Best of Best Health & Fitness 2011

bo_healthToadal Fitness has been around for years. It’s run by locals. It’s great. This year, it grabbed the top spot as Best Health Club, edging out Spa Fitness for the first time in years. See how the votes fell elsewhere.


Acupuncture / Alternative Health

Five Branches

Whatever’s ailing you, chances are a trip to Five Branches University could help. Here, faculty and students practice the ancient medical art of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the “five branches” of which are acupuncture, energetics, herbal medicine, massage and dietetics. They draw from ancient Chinese knowledge of the body and its qi, or energy flow, to give you helpful, personalized acupuncture sessions. Thing To Know: Since opening in 1984, Five Branches has gone from seeing one patient a day to 140 patients per day. 200 7th Ave., Santa Cruz, 476-8211, fivebranches.edu. | Elizabeth Limbach

Runners-up (Acupuncture) Lee Holden,  Cally Haber

Aerobics Instructor

Lee Pate (Zumba)

Pate is a bundle of joyful, peppy energy, and if anyone can get you to enjoy your workout, she can. Her Zumba classes will have your hips swaying and your body grooving while you dance a combination of salsa, merengue, flamenco, reggaeton, and more. She’s also fantastic at breaking down her choreography so people of all levels can participate. Thing To Know: Zumba’s not just about shaking your booty. Pate’s Zumba classes will increase your endurance and flexibility while strengthening your core. Find Lee at Spa Fitness in Capitola or at Lifestyle Fitness in Watsonville. zumbasantacruz.com. | Jessi Hamel

Runners-up Brenda Sproule, Gina Garcia

Bike Trail

WilderRanchSWilder Ranch

Wilder Ranch has it all: dramatic cliffs, wild surf, vibrant flora and fauna, and some pretty sick biking trails to boot. The mountain biking options range from beginner to advanced, and the 35 miles of trails will take you through redwoods, oaks, manzanitas, and knobcone pines. If you’re lucky you might even spy a bobcat, coyote, or sunbathing harbor seal as you pedal through the park. Other fun features are the preserved historical ranch buildings that once belonged to the Wilder family. Take a break from your biking to wander around the old ranch, and it’s easy to imagine you’re seeing California as it was 150 years ago—if the early ranchers had ridden mountain bikes rather than horses.  Thing To Know: Yes you can park outside Wilder Ranch and hike in, but, come on, people; parking is only $10 and California State Parks need all the help they can get. Bike Trail/Wilder Ranch, 1401 Coast Road, Santa Cruz, 423-9703, santacruzstateparks.org/parks/wilder. | JH

Runners-up Nisene Marks, West Cliff Drive

Day Spa

Well Within

Picture this: with a long, stressful day at work behind you, you slip into a hot soaking tub in one of the Well Within’s private tub/sauna rooms and gaze serenely out into the traditional Japanese garden. You sip complimentary herbal tea, and go from the tub to the in-room dry sauna. You sweat; your tension melts away; you relax; and you find some much-needed peace. Sounds nice, right? The tub rooms are open from 11 a.m. to midnight, and are discounted on weekdays. Equally as Zen-inducing are the Well Within’s other services, including healing massage and rejuvenating, detoxifying skin and body treatments.  Thing To Know: WW has been helping Santa Cruz relax since 1985. 417 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 458-9355, wellwithinspa.com. | EL

Runners-up Caress Day Spa, Chaminade

Fitness Trainer

Danielle Edmundson

Training with CrossFit Santa Cruz co-owner Danielle Edmundson will do more than get you ready for bathing suit season—her thorough, challenging and inventive coaching will makeover your mind as well as your body. The former NCAA water polo star is trained in nutrition as well as strength and conditioning, and she aims to help her clients become “strong, vibrant, healthy and mentally tough.” This fitness maven is also the head coach of the women’s and men’s UC Santa Cruz water polo teams, and the only woman in the entire country coaching a men’s collegiate water polo team. Thing To Know:She  can “deadlift” 1.5 times her own weight. Visit crossfitsantacruz.com. | EL

