Best of the Bay 2008
BEST NONPROFESSIONAL SPORTS TEAM
SF Fog Rugby
The Fog is one of the only rugby clubs in the world that actively recruits people of color, gay men, and women — and somehow only incredibly hunky ones apply.
(415) 267-6100, www.sffog.org
It's the gayest, classiest, most fresh-smelling gym in the city. Get buff. Get ripped. Get Gold.
Various locations. www.goldgym.com
BEST YOGA STUDIO
Monkey Yoga Shala
Bend, breathe, burn. Go bananas. Be like the monkey at Monkey Yoga Shala, the Bay Area's premier simian yoga studio.
3215 Lakeshore, Oakl. (510) 595-1330, www.monkeyyoga.com
BEST DANCE STUDIO
Learn how to bust moves and join the Rhythm Nation with the professional booty shakers at ODC — or just watch them in amazing performances.
351 Shotwell, SF. (415) 863-6606, www.odcdance.org
BEST PUBLIC SPORTS FACILITY
It's not as glamorous as it was back in the day, but Kezar is still the best place to kick balls and soak up vibes left over from the Summer of Love.
755 Stanyan, SF.
BEST PERSONAL TRAINER
Shake off that flab, grind your pelvis, and work that ass with Christabel Zamor, the sexiest hula-hooping heroine in the world.
BEST SKATE SPOT
Embarco is the best place in the world for street skating. Just don't tell the cops.
Pier 1, Embarcadero and Market, SF
BEST PUBLIC POOL
An impeccably maintained, old-school outdoor pool tucked into the heart of the Mission. The last of a dying breed.
1 Linda, SF. (415) 641-2841, www.sfgov.org
BEST SURF SPOT
Linda Mar, Pacifica: Best Surf Spot
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY CHARLES RUSSO
Linda Mar, Pacifica
The water's cold, the waves are rough, and the weather is screwy, but our readers love a challenge.
Cabrillo Hwy. at Linda Mar Blvd., Pacifica.
BEST PARK FOR HIKING
Trek through winding trails full of trees and wildlife at the oldest and most beautiful park in the East Bay.
Grizzly Park Blvd., Berk. (510) 562-PARK, www.ebparks.org
BEST NUDE BEACH
Rock out with your cock out or jam out with your clam out at the best nude beach in the West.
Off Lincoln Blvd., Presidio, SF. www.nps.gov
BEST CLOTHED BEACH
Amazing (if often fog-drenched) views, cool spontaneous sand sculptures, and tons of hidden nooks and crannies for a private feel.
1 Calle del Sierra, Stinson. (415) 868-1922, www.nps.gov
BEST NATURE SPOT FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES; BEST PUBLIC PARK
Golden Gate Park
Accessibility is key at this beloved multifaceted venue, which offers several services specifically for the disabled.
BEST PICNIC SPOT
Panoramic views of the city, half-naked hotties, beer, sausage, and pot brownies. This ain't your daddy's picnic spot (well, maybe your sugar daddy's)!
Dolores between 18th and 20th Sts., SF.
BEST DOG PARK
Where else can a pup frolic in Pacific Ocean waves and then chill with his bitch on a grassy knoll when he's done? Nowhere.
Skyline Blvd. at John Muir Dr., SF. www.fortfunstondog.org
Wind-sheltered and semiprivate, the campsites at Angel Island are the perfect remedy for the Fog City blues.
BEST PLACE TO WATCH THE SUNRISE; BEST CITY VISTA
You can see everything from Twin Peaks: the sky, the city, the tourists, the tweakers!
Top of Twin Peaks Blvd., SF.
BEST PLACE TO WATCH THE SUNSET
The sun may rise in the eastern skies, but it settles in a fine location: just off the shore of the O.B.
Great Hwy. between Geary and Sloat Blvds., SF.
BEST PLACE TO SEE THE STARS
Your roof might be awesome, but if your landlord catches you up there, you'll be homeless in no time. Skip the eviction and head to Mt. Tam.
801 Panoramic Hwy., Mill Valley. www.parks.ca.gov
BEST CEREBRAL WORKOUT
OK, you know when you're doing the elliptical at the gym, flipping idly through an US Weekly between fighting with some meathead over whether you've really been on the machine for 30 minutes? That's your body getting stronger while your mind's getting weaker. Combat your brain's slow atrophy at vibrantBrains, the only gym devoted exclusively to the oft-ignored muscle inside your skull. Instead of sweat-drenched Nautilus machines, vibrantBrains is composed of computer stations with software to challenge different parts of your mind. Happy Neuron works out your cognitive and language skills, while Lumosity's exercises work out your memory and attention capabilities. In between "workouts," the vibrantBrains lounge offers tea, reading material, and a community of newly intelligent peers. Classes like "Minding Your Mind" and "Neurobics" are also offered. All software is proven scientifically to improve brain function, but vibrantBrains' owners, Lisa Schoonerman and Jan Zivic, provide a personal touch that eases your wits into fitness.
