Welcome to the second edition of GT Active, Good Times Weekly’s annual magazine that celebrates health, fitness and the great outdoors in Santa Cruz County. From redwood forest to shining sea (and everything in between), this county offers up more than its fair share of options for staying fit, vibrant and active. Here, we spotlight some of the places, businesses and people who embody this spirit locally. As you flip through, we hope you will be inspired to take advantage of the wealth of opportunities found in this mecca of wellness we call home. In the words of author/businessman Jim Rohn, “take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”
-Elizabeth Limbach, Editor
Check out a sampling of the articles from GT Active below.
Local photographer Corey Wilson captured the cover image, in which local surfer Kyle Thiermann catches a wave in Santa Cruz County. (Read more about Thiermann and his activism efforts on page 60.) You can check out more of Wilson’s work at coreywilsonphotography.com. The spirited stand up paddle boarding images on page 44 and skateboarding shots on page 49 were taken by Nikki Brooks, a Santa Cruz photographer who can be found online at nikkibrooksphotography.com. Are you a local shutterbug with a knack for sports photography? Would you like to see your photos featured in the pages of next year’s GT Active? Email photos to [email protected]
Surfing for Change
Santa Cruz’s favorite surfer/activist, Kyle Thiermann, gives new meaning to the phrase ‘sea change’
By Elizabeth Limbach
Pro surfer Kyle Thiermann is 22 years old, blonde, blue-eyed and oh-so-Californian. But there’s more to this surfer bro than meets the eye. At 19, Thiermann released the short film “Claim Your Change” on YouTube, in which he visits Constitución, Chile on a surfing trip and uncovers plans for a Bank of America-funded coal power plant. The video, which explores banking locally as an alternative to banking with large multinationals, succeeded in creating a well-known activist of Thiermann in Santa Cruz and beyond. Since, he’s made videos that delve into the importance of shopping locally and the perils of single-use plastics. He filmed his latest video—an examination of nuclear power and alternative energy that hit the web in December 2011—at the site of a proposed nuclear power plant in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa.
We caught up with Thiermann (who, by the way, was the recipient of the 2011 Brower Youth Award, a top environmental award for youth given by the Earth Island Institute) to talk surfing, activism, ping-pong, and more.
How long have you been surfing?
I started surfing when I was 11 years old. I’m the youngest of five and all of my older brothers and sisters surfed, so they got me into it.
What’s your favorite surf break in Santa Cruz County?
I’d say the [San Lorenzo] river mouth—right in the middle of Santa Cruz. My parents split up when I was younger—my dad lived on the Eastside and my mom lived on the Westside, so half the week I’d be at Pleasure Point and half the week I’d be at The Lane. I grew up surfing both sides of town, so it’s funny that the spot right in the middle is my favorite.
Other than surfing, what are your favorite ways to stay active in Santa Cruz?
There are not always waves in Santa Cruz, and when there aren’t, you have to figure out other things to do. Skateboarding is a big one for me—Santa Cruz has some great skate parks. I also love playing ping-pong. My friends and I get into really fierce ping-pong battles. Recently I joined the Santa Cruz Table Tennis Club. These guys are masters. You’ll go in and come out dripping in sweat from getting destroyed by a 70-year-old man. It’s great because now when I go back and play my friends, I can use what I’ve learned.
How did the Surfing for Change project start?
The Surfing for Change series came to be by me traveling a lot when I was a kid and realizing that a lot of the decisions I made in Santa Cruz were affecting people all over the world. I started doing research, visiting places I loved to surf, and looking at how decisions I make at home impact people there.
Your first video, “Claim Your Change,” resulted in $345 million of lending power being shifted from corporate to local banks.
Yes, and that is just the amount that has been documented. Largely it was from the Santa Cruz community—they were the ones who really got behind it. I just made the movie, but they took action around it. There was such a big result from [the film] that it showed me how the little decisions we make in our lives have a big impact. So that’s the theme I kept going with—that you don’t have to be a full-time activist to support your community in really important ways.
Plus, we have full-time activists like you to help out, right?
I am now doing this full time—surfing professionally, speaking around the country at different colleges, and doing Surfing for Change. I started Surfing for Change when I was 18 years old, and I’m 22 now—it’s grown in a big way and a big part of that is because Santa Cruz supported me from the beginning.