Runners-up Rocky Snyder, Nicole Gaitan

Golf Course


Mark Twain famously said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” But we think Twain would have changed his mind if he had ever played at DeLaveaga. The golf course up here will take you on a hike through the redwoods, and the views are so fantastic that you’re sure to have fun—even if your golf game isn’t quite as impressive as the surroundings. DeLaveaga also offers a golf shop, a lodge for post-golf snacks, and a driving range where a bucket of 100 balls will only set you back $10. This should help you get your swing ready to tackle hole #10—a par five doozy that can make or break your round. DeLaveaga is a public course owned and operated by the City of Santa Cruz, and has been a golf course for 41 years. Thing To Know: There’s a fun, low-key disc golf course in the back that is free to use. 401 Upper Park Road, Santa Cruz, 423-7214, delaveagagolf.com. | JH

Runners-up Pasatiempo, Seascape, Boulder Creek

Health Club/Fitness

bo_health_toadalToadal Fitness

If the French-speaking staff does not give you an incentive to stay and workout, the many enthralling classes will. With five locations in Santa Cruz county, everyone has easy access to a Toadal Fitness gym. Some classes that are offered at Toadal Fitness that are not available at other gyms are Superman, steps, Kick Boe, and Toadal Cross Training. Not only does the gym provide a place for members to exercise, it also helps them lose weight faster by composing eating and meal plans for those who sign up. Thing To Know: All types of memberships are rewarded with free training orientations, which affords them a two-hour training session with one of the personal trainers. | Christina Kharbertyan 113 Lincoln Street, Santa Cruz, 423-3764; 1200 17th Avenue # 108, Santa Cruz, 464-3764; 3004 Mission St, Santa Cruz – (831) 466-3764; 6200 Soquel Drive Aptos, 331-4652; toadalfitness.com.

Runners-up Spa Fitness, Club One

Jogging Trail / Hiking Trail

Nisene Marks

It’s perhaps one of the most beautiful places in Santa Cruz County. Take any trail you can find, then just go for it—but allow yourself to spend the day combing the hills and discovering the treasures found in some of the best hiking anywhere in Northern California. The views are stellar, the skill level is varied, and the fresh air is life changing. Thing To Know: You can hike to the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Aptos Creek Road and Soquel Drive, Aptos, 763-7063, santacruzstateparks.org/parks/nisene. | Christa Martin

Runners-up (Jogging) West Cliff, Pogonip, Wilder Ranch
(Hiking) Wilder Ranch, Fall Creek & Pogonip (Tie)


bo_health_AptosMartialArtsAptos Martial Arts

Known for integrating the physical and spiritual aspects of kickboxing, Aptos Martial Arts has established a reputation as a welcoming space where people, age 14 and up, can nurture their mind, body and spirit. With an emphasis on technique rather than blood, sweat and tears, the instructors lead students in empowering exercise that is, at the same time, both fun and challenging. If you can no longer stand the sight of a treadmill, Aptos Martial Arts has a stimulating alternative to keep you engaged, with boxing hand skills and TaeKwonDo foot techniques. Drop-in fees are $15; classes cost $60 per month. Thing To Know:  All of the instructors at Aptos Martial Arts are black belts. aptosmartialarts.net; 688-1118. | JB

Runners-up Sam Radetsky (Kaijin MMA), Minorsan

Martial Arts Instructor

Garth Taylor

Garth Taylor’s favorite part of being a Jiu Jitsu instructor is “being able to share the beautiful art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with people.” Taylor had been teaching students for many years, ever since he was at the blue belt level. A seasoned fighter, he has been doing Jiu Jitsu for 16 years and has been a black belt for 10. His most well-known achievements are his title of Black Belt Masters/Seniors World Champion and his fights in Abu Dhabi, a mixed martial arts competition in the United Arab Emirates. The only time he visited Abu Dhabi for a competition in 1999, he won first place.  Thing To Know: The reason why he enjoys competing is because “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a mentally and physically demanding sport.” 2100-E Delaware Ave. 427-2560 kaijinmma.com. | CK