3235 Sacramento, SF. (415) 775-1138, www.vibrantbrains.com
BEST DRINKING CLUB WITH A RUNNING PROBLEM
Banish preconceived notions about running clubs: people whose less-than-1-percent body fat is shellacked in sweat-wicking, high-tech fabrics; New Balance slaves to a stopwatch and heart monitor. Not so with the Hash House Harriers (or H3), a running club fueled more by beer and sexual innuendo than Gu and Cytomax. The Harriers' motto is "A drinking club with a running problem." A hash run is based on hare hunting, with the leading hasher laying out a trail that the rest follow. This entails more than improvising a route, however: the hasher must set up the keg and beer stops along the way. Punishments are doled out for not following the route, and they're not just sore muscles. Down-downs, as they're called, involve drinking all the alkie in your cup. Booze consumption along the way isn't the only unorthodoxy; members choose some very interesting nicknames, which range from "Wet Nurse" to "Cum Guzzling Cockaholic." If Bay to Breakers comes 51 times less a year than you'd like, join up now.
(415) 5-ON-HASH, www.sfh3.com
BEST WAY TO GO
When most people hear "go," they think of the opposite of "stop" or that middling '90s rave movie. Well, there's a lot more to "go" than green lights and Katie Holmes. Take, for example, Go, the 4,000-year-old Chinese board game. Go, or "Eastern Chess," involves two players facing off over a wooden board with small black and white stones as their weapons. The game, once used in military training schools to teach strategy, is challenging, complex, and addictive. Where can you go to Go in San Francisco? You go to the San Francisco Go Club, where you can enter Go tournaments, get Go ranking verification, receive Go lessons, or simply throw down a challenge ("You wanna Go?!"). Go-ing since 1935, this organization, headquartered in an intimate little Richmond District space, is perfect for Go fanatics and first-time Go-phers alike. Even if chess, backgammon, and checkers aren't doing it for you anymore, don't give up on board games — Go further.
500 Eighth Ave., SF. (415) 386-9565, www.sfgoclub.com
BEST PLACE TO POLISH YOUR STUNTS
Fear not, action stars. Just because you lost your stuntman (they're first to go in a recession) doesn't mean your movie has to suck. Head over to the Tat Wong Kickboxing Academy and learn those kung fu moves for yourself. Founded by Master Tat Wong — one of Inside Kung Fu magazine's 100 Most Influential Martial Artists of the 20th century and host of TV's "Kung Fu Theater" — the academy uses a combination of Chinese San Shou, American kickboxing, and Muay Thai techniques to instruct students of all ages in a huge former bank building on Clement Street. What does that all mean? It means that whether you're an action star or an extra, you'll be arrow-punching and tornado-kicking your way to tighter buns, mental discipline, and badass self-defense skills. And even if you're not the next Jean-Claude Van Damme, Tat Wong's cardio kickboxing classes may ensure you outlive him.
601 Clement, SF. (415) 752-5555, www.tatwong.com
Michael the Boxer: Best Uppercuts
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY CHARLES RUSSO
If you thought You Don't Mess with the Zohan was just another escapist summer film fantasy, think again. Ass-kicking hairstylists really do exist. Witness Michael Onello, the owner of Michael the Boxer, the only boxing gym and barbershop in the Bay Area. Michael is a third-generation barber and professional boxing trainer, highly qualified to dish out both buzz cuts and uppercuts. From the barber chair to the boxing ring, Onello's SoMa shop is a blend of old-school service and new-school fitness. You can peruse Onello's book, Boxing: Advanced Tactics and Strategies, during a hot lather shave and then, afterward, head into the ring to learn how to throw a haymaker. It's boxing and barbering, all under one roof. But don't let the Zohan comparisons give you the wrong idea. Michael's not working — as a boxer or barber — for laughs. He's simply the best double-threat in town. As Muhammad Ali said, "It's not bragging if you can back it up."
