Church of Skatan
26 E. Gutierrez St., 899-1586, churchofskatan.com
You know you have achieved a lofty level of popularity when the Land Shark tour shouts you out to tourists as a Santa Barbara icon. Our beloved area skate shop is just such a special place. Actually — and brilliantly — located in an old church, Church of Skatan is the undisputed cultural hub of our extended skate scene. They also have a spectacular mural on their back exterior wall of the kid from Where the Wild Things Are pushing his skate on down the road. “I grew up in Carp and would come here for everything. It was the heart of the skating community,” says manager/buyer Naren Porter-Kasbati. “And we still are. Every day it’s about our community and all the kids who skateboard.”
Santa Barbara Athletic Club (Swell)
Many locations, sbac.swellclubs.com
There is no shortage of ways to pursue a better version of yourself at the Santa Barbara Athletic Club. You can play in a squash league, swim laps in a heated outdoor pool, lift weights with a personal trainer, take a spinning or yoga or Pilates class, or just hammer a Muscle Up power smoothie at the in-house Earthbar. And all of this is right smack in the heart of downtown. “After recently upgrading the club, it is a great honor to be recognized by the community as the best health club in town,” said Swell Athletic Clubs President Janice Lesin. “Our main goal is to create a state-of-the-art product in an environment that is supportive and caring. It is very rewarding to know that our members recognize us for that.”
FINALIST: BAY CLUB
Two locations, corepoweryoga.com
Relatively new to Santa Barbara’s already well-developed yoga-studio landscape, CorePower climbed from second place in last year’s readers’ poll to No. 1 in only its second year of being open for business. Its centrally located State Street spot (there is also a CorePower in Goleta) has a full schedule of classes from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. every day of the week, making them an ideal fit for virtually anyone’s work schedule. “Our approach is to make yoga simple and accessible for beginners and advanced practitioners alike,” sums up co-owner Brandon Cox when asked why they have been able to become so popular so fast. As an added bonus, their studios both come equipped with lockers, showers, and several other spa-esque amenities.
FINALIST: YOGA SOUP
Martial Arts Studio
Martial Arts Family Fitness
122 E. Gutierrez St., 963-6233, kickboxers.com
This is the dojo that does it all. From kids’ classes to adult programs to kickboxer training to “hyper-pro” courses (think high jumps, flips, twists, and weapons), owners Dave Wheaton and Melodee Meyer have built a house of high kicks that warmly exudes community and, above all else, health. They even do birthday parties. Their intensive, nine-week Kickboxers Ultimate Training class is approaching legendary status around these parts for its ability to bring out the athlete in anyone.
FINALIST: PARAGON BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU & KICKBOXING
Santa Barbara Dance Arts
531 E. Cota St., 966-5299, sbdancearts.com
For the greater part of the past decade, Alana Tillim’s dance studio has been taking home top honors in this category, and guess what? They have gotten even better. Last year saw them move into a new 9,000-square-foot studio on East Cota. “It is like a Los Angeles– or New York-caliber space,” says Tillim. With a focus on building confidence through dance and classes ranging from jazz, hip-hop, and contemporary to ballet, aerial, and beyond, the studio has something for everyone. “We have kids aged 2 to 72 currently enrolled in classes right now. We are a lot more than just a studio space,” says Tillim gleefully.
FINALIST: GUSTAFSON DANCE
Outdoor Fitness Program
1226 Santa Barbara St., 705-5790, sweatoutdoors.com
Born informally just five years ago from a desire to actively enjoy the bevy of open-air goodness that Santa Barbara has to offer, SWEAT Outdoors has fast become a reader favorite. “Fitness is a challenge for a lot of people, so any way you can make it fun, that is what we are all about,” says instructor/cofounder Kayla Johnson. And so 20 times a week, Johnson, partner Jason Baker, or one of their six other trainers is leading a high-octane workout in a city park, on a trail in the hills, or at the beach — maybe even in the water. The equipment-light, hour-long sessions in the sunshine have really struck a chord with Santa Barbarians, but what will happen if El Niño rages this winter? “That’s not a problem. We embrace it all,” says Johnson. “We are a rain-or-shine company.”
FINALIST: JENNY SCHATZLE
330 State St., 901-3440, fitbuddhafitness.com
A common response from folks who have experienced Fit Buddha goes something like this: “It is the hardest workout I have ever done … but I love it!” Even better, according to the folks who run the place, the reason for this reaction is something called a Megaformer. “Using the Megaformer makes it like some sort of bionic Pilates. It is more of a complete fitness experience than you will find at other studios,” says owner/instructor Marcus Kettles. This marks the third year in a row that the Buddha has won this category, an impressive feat for the four-year-old studio and one that Kettles chalks up to the awesome, aforementioned superhero-named apparatus and his team of trained instructors. “You can have a great machine, but if you don’t have the right trainer, then it just won’t work for you.”
FINALIST: IM=X PILATES
Outwardly recovered from this past spring’s nearby oil spill, El Cap is a sold-out summertime hot spot and often sleepy off-season slice of paradise for those in the know: shaded campsites, a world-class beach, oceanfront BBQ pits, a meandering creek finding its way through the park, oak trees, and sycamores. The canyon that funnels its way down to the campground has long been celebrated by the Chumash for being a place of healing and spiritual renewal. Should you spend even just one night here, the reasons for this reputation will become as overtly obvious to you as they are to our readers.