Derby Skate Park: Thiermann’s preferred spot for skating is Derby Skate Park—the oldest skate park in California, as well as the spot where then-15-year-old Thiermann broke his arm. The simple yet classic park can be found at the corner of Auburn Avenue and Woodland Way, just off of West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz Table Tennis Club: The Santa Cruz Table Tennis Club was founded in 1992 and meets every Tuesday and Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Portuguese Hall, located at 216 Evergreen St. in Santa Cruz. For more info, visit scttc.com.
His Latest Film: For his latest film, Thiermann traveled to Jeffreys Bay, South Africa. “Surfing J Bay is like surfing from the top of Steamer Lane down to the Wharf,” says the local. “It’s the best wave I’ve ever seen, and they’re planning to put a nuclear power plant there.” Check out the video (and his others) at surfingforchange.com.
PHOTO BY COREY WILSON.
Moving On Up
Aiming high at Pacific Edge Climbing Gym
By April M. Short
Santa Cruz offers myriad fitness options, both indoors and out. One of the most popular indoor sport opportunities around is found in an industrial-looking building in Santa Cruz’s Seabright neighborhood, home to Pacific Edge Climbing Gym.
Indoor rock climbing provides an opportunity to learn the reputedly treacherous sport in a less-threatening setting, and allows seasoned climbers to keep fit when the weather or scheduling does not permit them to climb in the great outdoors. When it opened its doors 19 years ago, Pacific Edge was one of the first indoor rock climbing gyms in the Bay Area.
Inside the gym one recent afternoon, a 12-year-old boy and 70-year-old woman climb in parallel up a 50-foot wall, chatting here and there. Around them, dozens of others also scale the imitation rock parapet. Below, the Basic Safety class lets out and a group of 15 timid-looking newbies crane their necks to gaze at 14,000 square feet of vertical climbing terrain covered in ascending bodies.
“Climbing gyms have changed the sport pretty dramatically in that they’ve made it super accessible, so now there’s climbing in your neighborhood as opposed to having to travel,” says Pacific Edge owner and founder Tom Davis. “And because of the way they’re set up, they make it really easy to teach, so it’s a great place to learn because we have examples of everything more or less at our fingertips.”
Davis says Pacific Edge has one of the more thorough, traditional introductory classes in the business. “We approach it from the point of view that you’re going to do this outdoors, you’re going to do it as a serious pursuit, so we want you to start with all the right habits and the proper respect for how serious it is,” he says.
The seriousness and risks involved with climbing are some of Davis’ favorite aspects of the sport. “If you enjoy the adventure [and] you enjoy going to really cool places in nature and challenging yourself, [then] you end up being a lifer,” he says. While climbing is a demanding pursuit, Davis also says the basics are easy to learn if one is diligent. “The safety procedures are super simple and straightforward, and that’s really the problem: people learn them and then they get lackadaisical, they get too confident, and they overlook things,” he explains.
Kids can start belaying at 12 years old and are considered an equal partner for anybody in the gym once they pass the belaying test. “It’s something you can do your whole life and still be learning, which is why I think people love it so much,” says Davis.
In addition to their variety of climbing walls, Pacific Edge also offers a selection of 15 yoga classes, a weight room, a cardio deck, and a sauna.
Pacific Edge Climbing Gym, 104 Bronson St., 454-9254, pacificedgeclimbinggym.com. PHOTO BY KEANA PARKER.
Step Onto Liquid
Stand-Up Paddle Board Co. rides the paddle boarding craze
By April M. Short
On any given day, the hills, fields and waters of Santa Cruz County are alive with activity as residents romp and play. The waters of Santa Cruz are particularly enticing for many local outdoor enthusiasts. Paddle boarding, the ancient Hawaiian pastime, is a daily pursuit for some.
As surfers, rowers and swimmers splash in the icy Pacific waves nearby, Neil Pearlberg of Stand Up Paddle Board Co. looks out over the slow ripples of the Santa Cruz Harbor, watching as a former student stands on what looks like an enlarged surfboard and paddles with an oar.
“Look at that smile on her face; look how easy it is for her, and she’s the last person you’d think [could] be standing out on the water—a mom from Los Gatos,” he says. “Anybody can learn [to paddle board].”
Pearlberg has lived in Santa Cruz for 30 years and has taught stand up paddle boarding and stand up paddle surfing to hundreds, including his dog, Rusty, who likes to catch waves with Pearlberg. He says the sport is unique because it brings a surf culture to those who may have not previously cultivated a relationship with the ocean. It also helps, he says, to alleviate the fear many have of being out on the water, because its participants can spend solitary hours at sea without submerging their bodies in the water.
