Despite what your bridge-jumping, shark-riding, train-hopping Uncle Beanie might tell you, scuba requires meticulous preparation and impeccable equipment. Professional divers will insist that purchasing diving gear is like securing life-support equipment for a trip to outer space. That's because we humans breathe air, not water. Thus the best and brightest scuba practitioners recommend high-quality equipment, from mask to fin. Tarpoon, established in 1942 by diver Mike Kevorkian, has the latest models in top brands like U.S. Divers, Scubapro, and Seaquest. It is also the oldest dive shop in Miami-Dade. Longevity is meaningful because ideally, you want to patronize a place that's going to be in business when your stuff needs service. Tarpoon's salespeople are also divers, so they can tell you why you need, say, a silicone mask. (Answer: Cheaper ones often dry up and crack.) Professional divers also recommend avoiding places that certify you in just a day or two. Tarpoon's beginner's course costs $225 and is conducted over two weeks in a heated pool at the Hialeah store. You need mask, snorkel, fins, and weight belt to enroll.
Miami's franchise of the Play It Again chain has had four years to turn into a sprawling, sterile, time-wasting white elephant (as chain stores are wont to do). It hasn't. The service is friendly and efficient without being cloying or annoying; this is especially important at a place that buys and sells new and used gear. Among its wares are all kinds of balls, weights, togs, racquets, clubs, and bats. You can scoop up used tennis balls for two bits apiece, find junior titanium drivers for about $20, and even try out an array of putters on the carpeted showroom floor, where an automatic ball return is set up. The congenial staff will restring your racquet, relace your glove, or regrip your clubs. With a more comprehensive inventory, tighter restrictions on trades and consignments, and a few thousand more square feet of space, Play It Again could easily become The Sports Authority. Here's betting (and hoping) that never happens.
Owner Enrique Fajardo calls it a "neighborhood" bike store because he carries a range of reasonably priced cycles for kids and adults: cruisers, mountain bikes, track racing bikes, tandems, and even a big three-wheeler with a metal basket attached for grocery runs and flower sales. Fajardo is a no-nonsense, no-pressure salesman with a smile. He has a reputable repair business to boot. Get a nice affordable Hampton cruiser for about $150, an aluminum Haro mountain bike for up to $3000, or anything in-between. Enrique also displays Cignals, Jamis, and GTs. For a small store, this place has a big selection of seats, helmets, parts, and accessories. If you're a hard-core mountain biker or road racer, you might consider a place that caters to specialized needs like past Best of Miami winners Tamiami Cyclery, Mack Cycle, Bicycle and Fitness Store, Big Wheel Cycle South, and Cycle World.
In the wonderful world of axes, Ed remains the virtuoso dealer. For more than twenty years he's concocted a strange brew of guitars for his customers. These instruments come in all shapes, colors, sizes, and prices. They hail from different eras and distant lands; there are vintage Fenders, Martins, Gibsons, Gretsches, and classic models from Czechoslovakia. Oddities abound. Check out the 30- to 40-string zithers, pear-shaped mandolins, Hawaiian ukeleles, banjos, dobros, and bouzoukis. Also for sale: really weird Japanese guitars from the Sixties that have lots of knobs and switches. Prices range widely. For $35 kids can begin paving their road to rock-stardom. For $3000 experts can outdo Segovia.

At age nineteen Manfred Wenzel began his crusade to heal ailing cameras. No matter where he's lived -- Germany, Chile, New York, Miami -- the repair guru has given a second chance to death-row-bound lenses, shutters, and range finders. If there's a broken part, there's a way for Wenzel's magic hands to mend it. Tucked into a stripmall on Biscayne Boulevard, Dan's is a throwback to an era when cameras were made of metal and careful craftsmanship was part of the culture. Wenzel, who bought Dan's in 1977, says he takes on only professional jobs that are too complicated for his competitors. He specializes in antiques and high-performance models. So if you're the proud owner of a Twenties Leica that needs help, don't despair! With a wave of his screwdriver, Wenzel will have you up and shooting in no time.