96 Lafayette, SF. (415) 425-3814, www.michaeltheboxer.com
BEST NET PROFIT
On a late-night talk show, five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams recently referred to herself as a "tennis nerd," meaning that when she isn't playing tennis, she likes to watch it. All Bay Area tennis nerds should know about the Centre Court Pro Shop at San Francisco Tennis Club. For once you won't have to trek through a maze of equipment for other sports to get to the array of shoes, clothes, and racquets. And if you glance at the TV by the front counter, you'll likely see a recording of a classic match. Casual onlookers who were wowed by the epic "Greatest Match Ever" between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer can show their allegiance to the players associated with the sport's renaissance by buying some new Babolat or Wilson gear. The shop has a ton of demo racquets, so any player — from weekend hacker to daily tennis nerd — can figure out through trial and error (and fun) which stick works best for hitting winners and upping their game.
645 Fifth St., SF. (415) 777-9010
BEST GAME IN TOWN
When you're winning, it doesn't matter where you watch. "The Catch" in '82 could have made prison walls disappear. Super Bowl XXIX (Niners 49, Chargers 26) gave that boiler-room sublet in the Tenderloin charm. Yes, winning throws a glow on your surroundings, but when you're losing — the 49ers have finished below .500 for the last five seasons; the Giants, for the last three — it's a different story. You want comfort. You want character. You want beer. Thankfully, there's Green's Sport's Bar on Polk. It's got all the essentials: 17 high-definition TVs, 18 draft beers, and vintage Sports Illustrated swimsuit editions on the walls. Friendly staff, fanatical patrons, and an interior covered with flags, jerseys, pucks, pictures, and pennants — your game at Green's is a guaranteed "W" regardless of the score, and a perfect reminder that just because your team's losing, you don't have to be a loser.
2239 Polk, SF. (415) 775-4287
BEST EXPLOSION OF AQUA
We're perhaps a little too, er, unbalanced to stand upright enough on a surfboard and guide it through the roiling waves, but that doesn't mean we're not suckers for hotties in wetsuits. Often you'll find us curled up with a cup of joe in the dunes of Ocean Beach or Pacifica (or, hell, southern Baja — we're enthusiasts!) appreciating fine-bodied curler-tamers from afar and merrily offering freshly laundered towels and the pitiful results of our amateur clambake to those who return from the breakers unbroken. But enough about us. This award goes to Aqua Surf Shop for not only outfitting our heroic tsunami-herders with affordable boards, suits, and accessories, but also taking the whole surfwear trend in charitable directions with glamorous fashion shows at 111 Minna that benefit the Edgewood Center for Families and Children and feature the work of several primo local stylists and music makers. With a new Haight Street location to complement its original Ocean Beach store, Aqua keeps growing and growing, proving that surfers really are the gift that keeps on giving.
2830 Sloat, SF. (415) 282-9243; 1742 Haight, SF. (415) 876-2782, www.aquasurfshop.com
BEST TRUE SCHOOL SKATE COMPANY
Skateboarding may be the coolest sport in the world, but its popularity has come with a price: the loss of authenticity and soul. The subculture used to be underground and dangerous, but thanks to corporate buyouts, heavy MTV coverage, and the X Games, it's become as innocent as lacrosse. Luckily, Deluxe, a.k.a. DLX, the parent distribution company for Real Skateboards, Thunder Trucks, Spitfire Wheels, Krooked, and Antihero, keeps it real. With a focus on localized production — all boards, trucks, wheels, and clothes are actually made right here in the city — and a dedication to a distinctly San Franciscan brand of skate culture (flannels, beers, and raw street), Deluxe has managed to maintain some integrity as an alternative for the small sect of people who like to skate but hate the mall. Deluxe pros like Mark Gonzales, Dan Drehobl, and Peter Ramondetta are as far as you can get from corporate whores like Tony Hawk and Bam Margera, and the products Deluxe makes bear almost no resemblance to the shit they stock at Westfield Centre.
1111A 17th St., SF. (415) 468-7845, www.dlxsf.com
BEST GIANT FITNESS CLUB THAT ATE ALAMEDA
The Bladium isn't joking when it bills itself as "big club, big energy." Situated in a former aircraft hangar on an abandoned naval base, the 120,000-square-foot sports and fitness club has stellar views of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet and San Francisco. Inside, airy dance studios, two indoor soccer fields, an in-line hockey rink, a rock climbing wall, a boxing ring, basketball and volleyball courts, and a kids center mean there are plenty of ways to get hot and sweaty. Did we mention the well-stocked bar and grill where you can offset any potential weight loss from all that working out? The club's belief in cross-training as the best way to stay healthy translates into plenty of exercise options for one low monthly fee. But beware the darling clothing store situated inside the club. That's where you may lose the shirt off your back, in exchange for a racy lacy sports bra — all the better to show off your nascent abs.