Runners-up Master Mikols, Mike Laird, Augie Gonzales

Paddle Boarding

bo_health_covewaterCovewater Paddle

Sometimes you want to have some adventurous water time without playing tug-of-war with a wetsuit. For many of you, that yearning has sparked an interest in stand up paddling (SUP). To cater to your SUP needs, Covewater—aptly located on Water Street in Santa Cruz—is where you go to find out about the latest in this alternative universe to traditional surfing. Whether you’re seeking a serious core workout or a way to gently explore the great outdoors by walking on water, this is a sport that has got you covered; and this has become the company that will arm you with everything you need to be on your way. For those who aren’t looking to simply follow the crowd and are ready to investigate this oceanic endeavor, Covewater is amped to get you started. Owners Scott and Leslie Ruble are two locals leading the charge in this emerging sport, and their enthusiastic, amiable nature will help you add another pastime to your list. Meanwhile, the Covewater store is fully stocked with all the SUP equipment you could ask for, as well as both the basics and the latest in the sport’s technology. Offering boards for sale and rental, clothing and accessories, as well as classes for all levels, Covewater is a one-stop shop when it comes to stand up paddling. THing To Know: Owner Scott Ruble used to work for Al Merrick of Channel Islands Surfboards for a decade. 726 Water St., Santa Cruz, 600-7230, covewatersup.com. | LK

Runners-up Santa Cruz Paddle Board Co., Kayak Connection

Place to Find Yourself


There’s plenty of them, so take your pick. But if you can’t “find” yourself here, good news: you can always bury your head in the sand. | Greg Archer

Runners-up West Cliff, Wilder Ranch

Outdoor Sports School

Santa Cruz Track Club

You love to lace up your running shoes and head out with the Santa Cruz Track Club. This club of running enthusiasts helps you put the miles underneath your feet as you get in shape or even prepare for your next 5K, 10K, marathon or ultramarathon. Runners of all ability levels are welcome to try out one of the club’s workouts held twice a week. Members who join the club are rewarded with free entry into the Wharf to Wharf race, club apparel, and even discounts at some local running and fitness stores. Member Tish Bertino says, “There’s a lot of camaraderie in the group and anyone can show up. You don’t have to be a hot-shot runner.” Thing To Know: The Santa Cruz track club is known for its “1000 miles” club. Members track how many miles they run each day, and if they pass 1,000 miles in a year, they are awarded a well-earned T-shirt. santacruztrackclub.com. | JH

Runners-up Adventure Out, Adventure Sports


bo_health_buddaLand of Medicine Buddha

Winning the top nod for Best Retreat is a pretty massive accomplishment, especially when you consider the spiritually rewarding nature of many areas in Santa Cruz County. Still, a jaunt to the Land of Medicine Buddha is, as you have voted, like no other. Under an umbrella of redwood trees, this nonprofit retreat center in Soquel is built around the Tibetan Buddhist philosophies—and it’s where you go to fill your well. Dotted with massive, beautiful prayer wheels (that can be rotated by any passerby to emit blessings for all of mankind), the grounds of this space offer a warm welcome to everyone. Whether you’re simply looking for a casual day walk through a forest, or are part of a group in search of a rental facility or campsite for a retreat, Land of Medicine Buddha understands what you need for healing from the bustling world. Here, you can free your mind of cluttered thoughts during weekend meditation retreats, learn about Buddhist teachings and work on physical rejuvenation during various workshops, explore Qigong and eat organic meals. Staying healthy on the inside and the outside is the objective, and Land of Medicine Buddha nurtures mind, body and soul in the most serene and wholly fulfilling environment. Go ahead and get your gong on—and let freedom ring. Thing To Know: The Medicine Buddha is a blue-colored Buddha associated with physical and mental healing. 5800 Prescott Road, Soquel, 462-8383, landofmedicinebuddha.org. | LK

Runners-up Esalen, Kiva

Skateboard Park

Derby Park

With its well-kept grounds, sand, grass and asphalt surfaces, there are dozens of ways to enjoy this beautiful little park. It boasts skateboard bowls, of course, but it also has a field, playgrounds, two tennis courts, sand volleyball court, barbecue pits, benches and picnic tables. Thing To Know:  Built in 1967, this 2.4 acre park is one of the oldest public skateparks in United States and a small piece of skate history.  508 Woodland Way, Santa Cruz, cityofsantacruz.com. | Dana Burd

