Best of Santa Barbara® 2017: Sporting Life

Paul Wellman

Health Club
Fitness Program

Jenny Schatzle Program

211 W. Carrillo St., 845-6700,

“No judgement” is a key phrase associated with this burgeoning, double-winner fitness club, says founder Jenny Schatzle. “Our business is about inspiring people to love who they are, to get fit from the inside out, and to not just change your body [but] change your life.” In that context, it’s no wonder her favorite part of the day-to-day is “watching people take their lives back, be more confident, and truly find their Awesome ​— ​they realize the weight loss is the bonus and the life change is what’s really happening!”

Finalist (Health Club): YMCA

Finalist (Fitness Program): Killer B Fitness

Yoga Studio

CorePower Yoga

Two locations,

It’s not unusual for yoga ​— ​a moving meditation that incorporates breathing, balance, stretching, and strength ​— ​to intrigue and intimidate simultaneously. Where to start? What to wear? How much will it cost? “At CorePower Yoga, we strive to create a welcoming environment,” says Cara Gilligan, manager of the privately held chain’s downtown Santa Barbara studio. “We work to demystify yoga, teach in a way that supports the success of any student, [and] provide a clean, professional, friendly environment in which people learn, grow, and SWEAT.” If that sounds tempting, the studio’s beginners’ bargain ​— ​one week for free ​— ​may just seal the deal.

Finalist: Yoga Soup

Pilates Studio

Fit Buddha

330 State St., 901-3440,

When properly manifested, Pilates aims to improve flexibility and build strength, balance, and endurance, body-wide but with an emphasis on one’s mid-body core. The Fit Buddha way “focuses on developing greater self-awareness, increased focus, [and] reduced stress and toxicity,” according to co-owners (and wife and husband) Eva and Marcos Kettles. “Fit Buddha studios [there’s another in Ventura and a retreat facility in Ojai] are designed to stimulate the senses and inspire, creating a … vibratory atmosphere that activates health, happiness, and self-empowerment in a community of supportive, like-minded [practitioners].”

Finalist: Aligned Pilates Studio

Martial Arts Studio

Martial Arts Family Fitness

122 E. Gutierrez St., 963-6233,

About 15 years ago, owners Dave Wheaton and Melodee Meyer, with two young sons in tow, landed in Santa Barbara to open a martial arts and fitness studio. “We started this business as a family,” they said, adding that it grows with each new student. “We provide a fun and safe place with our camps, parties, and events, and we reinforce good behavior and grades in our martial arts classes.” But it’s more than just learning and having fun: “We envision a world where people walk confidently in their strengths in service to others towards a more peaceful planet.”

Finalist: Paragon Academy

Dance Studio

Santa Barbara Dance Arts

531 E. Cota St., 966-5299,

Celebrating her Eastside studio’s 20-year anniversary, owner Alana Tillim feels fortunate that Santa Barbara is a town “uniquely supportive of the arts,” she says. “In other towns, they have dance factories with kids training for 30 hours per week, and they are highly competitive in every way. We proudly turn out excellent dancers who don’t have to sacrifice their childhoods.” Looking ahead, she’s aiming to grow her programs for boys and adults. “The joy of dance is not just for girls and the young!”

Finalist: Arthur Murray Dance Studio

Paul Wellman


El Capitán State Beach


Most of the campsites at El Capitán State Beach are perched upon a seaside bluff, where mature trees provide a bit of privacy as long views stretch across the Santa Barbara Channel. Trails lead to sandy beaches, a famed surf break, and good fishing spots. Plus, come wintertime, prices drop and prime sites open up with more frequency, especially mid-week. Says sector superintendent Eric Hjelstrom: “[This award] gives me a heavy dose of optimism. My team faces a lot of challenges in keeping these parks open. Having the public recognize that helps our motivation.”

Finalist: Refugio State Beach

Camping Gear Store


321 Anacapa St., 560-1938,

It might come as a surprise to learn that REI is a member-owned cooperative ​— ​with a nominal lifetime fee that has its perks ​— ​where anybody can shop, a model that goes over well in Santa Barbara’s highly active outdoors circles. They also give back. “This community truly loves the outdoors, and thanks to our Santa Barbara members, we have donated $40,000 to local nonprofits this year to protect the places we all love,” said Administrative Specialist Eryn Blazey. “Our team would like to give our sincerest thanks to our members and customers for believing in what the co-op stands for.”

Finalist: Mountain Air Sports

Paul Wellman

Surf Shop

Surf-n-Wear’s Beach House

10 State St., 963-1281,

Decades deep in the Santa Barbara surf scene, this lower State Street fixture ​— ​at the same spot since 1987 ​— ​maintains its mom-and-pop vibe in the heart of a rapidly upscaling waterfront. “My favorite part of my job is watching the generations of surfers come through the store,” said owner Roger Nance. “I hope over the next 10 years I will be right here coming to work Monday through Friday. No better place to live and have a business ​— ​weather, people, surf; all good.”