800 West Tower Ave., Bldg 40, Alameda. (510) 814-4999, www.bladium.com
BEST TWO-WHEELED COMMUTE
All the transportation experts say that when it comes to riding bicycles through big-city streets, there is safety in numbers. So if you're among the majority of San Franciscans who still don't pedal their way to work, there's no better day to try it than Bike to Work Day, which occurs each May. This year, for the first time in San Francisco history, official traffic surveys that day counted more bicycles than automobiles during the morning commute on Market Street, a particularly astounding feat given that a court injunction has prevented the city from creating any new bike lanes or making improvements for the past couple of years. The day also features free coffee and other goodies from "energizer stations" (often staffed by very attractive "energizers") around town and a Bike Home from Work afterparty, where you can flirt with the steel buns set and toast your merry mileage.
BEST NON-KINKY ROPE SKILLS
SFC Double Dutch: Best Non-Kinky Rope Skills
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY CHARLES RUSSO
San Francisco has never been known for its wholesome use of rope — check Kink.com for a taste of "normal" SF-style rope play — but that's all changing now that the Double Dutchesses are back on the scene. The DD girls, four supersexy city girls with mind-boggling rope skills, made a big splash a few years ago with their quirky jump rope routines and blood-drenched performance art skits. But despite DD's efforts, the great double dutch resurgence never quite took off, probably because choreographed jump roping is hard as hell. The girls laid low for a while, working diligently on their routines, but now they're back. Their new jump rope instruction organization, SFC Double Dutch, is dedicated to spreading the joy of jump rope. So untie your bondage slave and sign up for classes at CELLspace or Studio Garcia before they fill up. Uptown, downtown; everybody's gettin' down.
214 Clara, SF. (415) 618-0992, www.sfcdoubledutch.com
BEST SWINGIN' ON A STAR
McKinley Park: Best Swingin' on a Star
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY CHARLES RUSSO
You might not have had the need — or the opportunity — to plan an over-the-top, no-holds-barred romantic date recently. Let's face it: it's hard to get a date in this city, let alone get one you're actually excited about. But just when you're least expecting it, someone wonderful lands in your lap, and you find yourself frantically trying to come up with something that will impress. May we suggest McKinley Park, a hidden gem atop Potrero Hill. It's an ideal date stop: the swing set at the edge of the sleepy playground stunningly overlooks the entire city. Soaring through the night air, you feel as though you'll launch into the stars. It's even better to bike up to the park, despite the major hill climb required, as the rolling hills sloping down toward Third Street provide the best cycling roller coaster this city has to offer — with an ocean view.
20th Street at Vermont, SF
BEST BIG LEBOWSKI
Even though the Presidio is gradually entering a slow hostile takeover by corporations (vanity museums, Lucasfilm) and big parking lots, it's still San Francisco's throwback to the past. The farther you get from the fancy park gates, the further back in time you travel. Near the coastal bluffs, time becomes completely irrelevant, making the Presidio the perfect place to reenact scenes from the greatest slacker movie of all time: The Big Lebowski. With a bowling ball, some beers, and a few other geeky friends, the Presidio Bowl becomes your personal set for faux nihilism and cutting repartée. Twelve lanes and a bangin' snack bar (bacon-and-egg cheeseburgers, anyone?) sate you while the doobie wears off. And who can't appreciate the value of an endless fountain of warm, imitation nacho cheese? Sadly, you'll have to make the film's emblematic White Russians yourself — the Bowl only serves beer, wine, and malt liquor. But there's nothing wrong with ordering a glass of half-and-half on the rocks and doctoring it with your flask, is there?
93 Moraga, SF. (415) 561-2695. www.presidiobowl.com
If you don't do a double take when you see a six-foot-four female impersonator screaming at a Muni driver on Market Street because he rear-ended her '57 Chevy, congratulations. You've officially arrived as a proper San Francisco citizen. Where else is it considered commonplace to see a trolley hit a tranny? Yet even the most seasoned SF residents might turn their heads at this: grown men, dressed in skintight spandex and frilly lingerie, sprinting through Golden Gate Park with bikes hiked over their shoulders. This occasion, the Outlaw Cyclocross Race, is the unofficial annual opener for Northern California's October–February cyclocross race season, in which dozens of hardcore, or ridiculous, cyclists cross-dress to avoid an entry fee. Zooming off in a cloud of dust, the froofy men (and a few tie-wearing women) race through a closed-circuit loop filled with steep hills and insurmountable logs. This slightly nonlegal event has kept itself well-hidden from permit-demanding eyes for almost 15 years. To find it, you'll have to listen in the fall for strident yodels and ripping lace.
