Real Men of Sports

They surf, skate, swat, and sprint

"You're free to come and go as you please," he says. "Free to learn new tricks every day."

In the past few weeks, he's been touring Florida — from Miami to Jacksonville — with a bunch of other skaters. The tour will end February 4 at M.I.A. Skatepark in Doral.

"I don't make much," he says. "But it's something."

Brian Delatorre
Brian Delatorre
Dave Zarco
Dave Zarco
Patrick Soto
Patrick Soto

Lance-O answers the door with a surfboard in one hand and an apple in another. He's raw, which means he eats no cooked food. He also has dreadlocks, just like a lot of the guys in his favorite reggae bands. But we're not writing about him because of his hair or musical vibes or eating habits.

Lance-O is a surfer. A Miami Beach surfer. Not easy.

"Being a surfer in Miami, you become a good weatherman and a good traveler," he says and then takes a bite of the apple.

He has surfed Hurricanes Wilma and Frances. Once a week he ventures north, to Palm Beach and beyond. Each month he goes somewhere out of state (his new favorite surf spot is in Nicaragua). Recently speaking outside of his Miami Beach home, he said he was on his way to San Diego. He was shirtless, tan, and wide-eyed. A bit of apple found its way into his fuzzy beard. He brushed it out. It's all good.

He has surfed Miami's fickle waves since he was four years old (he's now 41), and generally can be found in the waters off Nikki Beach. When he's not surfing, he's listening to music — Jazid's reggae nights on Sundays are his baby — and he owns Kulcha Shok Muzik, a reggae production company. He recently opened Kulcha Surf — which, according to his Website, "incorporates the soul of surfing with the essence and vibe of reggae. Combining the two to create harmony on Earth for the love of people. Music brings life, and surfing adds soul."

It is a mind-blisteringly fast game of balletic athleticism and peculiar ferocity. Oddly the sport's most ardent devotee in Miami is a balding, bespectacled 54-year-old with a paunch and a penchant for nudie bars.

Dave Zarco doesn't see any contradiction between his physique and his tireless promotion and playing of badminton. "It makes me have to play using every resource I have: my wits, my experience, my skills, albeit limited, and all of my competitive fire."

A 2003 National Senior Games doubles champion and third-place singles player, Zarco preaches the gospel of badminton at area high schools and at a free weekly clinic of sorts. As the regional director for USA Badminton, Zarco helps organize the annual Southern Pan-Am International Badminton Tournament in Miami Lakes — one of only two international badminton events in the country — and tutors aspiring shuttlecockers at area high schools. "Almost every coach who's teaching high school badminton in Dade County is clueless," he says.

Zarco can barely contain his kidlike enthusiasm for the sport, and carries extra rackets to events in case passersby want to give it a go. He revels in revealing the game to the uninitiated. He especially likes beating the piss out of anyone foolhardy enough to call badminton a "puss game."

Zarco is on a mission from the god of badminton. Turns out that god likes to have a good time. During a pause in last year's Pan-Am games, Zarco took a group of international players to his favorite Miami attraction: Tootsies Cabaret, a warehouse-size strip joint in Miami Gardens.

In the heady world of adult team kickball, Patrick Soto is a force to be reckoned with. His Biscayne Bashers compete against other, usually lesser teams in the Florida Coastal Division of WAKA — World Adult Kickball Association. They've made it to the finals twice; Soto has come within inches — only two outs away — of pitching a perfect game. His team is so imposing, he says, that it is known informally as "The Empire."

Adult kickball is usually noted for the beer-drenched, Viking-style, let's-get-laid-in-these-T-shirts raids upon local bars that invariably follow each match. But under Soto's leadership, the Bashers have taken the sport and broken it down to a science.

"The rules of kickball say that ball has to bounce once before it reaches the plate," explains Soto, who's 27 years old. "What we found is that you don't really have to throw the ball underhand — you don't have to roll it, you don't have to do anything gentle. So we slowly developed it from an underhand to a sidearm, to eventually just overhand pitching, just whipping the ball."

With the new season beginning the week after the Super Bowl, Soto says the Bashers' foes can expect more punishment and reconciliatory beers. "We've got a couple of seasoned players coming back," he says, crossing his arms, "with big legs and big hands — so we're expecting big things out of them."

— By Calvin Godfrey, Joanne Green, Rob Jordan, Tamara Lush, and Isaiah Thompson

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