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Best Of 2004

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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

BEST OLD SPORT TO BRING BACK

Those kids you see on those fancy boards sliding across the shallows at South Beach are not skimboarding. They're just dabbling in the latest extreme sport, spending their cash on a fad that's been dressed up with designs, paint, and lots of publicity -- which is true of most extreme sports. For several decades young Miamians had gone skateboarding (via boards made by nailing skate wheels to a piece of two-by-four) down handicapped ramps at public schools; BMXing, as in riding a bike through dirty, muddy, highly unlevel terrain; and skimboarding. The real thing involved searching trash piles for a piece of plywood about three feet wide and four to six feet long. When it rained back then, Miami-Dade's terrible drainage allowed water to build up in the swales, tiding over into the street and covering the sidewalk. Bring out the board, place it at the edge of the puddle, run full speed, jump with force onto the board, and leave the rest to physics. No tricks. No judging. No wetsuit with the brands of sponsors embossed. No TV. No money. Just fun, fun, fun. Alas, these days are long past. Parents want their kids to have it better, so they buy the little ones brand-name minisurfboards and take them to the beach, forgetting that the real joy wasn't in looking cool or even in performing well. It was losing control and sliding all over without cracking your skull, then coming up soaked, muddied, bleeding, bruised, and smiling ear to scraped ear.

BEST FISHING HOLE

More a jumping-off point to any number of fishing holes, Flamingo, at the south end of Everglades National Park, provides access to hundreds of catching spots. Rent a canoe and paddle through the webs of mangroves while looking to hook a snook, outsmart a mutton or mangrove snapper and, bam, dinner's almost ready. Rent a "real" boat and glide into Florida Bay for spotted seatrout, redfish, or the fierce, inedible fighters called tarpon, which usually flash by near Flamingo's marina. Drive or boat a few miles to the north and put out a line for bass or tilapia in the freshwater rivers and bays. The park provides a beautiful verdant and teal setting for all that angling. And the sunset over Florida Bay is no more tangible but endlessly more pleasurable than the lunker that got away.

BEST FISHING HOLE

More a jumping-off point to any number of fishing holes, Flamingo, at the south end of Everglades National Park, provides access to hundreds of catching spots. Rent a canoe and paddle through the webs of mangroves while looking to hook a snook, outsmart a mutton or mangrove snapper and, bam, dinner's almost ready. Rent a "real" boat and glide into Florida Bay for spotted seatrout, redfish, or the fierce, inedible fighters called tarpon, which usually flash by near Flamingo's marina. Drive or boat a few miles to the north and put out a line for bass or tilapia in the freshwater rivers and bays. The park provides a beautiful verdant and teal setting for all that angling. And the sunset over Florida Bay is no more tangible but endlessly more pleasurable than the lunker that got away.

BEST BAIT SHOP

Homestead is equal parts agricultural business headquarters, quaint tourist town, and Old South country village. Any guesses which category a shop called A-OK Fish 'n' Bait falls into? You can purchase most any kind of bait here: spinners and shiners, grubs and topwaters, even live shrimp. But the real treasure is the conversation. Homestead anglers get their goods here (not from the Orvis Website), and they're known to tell a tale or two. Stick around, and you might learn something about fishing in South Florida. Some of what you learn might even be true.

BEST BAIT SHOP

Homestead is equal parts agricultural business headquarters, quaint tourist town, and Old South country village. Any guesses which category a shop called A-OK Fish 'n' Bait falls into? You can purchase most any kind of bait here: spinners and shiners, grubs and topwaters, even live shrimp. But the real treasure is the conversation. Homestead anglers get their goods here (not from the Orvis Website), and they're known to tell a tale or two. Stick around, and you might learn something about fishing in South Florida. Some of what you learn might even be true.

BEST CHEAP THRILL FOR KIDS

Experienced anglers know to check them for live baits, but the public is generally unaware that in clumps of yellow-brown seaweed exist miniature aquariums waiting to be unveiled. Sargassum floats (thanks to spherical growths full of carbon dioxide) on the ocean currents. Early summer, when the water is calm and the sargassum gently drifts in, is the perfect time to show youngsters the marvelous bounty of the sea. Grab a clump of weed off the surface (sunken or dark brown weed is too old) and shake it over a bucket of ocean water. Like jewels from a pouch, out spills a variety of tiny creatures: juvenile versions of bigger fish that use the weed as a nursery. Crabs, shrimp, sea horses, nudibranch (called sea slugs), and other adult creatures also inhabit the weed. The most interesting resident is the sargassumfish, which looks exactly like a piece of weed until it flops away as you draw near. Sargassum's many wonders should keep the children occupied until their skin turns red and they volunteer to call it a day.

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BEST OLD SPORT TO BRING BACK: Skimboarding

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