Finalist: Channel Islands Surfboards

Swimwear Store

Bikini Factory

2275 Ortega Hill Rd., Summerland, 969-2887,

Every beach town demands a steady supply of swimwear. Santa Barbara is fortunate enough to have a homegrown shop that’s been around ​— ​its selections changing with the seasons and eras ​— ​for more than 40 years. “I am very grateful to the amazing longtime customers,” says owner Linda Meyer from her little shop on Summerland’s main drag. “They continue to make this more than a job, and I still love helping women find swimwear they are comfortable in [to] enjoy the wonderful lifestyle of living in Santa Barbara.”

Finalist: Surf-n-Wear’s Beach House

Snowboard/Ski Gear Store

Mountain Air Sports

14 State St., 962-0049,

As the rapid upscaling of lower State and the Funk Zone frequently edges out the shops that lent a hometown charm, a handful of family businesses still stand, including Mountain Air, founded in 1975. “Our customers are genuinely the greatest,” says General Manager Joey Duddridge. “They have been with us through all the ups and downs. The continued support is really just amazing. We owe it all to them. I guess getting this award shows some validity to what we do. Let’s get more local shops and run the chains out of town!”

Finalist: REI

Bicycle Shop

Bicycle Bob’s

320 S. Kellogg Ave., Goleta., 682-4699,

“Customer service is where it’s at,” says owner Bob Zaratzian, who founded the shop in 1983 and has won Best Of multiple times. “[The award] is a great honor ​— ​it makes me feel like our team has been doing something right from the day we opened.” Since day one, in a town full of bike riders, the shop has served all stripes, from kids on beach cruisers to the competitive elite. “Besides the amazing road and mountain riding we have in our backyard, there is a great local awareness of cycling in the Santa Barbara community,” he adds. “The positive attitude and mindset of our riders makes Santa Barbara a special place to have our business.”

Finalist: Velo Pro Cyclery

Paul Wellman

Skateboard Shop


30 S. La Patera Ln., Goleta,

The Powell brand has been synonymous with skateboarding since George Powell, back in 1976, started manufacturing wheels and boards in a little cinderblock building on the Lower East Side. Retiring world champ Stacy Peralta (now an award-winning filmmaker) joined the business two years later, and Powell-Peralta was born. So there’s that legacy factor ​— ​it adds a historic vibe to a shop founded on having fun on a wood plank with wheels. “It’s super cheesy, but I still love setting up kids’ first boards and seeing the look on their face,” says manager Carlos Juarez.

Finalist: Lighthouse Skateshop

Place to Get Athletic Shoes

Santa Barbara Running

Two locations,

Any runner’s journey invariably includes finding the right shoes. Surfing the web for a pair can have its advantages but leaves everything to the imagination when it comes to fit and feel. “There is no question that the landscape of retail brick-and-mortar stores is changing and people are shopping online more than ever,” says Chief Shoe Officer Joe DeVreese. “So when the community chooses to purchase their athletic shoes at our shop, it means we get to keep the doors open and provide jobs within the community. And for that we are very grateful.”

Finalist: REI

Golf Course

Glen Annie Golf Club

405 Glen Annie Rd., Goleta, 968-6400,

Located on the outskirts of Goleta, these 18 meticulously maintained holes are at once close to town and rurally picturesque. Bottom line, however, is customer service. In that context, being voted the best was a hole in one. “It means everything,” says Richard Nahas, who has been the general manager for the past 17 years. “This award means that Glen Annie Golf Club is a true partner of this special community. Santa Barbara is a beautiful place filled with amazing people.”

Finalist: Sandpiper Golf Club

Place to Shoot Pool

Dargan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant

18 E. Ortega St., 568-0702,

Half-price pool during happy hour six days a week is a big draw for this downtown fixture, where you can rack ’em up next to a full bar with hearty beer on tap. Traditional Irish music and cover bands also make appearances a few nights a week, and four overhead flat-screen TVs keep you up on the latest sports. And none of it feels cramped ​— ​there’s plenty of elbow room around the tables and roomy booths for sitting and sipping between shots. This month marks the pub’s 20th anniversary, with a week’s worth of special pricing and events starting on Saturday, October 28.

Finalist: Don Q Family Billiard Center

Hiking Trail

Inspiration Point

A longtime favorite of Santa Barbarans and visitors alike, the path to inspiration, in this case, starts with free parking. From there, the climb is steady but not steep and includes a tap dance across water, easy switchbacks, and, ultimately, cool passage from shady canopy to a wide-open vista of the city, the sea, and the four northernmost Channel Islands. Pull up a boulder. Unwrap a sandwich. Drink it all in. Then, as the inverted metaphor goes, it’s all downhill from there.

Finalist: Cold Spring Trail


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