BEST HEAD START
You celebrate the same birthday over and over. You've begun to contemplate Botox. And let's not even talk about your waistline: Your muffin top runneth over. In our youth-centric, waif-y culture, where are the breaks for the older or plumper folks? The Double Dipsea Race is one. This 14.2-mile footrace, a round-trip between Stinson Beach and Mill Valley held in June, is age-handicapped: the oldest runners are given up to a 25-minute advantage over a scratch group of younger pups. The race has a few more swerves from convention. Women over 140 pounds and men over 200 can take special prizes. And runners who frequent those North Bay trails would do well to take note of the race's permissible shortcuts. The race offers these corner-cutters because founder Walt Stack wanted to encourage women and older folks to participate. The course is still grueling — a 2200-foot nongradual elevation gain, uneven, rocky footing, and yes, the infamous 600-plus Mill Valley steps. Yet it offers a gorgeous and breathtaking (if you have any left to take) vista of the Pacific.
BEST HIGH BACKSIDE OLLIE COMEBACK
There was a time when San Francisco was ground zero for skate culture. Spots like the Justin Herman Plaza, Hubba Hideout, and Pier Seven cranked out pro after pro and bred a scene more stylish and full of big-city attitude than the world had ever seen. It was great for the city's skaters who enjoyed fame, money, and industry-wide respect, but the corporations that owned the plazas, ledges, and staircases were unanimously pissed off. Ledges were capped, security guards were hired, and special laws were created to make sure San Francisco became as undesirable for skaters as an empty swimming pool for Olympian dog-paddlers. Most of the SF skate scene may have vanished since the attack, but it never died. The new Portero Del Sol Skatepark is proof. New pros, up-and-comers, and established vets like Max Schaff and Karma Tsocheff have been tearing that shit up since the cement dried back in April.
Utah and 25th St., SF.
BEST STEEL CITY BRO-DOWN
If you've ever met someone from Pittsburgh, you've met a Steelers fan. Steel City natives are serious about sports. San Francisco has a surprisingly large number of Steelers bars, where transplants and trend-followers throw back brewskis at 10 a.m. on football season Sundays. But Giordano Bros. sandwich shop in North Beach makes you genuinely feel like you're back in the 'Burgh itself. It's not uncommon to hear the hoots of former elementary school classmates running into each other, beer is available in buckets — and authentic Primanti Bros.–style sandwiches are served. These wonders are stacked with your choice of Italian meat (try the hot cappicola) and slathered with cheese, oil and vinegar, and french fries between thick-sliced Italian bread. (Add boiled egg for the full experience.) Four large TVs ensure everyone can see the game. When the Steelers win, Giordano's proprietors pass around Iron City, a brew found only in Pittsburgh. Because, in Pittsburghese: "Every one of yinz Stillers fans gets a victory swig dahn 'ere."
303 Columbus, SF. (415) 397-2767, www.giordanobros.com
BEST BODY SLAMS
The folks at Fog City Wrestling want you to watch a luchador slam a Tom Cruise impersonator into the floor. They want you to see a Samoan take-down team (combined weight: 1,100 pounds) take on the "Reno Punks" in a swirling, convoluted drama of independent pro-wrasslin'. Sweaty, in-your-face, "maybe knock you over if you're in the front row" wrestling has come back to San Francisco after what promoters Caesar Black and Steve Armani claim has been a 30-year absence. Fog City's shows are packed with so many acts, highlights, and subplots that things get raucously confusing. With a full-size ring and professional sound and lights, it brings a high level of showmanship with a big ol' plate of athleticism on the side. Wrestlers like Rikishi, the Mexican Werewolf, and Mister Primetime pull big-show moves — flying back flips, body slams, and pile drivers — just like them whut you see on the tee-vee.
As a San Francisco resident, it's your born (or inherited, or adopted) duty to be a Giants fan. It doesn't matter that baseball is boring or that scandal rocks the team every year that they don't completely suck. But just going to a Giants game can be as sporty as playing baseball — and you don't even have to enter the ballpark. Grab a pony keg and some friends, don your orange fright wig, set up camp on the stone benches across from the waterway by AT&T Park, and while away the afternoon or evening watching the kayakers on the bay wait to catch fly balls. You'll almost be able to see the big screen where the game is projected. Or, if you actually care about what's going on inside, press your eyeballs up to the right of the bicycle-parking check-in and you've got the best field-side seats in the park. Why pay $6 per Bud to watch the Giants lose when you can drink your own beer, listen to the cheers and jeers, and enjoy some amateur watersports?