Best of Santa Barbara® 2021
by Charles Donelan
YMCA Santa Barbara
By delivering a wide range of services, from the familiar group exercise and swim classes to childcare, the Livestrong program for cancer patients, and the extraordinary Noah’s Anchorage facility downtown for homeless and runaway youth, the YMCA has earned a unique place in the heart of our community. For executive director Craig Prentice, being awarded Best Health Club means more than ever during the pandemic because “during these difficult times, the YMCA is trying to rebuild and be a cornerstone” for Santa Barbara. Our readers believe they are succeeding.
Runner-Up: Santa Barbara Athletic Club
With multiple locations and an unmatched range of offerings, CorePower continues to hold the top spot in this highly competitive category. From pandemic-friendly on-demand and livestream CorePower at Home classes to Yoga Sculpt with free weights, challenging vinyasa, and even detoxifying Hot Power Fusion classes with added humidity, CorePower provides yogis and yoginis a one-stop answer to all their needs.
Runner-Up: Yoga Soup
For native Santa Barbaran Kelley Pike, owner/founder of Studio X, this award reflects a powerful commitment to building community through health and wellness. Her dedication to providing a true boutique experience means that every client feels understood, accepted, and cherished. Talking about the way Studio X has been a place for people not only to work out and get stronger but also to connect with others during a difficult time, Pike says, “Yes, you love the workout, but the thing that keeps you coming back is the feeling of being seen. That can manifest itself on so many levels.” She looks forward to expanding her offerings in the coming year and to celebrating the win with her team and her clients.
Runner-Up: Core Sport
Martial Arts Studio
At Paragon Academy, martial arts training is seen as the means to a larger goal, which is to improve not only the self-defense capabilities of their students but also their ability to respond to all of life’s challenges and opportunities. Co-owner/gym manager John Sandoval says his team’s favorite part of the job is “seeing the positive change in our students’ lives.” To that end, the instructors at Paragon are already at work designing curriculum for a new type of class that will add after-school tutoring for young martial arts students to their model.
Runner-Up: Santa Barbara Dojo (Martial Arts Family Fitness)
Santa Barbara Dance Arts
Although Santa Barbara Dance Arts offers classes for all ages and levels, owner and founder Alana Tillim believes that there’s something special about what happens there for the younger students. Tillim says that the families who support SBDA “know that dance may be the place their child has their first goal and their first disappointment and that we will love and nurture them through it by building a generation of dancers with grit and resilience.” This is one of the reasons that she has recently initiated an Inclusion Coalition, the aim of which is “to identify and remove blind spots in our industry by partnering with local nonprofits in relationship to Racial Justice, LBGTQIA+, Body Positivity, Mental Health, and Disabilities.” In coming years, Tillim hopes to take this Santa Barbara–based program national, demonstrating another way in which dance leads to growth at any age.
Runner-Up: Arthur Murray Dance Studio
Killer B Fitness
At Killer B Fitness, workouts are not meant to be easy. Owner and chiropractor Bob Wilcher believes that fitness is about “accepting the physical and mental challenges that come with improving our overall health” and “not about having everything comfortable around us.” During the pandemic, the Killer B team had to live this philosophy in a very real way, as the studio was forced to relocate twice. Yet even this stress led to progress because, in the process of moving around, Killer B discovered they had made a lot of friends in the community over the past 17 years. It all goes to show that, as Wilcher says, “When you work hard alongside others and support each other, strong connections and relationships are formed.”
Runner-Up: Bond Fitness
El Capitán State Beach
There’s nowhere in the world like the Gaviota Coast, and there’s no better place to experience it than El Capitán State Beach. Park Ranger Scott Anderson also serves at Refugio Beach and the Gaviota Campground, so he knows what he’s talking about when he says that “there are many great campgrounds in the Santa Barbara area, and to be voted best by our community and surrounding communities is an honor.” With COVID limiting travel and putting national parks under pressure from overcrowding, the presence of pristine beaches and well-run campgrounds like El Capitán State Beach has only become more precious; we are lucky to have this special spot so close to town.