Pearlberg teaches lessons in Santa Cruz as well as on lakes in other areas. He says one of the great things about paddle boarding is its all-inclusive nature. “It’s not about being good enough, it’s not competitive,” he says, adding that people very rarely fall off of their boards, even during a first lesson. He reveals that the secret to paddle boarding success is to keep both eyes on the horizon. This can seem counter-intuitive, which is why Pearlberg says it is the No. 1 thing that trips up first-time paddlers.
The paddle boarding experience differs from person to person: There are those who stand on paddle boards during yoga classes like the H20Yoga Pearlberg teaches at Simpkins Family Swim Center. There are those who paddle fast for a cardio workout every morning, and then there are those who paddle gently on a quest for relaxation and meditation. Pearlberg adds that, for most, stand up paddling is peaceful and spiritual.
“Being in the water is like a mental laxative,” he says. “All of the stresses of day-to-day life melt away into the water as soon as you get on the board.”
Stand Up Paddle Board Co., 818-7225, [email protected], supclass.com. PHOTO BY NIKKI BROOKS.
Working It Out
Muscle-melting massages with Well Within Spa
By April M. Short
Personal health is often overlooked in today’s go-go-go world. Fortunately, Santa Cruz is an epicenter of clinics, spas and classes focused on relieving the pain and stress that accumulate in the dizzying day-to-day rush. Among the most popular ways Cruzans unwind is with the healing art of massage—something there is plenty of in this holistic heaven.
Eric Heckert was a massage practitioner for 12 years before he became the owner of Well Within Spa, which employs 54 massage practitioners who practice roughly 25 different types of massage. Heckert says the proven health benefits of massage are many: it can calm the nervous system, aid in poor circulation, and recuperate the muscles post-workout. It has even proven beneficial to cancer patients, he adds. But ultimately, he says it’s all about stress relief and respite from the daily hustle and bustle.
“For me, all of that stuff is secondary to relaxing, slowing down, and getting in touch with our bodies,” says Heckert. “The No. 1 thing that stress takes us away from is just feeling.”
Heckert says that it is possible to boil massage down to two major modalities: physical movement of muscle and tissue, and energy-oriented bodywork. However, these categories are not mutually exclusive.
“You are working energetically while working on tissue, and vice versa,” he says. For first-time receivers of a professional massage and regular customers alike, Heckert says the most important thing to remember during a massage is that it is “your time.” “You can ask for what you want, and what you feel you need,” he says. “It’s so helpful when people say, ‘I’ve got this thing and it’s driving me crazy.’”
It’s imperative that recipients are comfortable, and, as such, Heckert says they shouldn’t be shy about asking for increased or decreased pressure, warmer or cooler temperature in the room, adjustments to the table, and so on. And for those who prefer not to disrobe, he adds that most practitioners are trained in a modality that works with people who remain clothed.
That being said, Heckert reminds massage-goers that even if a massage is not exactly what you expected, the practitioner is a professional and it is important to trust them to address your needs. “The practitioner has a lot of experience,” he says. For example, a practitioner may address a shoulder problem by rubbing the ankle. “[Massage is] expensive, I acknowledge that, and it is worth it when it’s done by somebody proficient who has experience and has the training,” Heckert says. “That said, it’s your time and it’s your money and you should have a voice in how it goes.”
The Well Within Spa also offers private rooms with saunas and Japanese-style hot tubs. These rooms can be reserved separately, or in addition to any massage—the latter of which Heckert says is an ideal pairing. He says, “The combination of the tubs and the massage is perfect because if you’re doing it before, you’re going to be relaxed for your massage, and if you’re doing it after, you’re going to sweat out the toxins released during a massage.”
417 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 458-9355, wellwithinspa.com.
BODY WORK TIPS
Massage, Rolfing, acupuncture—the list of bodywork modalities goes on. Here are a few helpful hints from Eric Heckert, owner of Well Within Spa, for how to keep your body at its healthiest throughout and after the experience.
1. Don’t eat a big meal right before your appointment. Your bodywork session will usually require you to lie on your belly, so it’s best to eat a couple of hours beforehand for total relaxation.
2. Arrive early. It helps to allow a moment to transition from the hectic pace of life into the bodywork space. “I think the more relaxed you are going into bodywork, the more you’re going to get out of it,” Heckert says.
3. Drink a lot of water. Toxins are released during bodywork and drinking a gallon of water within the 24 hours following an appointment is helpful to flush the toxins from your system. | AS