By Brian Feinzimer
By Charles Lam
By Joel Beers
By LP Hastings
By Dave Barton
By LP Hastings
By Joel Beers
Whether you still cling to dreams that should have died years ago, haven’t picked up a baseball mitt in 40 years, or just have a hankering to play the grand ol’ game in an organized fashion, here are three avenues: The Pacific Coast Baseball League (www.pcbl.org) is for serious ballplayers. How serious? You pay $200 to play 10 games in this semi-professional, adult baseball league that includes more than 2,500 players, all of whom hope to post eye-raising stats to get the attention of minor-league teams that actually pay them to play. The National Adult Baseball Association (www.dugout.org), the largest amateur-baseball organization in the country, has a big Orange County presence, with an open league for anyone, along with 25-and-over, 35-and-over, 45-and-over and 55-and-over leagues, most with advanced, intermediate and recreational divisions. The Men’s Senior and Adult Baseball League of Southern California (www.socalmsbl.com) offers three leagues—18-and-over, 25-and-over and 38-and-over—split into two divisions based on skill level. Nine Orange County regional parks also offer baseball diamonds for more casual play. Visit www.ocparks.com for a more complete list.
It’s a staple of the Summer X-Games and even an Olympic-medal sport, but BMX riding got its start on courses just like the Orange Y. Opened in 1977, it’s the longest-running operational BMX track in the United States. And though the sport has long outgrown the confines of this dirt track, some of the roots that helped anchor its growth into a global phenomenon are found in these hills, jumps and banks. Races are held Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 2241 E. Palmyra, Orange, (714) 502-2269; www.orangeybmx.com.
Though the professional scope of the sport of bodyboarding in the United States doesn’t match that of Australia, where pros can draw as much as $100,000 in salaries, “there are probably more bodyboarders in Orange County than anywhere else in the world,” says Ron Ziebell, who owns Alternative Surf in Seal Beach. One of the rare sports that a rank beginner can immediately enjoy, but takes hard-core professionals years to master, bodyboarding is superior to surfing, Ziebell says, “because there are waves that surfers can’t ride that we can. Fast and heavy waves aren’t good for them because they don’t have time to get on their boards, but since we’re on our bellies, we can ride the barrel and tunnel deep inside and come out of it. Nothing beats the adrenalin rush of bodyboarding.” The best place for beginners is 40th Street in Newport Beach, which is all bodyboarding all the time. For advanced bodyboarders, check out Salt Creek in Laguna Beach. For the truly advanced, there’s the notorious Wedge in Newport Beach. Lessons at Alternative Surf are $85 for beginners, and boards range from $35 to $250. Alternative Surf, 330 Main St., Ste. D, Seal Beach, (562) 881-3781; www.alternativesurf.com.
Before pitching a tent, you face that eternal only-in-Orange County dilemma: to beach, or not to beach? Seems like a gimme, but then you realize how much you’ll need to hustle or grease ranger palms to score a fire ring with an ocean view. Most marquee state-beach campgrounds, such as Doheny in Dana Point and Bolsa Chica in Huntington Beach, are almost entirely booked through the summer. But Crystal Cove State Park—in El Moro Canyon, inland from Newport Beach’s glorious Crystal Cove State Beach—has spots open for $25 per day. You’ll have to hike 3 miles to your campsite, where you’ll rough it without trash cans or running water, but that’s part of the fun. For more family-friendly amenities, including hosted nature hikes and the ever-thrilling threat of wildfires, try county-run Caspers Wilderness Park off the Ortega Highway in South County. Base rate for a site is only $15 per night, but be sure to factor in the mental cost of smuggling booze in canteens. State park reservations can be made through reserveamerica.com. For Caspers Park, go to ocparks.reserveworld.com.