Runner-Up: El Capitan Canyon
Camping Gear Store • Snowboard/Ski Gear Store
Mountain Air Sports
The staff at Mountain Air Sports hear some of the most amazing outdoor adventure stories in the world thanks to their loyal customer base of ski, snowboard, and camping enthusiasts. For store manager Joey Duddridge, selling snow sports gear a block from the beach is actually a great fit because he feels that in Santa Barbara, “the locals really understand what creates community and how important it is to support the places you want around.” He and the rest of the Mountain Air team are looking forward to winter and to “another year of gettin’ stoked!”
Runner-Up: Play It Again Sports
Channel Islands Surfboards
Can anyone be surprised that the flagship store of the world’s most iconic high-performance surf brand happens to be located two blocks from the beach in Santa Barbara? With decades of experience crafting beautiful boards within hailing distance of Rincon, Channel Islands is a household name everywhere that people know what serious surfing is all about. The shop itself is a beauty. An early arrival in the Funk Zone, they stock everything from wetsuits to beach towels, boardshorts, and bikinis. In addition to the extensive selection of gorgeous new boards, they have used planks, and, for the ultimate Channel Islands experience, they will custom shape something to your personal specifications.
Runner-Up: Surf n’ Wear Beach House
Established by Sally Yater in Santa Barbara back in 1965, when bikinis were first conquering the world, this locally owned shop then moved to its current location in Summerland, where they have been custom-fitting tops, bottoms, and even one-piece suits ever since. Now owned by Linda Meyer, the shop continues to thrive, as customers extol the attention to detail, wide range of options, and intimate atmosphere as being the best there is.
Runner-Up: Surf n’ Wear Beach House
For 36 years, Bicycle Bob’s has been bringing the best in cycling to a discerning clientele who know how to recognize value. As authorized dealers of Trek and Bontrager, the staff at Bicycle Bob’s can advise you on how to take care of your bike, or how to step up and take your cycling to the next level. Thanks to COVID, demand for bikes, and especially for e-bikes, has skyrocketed, so we are fortunate to have a consistent supply of the latest developments in both categories through Bicycle Bob’s. If you haven’t tried one yet, consider renting a demo e-bike from them, and prepare to have your mind blown.
Runner-Up: Velo Pro Cyclery
Place to Get Athletic Shoes
Santa Barbara Running
Owner Joe DeVreese and his wife and partner, Monica DeVreese, want everyone who voted for them to know that they “thank you for supporting a locally owned and family-operated business. It is a privilege to create jobs in the community and cultivate connections and relationships to help and improve lives through running and fitness.” With the pandemic driving more people than ever outside and onto the roads and trails to maintain their health and fitness, shoes matter. The staff at Santa Barbara Running are dedicated to providing customers with comprehensive support whether they are running, hiking, walking, or working out.
Runner-Up: Deckers Brand Showcase
Glen Annie Golf Club
This gorgeous facility in the heart of Goleta offers world-class tournament-level golf with majestic views of the This gorgeous facility in the heart of Goleta offers world-class tournament-level golf with majestic views of the Pacific and the Channel Islands. Membership in the Course’s 805 Club gets you significant discounts on greens fees that are good on weekends as well as weekdays. The clubhouse is an architectural gem with loads of outdoor seating, making it a perfect option for the all-important 19th hole.
Runner-Up: Sandpiper Golf Club
With access from both the Tunnel Road trailhead and — for those with more time, energy, and stronger legs — the Jesusita Trail, Inspiration Point is the jewel of the front country for spectacular views and its namesake inspiration. While the roundtrip from Tunnel Road can be done in a couple of hours, there’s plenty of offshoots and secret spots to explore for a whole day. With Mission Canyon at your feet and the Channel Islands stretched out in front of you, it’s easy to see why this hike earned the top spot in this category full of “top spots.”
Runner-Up: Cold Spring