FINALIST: REFUGIO STATE BEACH
Camping Gear Store
321 Anacapa St., 560-1938, rei.com/stores/santa-barbara.html
Santa Barbara doesn’t typically take too well to the big-box-store, mainstream-retail approach, but for REI, our readers are willing to forgo their judgements. After all, we are a town that loves the great outdoors, and, well, REI does a darn good job at helping outfit you for whatever open-air adventure you have planned. They also have employees with seemingly supernatural abilities to find you exactly what you are looking for, even if you have no idea what exactly that something is. Become a member of their unique rewards program, and the experience gets even sweeter.
FINALIST: MOUNTAIN AIR SPORTS
Channel Islands Surfboards
36 Anacapa St., 966-7213, cisurfboards.com
Channel Islands is to surfboards what Nike is to running shoes. No matter where you are on this planet, if there is a wave to ride, chances are that CI’s telltale honeycomb logo is somewhere close by, either on a surfboard, a T-shirt, or a sticker stuck anonymously on a prominent street sign. Built around Al Merrick’s shapes and designs, the company, which has its factory in Carpinteria and its flagship store in Santa Barbara, has grown over the decades to become a household name among wave riders everywhere. Luckily for us, it is still just our local surf shop.
FINALIST: SURF N’ WEAR’S BEACH HOUSE
2275 Ortega Hill Rd., Summerland, 969-2887, bikinifactory.com
There is a mantra that guides the Bikini Factory: “We just want women to feel comfortable in their suits.” True to their word, they have been going above and beyond with their inventory and service to make sure that is possible ever since opening their doors in Santa Barbara nearly a half century ago. Now located a short distance from the beach in Summerland, this sand-and-salt-friendly boutique offers hundreds of bikini separates, one-pieces, board shorts, and sundresses from more than 30 different brands. They also help you design and create the custom bikini of your dreams.
FINALIST: SURF N’ WEAR’S BEACH HOUSE
Snowboard/Ski Gear Store
Mountain Air Sports
14 State St., 962-0049, mountainairsports.com
According to Indy readers, there is no one better in S.B. at outfitting you for snow season fun than Mountain Air Sports. This will be an important fact to remember if the El Niño hype machine currently working overtime is even half right this coming winter. Whether you are looking to buy some new gear, repair chewed-up old boards, or just rent a setup for a weekend on the slopes, Mountain Air has you covered with rates cheaper than anything you will find in a ski town (travel days are free when renting!). “We are stoked that our customers are showing us some appreciation for doing what we do,” says manager Joey Duddridge, whose folks opened the place back in 1979. “Now everybody better start doing a snow dance.”
320 S. Kellogg Ave., Goleta, 682-4699, bicyclebobs-sb.com
As decorated a winner of previous Best Ofs as any business in town, Bicycle Bob’s is showing no signs of giving up its spot in the hearts and minds of our readers. No matter your specific bicycle kink, Bob’s got your back with a full complement of Treks and Electras and Bontrager parts. “Our goal has always been to just try and treat people right,” says longtime employee and store buyer Roger Moore when asked what Bob’s secret to success is. “That, and focus on providing good quality customer service.”
FINALIST: VELO PRO CYCLERY
Place to Get Athletic Shoes
Santa Barbara Running
Many locations, sbrunningco.com
This part of the world is a mighty fine place for running, and without S.B. Running holding it down from its headquarters in the Funk Zone, it would be a heck of a lot harder to enjoy. Whether you are a tender-toed non-runner or a grizzled ultra marathon vet or just a weekend warrior who likes to break a sweat in any number of ways, S.B. Running has the perfect shoe for you. Even better, the store offers advanced fitting services that guarantee you the best-fitting shoe of your life. “We love helping our community get laced up in the right shoe. Thank you again for this wonderful honor!” says owner Monica DeVreese on the occasion of winning her 10th Best Of in a row.
FINALIST: BIG 5 SPORTING GOODS
Santa Barbara Golf Club (aka Muni)
3500 McCaw Ave., 687-7087, sbgolf.com
Owned and maintained by the city, the municipal golf course — or Muni, as it is widely known — has been doing great things despite the ongoing big-time bummers of the drought. Unlike many of its golf-course peers around S.B., it had to adhere to the city-imposed water restrictions. In fact, according to Mark Sewell, the business manager for S.B. Parks & Rec, Muni hasn’t just met the target; it exceeded it. While the resulting burnout of its fairways and greens has “hampered our ability to appeal to golfers,” says Sewell, the course still has the highest number of rounds played in the county and is, for the first time in years, back at the top with our readers.
FINALIST: GLEN ANNIE GOLF CLUB
Place to Shoot Pool
Don Q Family Billiard Center
1128 Chapala St., 845-3197, donqfamilybilliards.com
If and when Don Q ever closes its doors, Santa Barbara will be a markedly less cool place to call home. A bit of a time capsule experience, this all-ages hangout is a true American billiards hall. The only joint in town with legitimate professional standard nine-foot tables (they have five of them!) to go along with a couple more common seven-foot amateur tables and a 10-foot three-cushion carambola setup, it is clear to even the casual visitor that Don Q takes great pride in the state of their playing surfaces. They are open seven days a week until 2 a.m., with League Night on Tuesdays, eight-ball tournaments on Mondays, and a variety of other tournaments and goings-on throughout the year. Add to this the fact that they have a sneaky good selection of bottled beer available, and you have yourself a winner.
FINALIST: DARGAN’S IRISH PUB & RESTAURANT