We love free. We scour dumpsters for free stuff. We take things that we'll never use because they're free. Free is rare and usually a little worn-out. Or it has so many strings attached that we end up hog-tied. But sometimes in our search for free, we get lucky and score big-time; we find the ElectroWave on Miami Beach, a 30-day trial membership at the gym, or the Southeast Florida Library Network (SEFLIN) Free-Net, which provides Internet access and e-mail accounts to South Florida residents, homeless people included, at no charge. SEFLIN also offers several free Internet training sessions each month. Registration forms and training schedules are available at most libraries, including the one on Florida International University's North Campus. Once registered you are eligible to enter the fast lane of free: the information superhighway. Of course donations are accepted.
Airport Adult Video may be a new kid on the block, but it's a fast learner. Open less than three years, this porn palace is quickly making a name for itself among aficionados. Wall-to-wall mirrors, eighteen state-of-the-art video booths, and a staff of mechanics who keep those busy machines whirring set it apart from competitors. The store's location is a nice bonus for the sexually frustrated traveler-on-the-go. There are more than 4000 titles to chose from, all competitively priced. There's also one great deal: Buy two fuck films and get the third one free. That'll keep 'em coming.

Hello. Welcome to Miami. We see you're reading. That's good. Fundamental in fact. You should know that Barnes & Noble has plenty of locations around town. Borders, too. There's also one bookstore dedicated to gay lifestyle and culture and another devoted to African-American-related publications. And there are plenty of Spanish-language tome purveyors. So you can see we're well read. What? You're not convinced? Then we'll draw our trump card, our proverbial ace in the hole. It's called Books & Books, and we've regularly declared it to be the city's best bookstore. For a reason. Hell, for many reasons. Founded by Mitchell Kaplan in 1982, Books & Books possesses what chains lack: a vision. Kaplan's vision spilled over into the Miami Book Fair International, a highly successful annual festival of words. It pours from the shelves of his two retail outlets, where you'll find books old and new, popular and obscure, big and small. Books for kids and collectors. Books for natives and visitors. Books and books and books (close to 100,000 titles). Magazines, too. Kaplan's vision includes readings and workshops. He invites top authors to meet their readers at his stores. This year's visitors included Tom Brokaw, Elmore Leonard, and Tony Bennett. In January he launched a Website (www.booksandbooks.com). He understands that books are not just the product of an industry, but little worlds you can live in for a while. Books & Books is the travel agency to those worlds.
The organization may be a bit idiosyncratic (a cache of early Nineties copies of the lit mag the Paris Review were shelved in the travel section) but seek and ye shall find here. A recent Sunday-afternoon browse snagged inexpensive paperbacks of noted local author Fred D'Aguiar's The Longest Memory, as well as Denis Johnson's Fiskadoro and John Hawkes's Second Skin. A tour of the nonfiction stacks was rewarded with Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 and a thick, hardbound edition of the Warren Commission Report. Should your bibliophilia require you to seek sustenance, Kafka's features an in-house café and -- no Luddites here -- rentable Internet-linked computers. We have to admit, though, that there's a better place in Broward County: Robert A. Hittel Booksellers in Fort Lauderdale.
Need a hockey stick used in the 1996 Stanley Cup final and signed by the Eastern Conference Champion Florida Panthers? Or how about a pack of baseball cards for under a buck? Bases Loaded has it all for the avid collector or the peewee ballplayer. Don't be discouraged by the tiny storefront and small interior. The place is loaded to the rafters with signed photographs of local sports stars, framed rookie cards, and collectible clothing. Even the black plastic rats that skittered along the ice after a Panthers' goal during their magical playoff run are available here. For comic-book fans, an entire wall is dedicated to colorful adventures. But don't come early. Owner Kevin Palczynski doesn't open until noon.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®