Nothing screams summer like a 1,000-pound, aromatic giant animal continually swishing flies away from its enormous butt with its tail. And no place is better to hop on the back of a horse than the Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center. For $55, you can take a guided tour along the trails of the 25-acre facility. If you’re part of a party, you can even whack a horse with a stick for only $25. For reals! Of course, it’s a candy-filled piñata, but it’s the thought that counts. If you’re more interested in watching highly skilled horse riders, the center is the site for several exhibitions during the summer, including the June 13 Cowboy Challenge Clinic and the Surf City Cowboy Challenge, which benefits an equine rescue group, on Aug. 14 and 15. 18381 Golden West Dr., Huntington Beach, (714) 848-6565; www.hcpec.com.
Most of the regional parks administered by the county have stocked lakes, but the serious anglers head to Irvine Lake, a private body of water built in 1931 that doesn’t require a license to fish. It’s one of the best places in the state for rainbow trout. The catfish opener is June 11, and if you’re interested, get there early. Many hardcore fishers sleep in the parking lot overnight to land the prime spots. There is a five-fish limit for catfish; the same for the other species that might be found, including bluegill and crappie. The bass in the lake are catch-and-release. If you catch a sturgeon or a big-ass 20-inch something, the staff requests you bring it to the tackle shop (still alive), where they’ll take your photo. You’re then asked to put it back in the lake, so some other lucky soul can get the pleasure of bringing it in. It’s $22 to fish the lake, but on Mondays that aren’t holidays, the price is $11. 4621 Santiago Canyon Rd., Silverado, (714) 649-9111; www.irvinelake.com.
Three venerable sportsfishing institutions are in Orange County: Dana Wharf, Davey’s Locker and Newport Landing. What’s the difference? Well, they all think they’re the best (the latter two are actually run by the same company). Dana Wharf charges $39 for half-day trips and $59 for three-quarter-day trips. Serious men definitely fish on their charters, but Dana Wharf is also way kid-friendly, offering free clinics from noon to 12:30 p.m. every Sunday to teach young anglers the fundamentals. Davey’s Locker and Newport Landing charge $40 for half-day trips and $69 for three-quarter days. Both places have been around for nearly 50 years, and many of the captains know every fathom of the Southern California coast, so if anyone knows where the sea bass, yellowtail and tuna are, they will. Dana Wharf Sportsfishing & Whale Watching, 34675 St. of the Golden Lantern, Dana Point, (949) 496-5794; www.danawharf.com. Newport Landing Sportfishing, 309 Palm Ave., Ste. A, Newport Beach, (949) 675-0550; www.newportlanding.com. Davey’s Locker Sportsfishing, 400 Main St., Newport Beach, (949) 673-1434; www.daveyslocker.com.
Open-ocean kayaking can be a scare for beginners, and harbor paddling provides a good chance of inhaling motorboat exhaust. For a bit more serenity, head to the Newport Aquatic Center, rent a kayak for $14 per hour and head away from the sea. The Upper Newport Back Bay is a veritable suburban oasis—or, to be more accurate, estuary—rich with wildlife. If you’re looking to learn the different between an egret and a heron or between a mullet (fish) and a mullet (haircut), take one of the guided kayaking nature tours or moonlight paddles. Newport Aquatic Center, 1 Whitecliffs Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 646-7725; www.newportaquaticcenter.com.
Yep. Still around and still flourishing. And not just for kids in short pants. According to the World Adult Kickball Association (www.kickball.com), tens of thousands of kickballers play the sport in leagues scattered across the country. And get this: Each league has a host bar. So if you join up for the Central or Orange Crush leagues, you party at the Auld Dubliner in Tustin. The Long Beach-based Big Kahuna league rages at Barry’s Beach Shack. The Buena Park Invincible kick it at the National Sports Bar. There are three leagues in Huntington Beach, each with its own host watering hole. Obviously, this is a sport that carries a strong social component along with the athletics. Leagues are co-ed; registration begins at $60; and there are spring, summer and fall seasons.
