The next best thing to frolicking on the beach is the anticipation just before you touch a toe to hot sand. One inlander recalls trips as a youth with his parents to the beach, and the giddiness that came with each backseat, split-second glimpse of the sparkling ocean in between the mostly multi-unit rental houses along the Balboa Peninsula. Orange Countians can create the feeling in slow motion by riding bicycles along the Santa Ana River Trail from points inland to the shoreline splitting Newport and Huntington beaches.
You'll want to ride early enough so: a) You'll make your return trip before the early afternoon headwinds kick up, which can make that ride back absolutely hellish, and 2) You can get a table at Cappy's Café (5930 W. Coast Hwy., 949-646-4202), which serves up huge, delicious, reasonably priced breakfast platters you can easily share with a mate. On the beverage side, there's endless free ice water to satisfy the thirst brought by morning cardio, endless refills of cheap coffee in case pedaling your life away was not enough to wake your silly ass up, and (bring the charge cards) a full bar serving stiff bloody Marys that will make the return ride interesting.
Cappy's will leave you so full you'll want to confine your lunch to eating sand at the world-famous Wedge. Located at the extreme east end of the Pen, where the west harbor jetty extends from shore, the Wedge often has large swells crashing into the jetty, causing waves to bounce back and meet oncoming waves to form a—you guessed it—liquid wedge. These massive walls of water, some as high as 30 feet, break so close to the shore they often plant riders into the sand (thus the reference to eating the white stuff).
The uninitiated should know that being an excellent swimmer is required, pain management is recommended and body surfing is encouraged. Oh, feel free to bring along a surfboard or bodyboard. Whether you will want to actually take it with you into the water will depend on how well you think you can defend yourself against an army of tanned specimens bent on maintaining their unofficial ban on riding boards in their break.
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It's less tense (but amazingly more crowded) at the final stop on this Newps summer cardio tour: Tapas Flavors of Spain (4253 Martingale Way, 949-756-8194), which is kinda sorta near John Wayne Airport. It's a nice place for a meal and drinks and those appetizers the Spanish call tapas. What makes the place especially especial is the salsa dancing that grows more popular the later it gets. (Hail, instant sangria courage!) The large dance floor routinely hosts salsa lessons and professional dancers and musicians. But it's a total trip when open dancing hits the floor, as well-dressed men and women in flowing skirts seem to come out of the woodwork to stylistically throw one another around like rag dolls. Dancing couplings change as the night wears on, and it's always a kick (literally!) to see a really short guy standing on his tippy-toes to hold high in the air the hand of the really tall chica he's trying to spin. Such a move can lead to another famous Newport Beach phenomenon: the Wedgie.