is "We guarantee results." How? For those who need motivation or instruction, there is a team of personal trainers headed by author and WIOD-AM (560) radio's fitness show host Phil Kaplan. Got pain? Gold's offers an on-site chiropractic physician's office. Got kids? A baby-sitting service is available. A pro shop of vitamins and supplements makes this the complete gym. Over the years it's been the gym of choice for athletes like Mr. Olympia Vince Taylor, members of the Miami Dolphins, and model Niki Taylor.

Nobody intends to tumble from the saddle, but if it happens, let it be with AA-D Horse Adventures. An amiable guide will dust you off, explaining what caused your abrupt dismount and how to avoid future falls, taking care to minimize your embarrassment. Then, as in the proverb, the group leader will help you back onto the tamed beast. With names like Little Tree and Cowboy, these horses are well groomed, responsive (if you can communicate clearly), and younger than the plodding types found at many horseback-riding outfits. Tree Tops' extensive trails meander through live oak forest, around wild coffee shrubs and Brazilian pepper plants, tempting the ever-hungry equines and keeping you alert. "Toes up, heels down," the guides nag, while praising your improved form. You survive the rest of the ride without kissing the dirt again, and the horse is replaced by a soreness that smacks of a more amorous adventure.

Before opening his indoor gym of faux rock walls last spring, Coral Cliffs owner Robert Christiansen had a 1400-foot wide, 25-foot tall section of the warehouse space he leases covered with foot- and handholds comprising 23 routes -- from a ladderlike beginner's climb to contortionist-only extreme routes. And working by himself he's gradually expanded the climbing face, working toward a goal of covering a 7000-foot-wide section. Even as he's done so, those original routes have been tweaked periodically, offering a continually changing selection of climbs. As a long-time climber himself (he provides free instruction), Christiansen knows that variety is the spice of climbing and wants to provide that for vertically starved South Floridians looking for ever-new scaling challenges. Tape, in a rainbow of colors, marks the different climbs, and each attempt on the wall is kept safe using a buddy system of climber and belayer. The belayer is the person on the ground attached to the climber by a rope between his or her harness and the climber's; the rope is strung through a pulley system that makes light work of stopping a fall.

Bells ring overhead, prompted by the pull of a handle. Plastic rings with polka dots circle bent bars of galvanized steel. A volleyball seesaws along a metal channel from one basket to another. Guiding these movements with wonder and wide grins are children usually excluded from playground activities, children whose physical and mental disabilities prevent them from swinging or sliding with their peers. The forlorn expression on a wheelchair-bound boy's face as he watched his carefree siblings jump, run, and giggle inspired Richard Neiman to found Basic Skills, Inc., a Fort Lauderdale company that produces playground equipment for disabled children. The newly incorporated business unveiled its educational designs in December at Anniversary Park, possibly the only playground to provide comparable pleasure for children of all abilities. The bright colors and innovative shape of "The Basketball" may seem striking now, but Neiman hopes that eventually it will be as commonplace as the sandbox by its side -- the children straining to tilt its baskets not so different from those constructing castles out of sand.

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