Sunbathers north of the Seal Beach pier need not cover their heads whenever a shadow swoops over them—for there, the shadows tend to come from kites rather than droppings-dropping seagulls. Seal Beach has earned a rep for being a great place to windsurf and kiteboard, which means it’s a great place to fly a simple diamond kite, too. Just ask the throngs of string-holders who descend every year for the Japan America Kite Festival: Seal Beach has the sand space and the upward drafts needed to get you high. Ocean Avenue and Main Street, Seal Beach.
Mosey on down to Seal Beach on a weekend day. See all those enormous kites on the water north of the pier? Those are kite surfers, adherents of the fastest-growing water sport in the world, at least according to the staff at Kitesurfari, a one-stop shop for all kite surfing 411. Basically, you’re on a smaller version of a surfboard, and you’re hanging onto tough string tied to a huge kite that whips you across the ocean thanks to something called the wind. It’s not an easy sport to master, but it’s a beauty to watch. While some kite surfers are content to just float across the surface and turn a couple of times, more intrepid practitioners get massive lift and literally fly through the air. Kitesurfari, which sells all the gear, also offers lessons. A 15-minute trainer kite lesson is free, but then it gets expensive. An introduction to kiteboarding is $540, with additional three-hour water sessions costing $200. Kitesurfari, 18822 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 964-KITE; www.kitesurfari.com.
There are miles and miles of great bike trails throughout Orange County, from Chino Hills State Park in the east to the 15 miles of paved trails connecting Sunset Beach and Balboa. If you’re a novice, consider the 6-mile single track of Sycamore Run at Aliso and Wood Canyons Regional Park. With a 300-foot elevation gain, it’s an easy and scenic way to get your new tires dirty. For a more hair-raising experience, try the luge portion of the Santiago Truck Trail, located on Santiago Canyon Road, about 1.25 miles north of Cook’s Corner. It’s a steep, narrow, 1.5-mile single track that plummets 700 feet toward Live Oak Canyon Road. Stay to your left—there’s a gnarly drop-off to the right.
If you’re itching to put boot to boulder, there are a handful of spots in the county—or nearby—to do just that, such as Pirate’s Cove at Corona del Mar and Ortega Falls in the Cleveland National Forest. But, really, no one is going to confuse those areas with Joshua Tree. You might get more challenge—and more access to medical attention, if necessary—by climbing indoors. Anaheim’s Rock City offers a 6,000-square-foot, indoor climbing rope; a 2,000-square-foot, leadable wall; and an indoor climbing cave. Costa Mesa’s Rockreation boasts a 12,000-square-foot, textured climbing wall. And even Cal State Fullerton’s student rec center offers an alternative to banging your head against textbooks: an 1,100-square-foot, indoor climbing wall and a 30-foot wall with a crack. Check out www.indoorclimbing.com/california for all the info on these and other indoor rock-climbing facilities in Southern California.
Who doesn’t like sailing the ocean blue and becoming one with the wind and the waves? Who the fuck can afford a sailboat of their own? Only the kind of people we will probably never sit next to at a cocktail party. But you can learn to sail without coughing up a fortune. Contact Chris Jester, who runs Sail Time’s base in Newport Beach (www.sailtime.com), and instead of coughing up $200,000 for a boat, you can effectively lease one of his. But it’s still way pricey: For about $10,000, you get one-eighth ownership of a 33-foot boat. That comes out to 3.5 days per month. All maintenance and slip fees are paid for. Just want to learn to sail? Call Jester again. He also works with www.newportbeachsail.com, which trains adults to sail. For $750, you can take a three-day class that will train you how to sail a basic keelboat. Other classes teach you how to sail in open water, coastal navigation and skippering the biggest boat to Catalina or Santa Barbara islands. It can take two to three months to get certified on the biggest boats out there, and it will cost a few thousand dollars. Just want to be on a sailboat? Again: Jester’s your man. A third outfit he’s hooked up, Sail Newport Beach (www.sailnewportbeach.com), allows you to charter a captained boat for sunset sails ($400), half-day sails ($500) and full-day sails ($800). And if you just want to watch? Heck, any summer day you’re going to see plenty of sailboats in the harbors and on the coast. But the best day to watch a gazillion boats is June 21, the date of the this year’s Summer Solstice, or the Summer Sailstice among boaters, a global sailing day on which everyone tries to get their boats in the water.