Runners-up Scotts Valley Skate Park, Mike Fox Skate Park

Swimming Pool

Simkins Family Swim Center

The park’s splash down pools, one with a two-story corkscrew slide, continue to be a nice draw. That, plus its community center with kitchen and the decent admission price ($6 for adults and $4 for youth and seniors), continue to make this place one of your favorites. Thing To Know: The largest pool holds nearly 600k gallons of water with 18 50-meter lanes perfect for lap swimming, water polo and water aerobics. 979 17th Ave., Santa Cruz, (831) 454-7946, scparks.com. | DB

Runners-up Spa Fitness, Club One

Surf School

Club Ed

If you’re aspiring to someday get barreled or simply looking to glide on mellow lines, Club Ed knows how to guide you to have a good time. Started by the “Professor of Surfing,” Ed Guzman, this is your choice surf school for learning on local waters alongside instructors adept at leading both group classes and one-on-one options. Having been featured on the Disney Channel, Club Ed is first in the lineup when it comes to providing wet family fun—and whether it’s during a one-hour private lesson or a summer surf camp, patrons are known to successfully rise to the occasion and stand up on a board. Thing To Know: In 1915, founder Ed Guzman’s grandmother was the first woman to perform a headstand on a surfboard. 2350 Paul Minnie Ave., Santa Cruz, 464-0177, club-ed.com. | Evelyn Shafer

Runners-up Richard Schmidt, Cowell, Santa Cruz Surf School

Surfing Spot

Pleasure Point

We are spoiled in this town by world-class surf breaks with each turn of the head. Of all to choose from, you’ve again heralded Pleasure Point as your favorite locale to suit up, wax up and stand up on both long and shortboards alike. Culminating with long, clean lines, a prevailing offshore wind, brilliant sunshine, and the glorious views of East Cliff and Jack O’Neill’s waterfront home, the Point has it all. And whether you’re catapulting into the air at Sewers or cruising at 38th, there await accommodating waves—and plenty of stoke—for all. The historic brothel after which it was named may have been demolished, but Pleasure Point’s reputation as a premier surf epicenter rolls on. Thing To Know: The area got the name Pleasure Point due to the speakeasies it housed during Prohibition. East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. | LK

Runners-up Steamer Lane, Cowell’s

Women’s Gym

Spa Fitness

As a well-rounded health club, Spa Fitness supports overall health for women with personal fitness trainers, kickboxing classes, childcare services, and 75-foot outdoor pool. With so many activities available, getting into shape does not seem like such a workout. Spa Fitness also has more than 100 aerobics classes per week including group spin cycling, racquetball, yoga, Pilates, water aerobics, and Zumba. Thing To Know:  To promote wellness on a corporate level, Spa Fitness offers discounted rates, access to the Ladies-Only workout facility, active health massage, and the Fitness Break Café. 1100 41st Ave., Capitola 476-7373 spafitness.com. | CK

Runners-up Curves, Studio 831

Yoga Instructor

Victor Dubin (Nourish)

In a town with more yoga studios than coffeeshops, it’s hard to know where to get your aura cleansed. Where is a good place for beginners? What is the best location? Where can I get the most nirvana for my buck? With unlimited yoga classes for everyone—from beginners to yoga lifers—at $55 per month, a prime downtown location, on-site nutritional guidance and massages, it’s no wonder why the studio is a yearly Best Of champ. This year, Nourish nabs gold stars for Best Yoga Studio and Best Instructor—which once again goes to the fabulous Victor Dubin. THING TO KNOW: Nourish also sells natural fiber apparel. | JB
Yoga, nutrition, massage in Santa Cruz at Nourish nourishsantacruz.com.

Runners-up (Yoga) Village Yoga, Bikram Yoga Aptos
Runners-up (Yoga Instructor) Kevin Snorf, Mark Stephens

Best of Santa Cruz Health & Fitness 2011, Photo Captions:
Health Club Toadal Fitness Photo: Keana Parker
Kickboxing Aptos Martial Arts Photo: Kelly Vaillancourt
Paddle Boarding Covewater Paddle Photo: Keana Parker
Retreat Land of Medicine Buddha Photo: Keana Parker

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