Donning a wet suit makes scuba diving infinitely better than snorkeling in Orange County—especially if you get cold easily. And with sites such as Corona del Mar, Crystal Cove, Laguna Beach, Dana Point and San Clemente, you can go crazy trying to narrow down the best spot. Visibility is usually better in the winter, but in the summer, reefs are teeming with marine life. Picnic Beach, located off PCH at Myrtle and Cliff Drive in Laguna Beach, is a prime dive spot: It’s easy to get to, and there’s (usually) ample parking, bathrooms and picnic facilities (you can barbecue after you dive!). A paved ramp lets you wheel your gear down to the beach, and the protected cove makes for an easy entry and exit. A ton of colorful fish—garibaldi, goby, various bass species—hang out with anemone, moon sponges and flashy nudibranchs underwater at around 30 feet. If you’re lucky, you’ll maybe see eels, sharks or lobsters. Other dive sites to try: Rocky Beach, Diver’s Cove and Fisherman’s Cove up north. www.ocscuba.com.
As extreme as any sport you can think of, but as simple as just standing on a board and skidding into the water, skimboarding is as authentic an Orange County invention as Fender electric guitars and Balboa Island’s frozen bananas. You can pretty much skimboard at any sandy beach in Southern California, but the best place for beginners is north of the Seal Beach Pier. The best place for advanced skimboarders—and the world headquarters of the sport—is Aliso Beach in Laguna Beach. That’s where the sport truly originated and where Victoria Skimboards opened shop 35 years ago. “Laguna works so well because there’s a nice deep canyon offshore, so the waves hit the shore with really big breaks,” says Nick Aleandro, the team manager at Victoria Skimboards. “Plus, you need a nice, sandy beach to get to the water, and Aliso’s got that.” Skimboarding actually uses the same maneuvers from skateboarding and snowboarding, according to 14-time world skimboard champion and Laguna Beach native Bill Bryan. In skimboarding, you start running on the beach to catch a wave, while bodyboarders and surfers are already in the water. “The waves have a lot of power, and there’s a lot of running in soft sand, so it can get very tiring really quick, and you can get knocked down and spin out in the water or just laid out on the beach, so it has more than its fair share of danger, which just makes the rush all the more exciting,” Bryan says. It’s also an affordable sport: Cheap Chinese-manufactured skimboards go for as low as $9, though high-end boards can run as high $300. Victoria Skimboards, 2955 Laguna Canyon Rd., Ste. 1, Laguna Beach, (949) 494-0059; www.victoriaskimboards.com.
Snorkeling isn’t exactly what Orange County is known for, but Shaw’s Cove has enough marine life to make you at least want to try and breathe underwater. To get there, you’d have to take a 58-step, six-landing staircase off Fairview Street and Cliff Drive. It’s a mostly sand beach, with a few rocky areas, so if you don’t mind sharing your water space with practicing divers on weekends, you’ll probably be able to see a few garibaldi, the state fish of California, along with eels, rays, octopi, bat stars, dolphins and purple sea urchins. 999 Cliff Dr., Laguna Beach.
So many places to watch and play softball exist around here it’d be pointless to list them all. So we’ll give a shout-out to a purely alternative softball organization: the Sun and Surf Softball League. The Long Beach league sounds pretty nice, eh? Sun, surf, softball—who wouldn’t have a ball? One thing: It’s, like, really, really gay! The league has been a member of the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance since 1983 and has sent teams to the Gay World Series for more than 22 years (there’s a gay World Series? Does Mike Piazza know about this?). It holds its annual Liberty Classic softball tournament in Huntington Beach on July 4. So if you’re athletic and also happen to be gay or lesbian, check ’em out. Even better: If you’re a homophobe who thinks all gays are fags, sign up and show them what a badass baller you are. If there’s any justice in the world, you’ll be the lamest pansy on the diamond. www.surfandsunsoftball.org.
There may be better surf in other parts of the world, more pristine beaches, and more places to rip and shred in relative solitude, but nowhere is surf as saturated into the culture as Orange County. Scores of surf shops dot the coastline from Seal Beach to San Clemente, which also happens to be the surf-media capital of the world, and the biggest surfing competition in the world, the U.S. Open of Surfing, visits Huntington Beach each summer. “I’d have to agree with anyone who says Orange County is the surf capital of the world,” says Matt Yuhas, a manager at Jack’s Surfboards, which opened its original shop in 1957 in Huntington Beach and now has six locations. The reason? “I think it is just the fact there are so many people here, and we all grow up with surfing around us,” he says. There are prime surfing spots up and down the OC coast. If you’re interested in watching really good surfers, head out to the Huntington Beach pier or farther south to Trestles near San Clemente State Beach. But the best places to surf? Unless you already know, you probably won’t ever know. “There are always secret spots, but nobody’s telling,” Yuhas says. If you’re interested in finally picking up the sport, you had better be patient. And it is not the cheapest avocation. Technological innovations make the current generation of surfboards the most advanced ever, and with that science comes a steep price: The cheapest boards at Jack’s begin at $500 and many top out at more than $2,000. Jack’s Surfboards,101 Main St., Huntington Beach, (714) 536-4516; www.jackssurfboards.com.
What can you say about swimming? It’s the original summer sport and father and mother of all water sports. It’s great exercise. It’s unbelievably refreshing. It can be done in salt or fresh water, in oceans, lakes, rivers, backyard pools or even baby waders. If you want to swim, just head toward that big body of water where the sun sets every night. If you want freshwater, there’s Mission Viejo Lake and the Brea Plunge; and if you like saltwater but don’t like the beach, try Newport Dunes. And if you’re serious about swimming and competing, check out the Janet Evans Swim Center in Fullerton. Lessons are given, and you’re surrounded by some of the county’s top swimmers, members of the Fullerton Aquatics Sports Team. 801 W. Valencia Dr., Fullerton, (714) 773-5778; www.fastswimming.net.
Ain’t hard to find a tennis court in this county. Check out nearly any high-school or college campus or any county park, and chances are there’ll be a court open unless a team is practicing. But if you’ve got, say, a job, and you’re looking for night tennis, consider the eight courts at Carbon Canyon Regional Park. They’re open until 9 p.m., and the relatively remote location in the northwestern part of the county means they’re not as heavily used as others. If you’re looking to watch real tennis players in action, check out the Newport Beach Breakers, a professional team that works out of the Tennis Club in Newport Beach. The team, part of World Team Tennis, hosts seven matches this summer, as well as special appearances by John McEnroe, Lindsay Davenport and Maria Sharapova. Carbon Canyon Regional Park, 4242 Carbon Canyon Rd., Brea; www.ocparks.com. Newport Beach Breakers, (714) 352-6301; www.newportbeachbreakers.com.
Sure, there are plenty of places along the beach with volleyball nets, but sand volleyball is muy caliente on the feet and a bit tiring. And if you’re out of shape or you suck, you’re going to get laughed at by all the fitter, more-athletic people around you. An alternative to the very crowded—and very ego-deflating—beach is to bring a net and find one of the county parks that have permanent volleyball poles. While three are located right on the beach (Newport Harbor in Irvine, Sunset Beach and Capistrano Beach), the majority are inland. If you’re thinking midday, consider Laguna Niguel Regional Park, as it’s only a couple of miles from the ocean. Since all the county’s regional parks close at 9 p.m., you’ll have no problem practicing your sets and spikes in a temperature-friendly park once the sun starts setting. Our preferred choice: Carbon Canyon Regional Park, which rests on 141 acres and was once the community of Olinda. Unlike many parks, which are surrounded by housing developments, this one sits right next to 14,000-acre Carbon Canyon State Park. www.ocparks.com.