BEST SKATEBOARD SHOP 2005 | Pulse Boardshop | Arts & Entertainment | Phoenix
Pulse, which this summer celebrated its first anniversary in what owner Erik Beckmann predicts will be the Valley's next extreme-sports mecca -- Goodyear ("It's blowin' up out here!" he says) -- strikes the perfect medium between the hard-core street cred of Cowtown and the board-park mom friendliness of the industrial mall shops.

"I like to say, 'We put the core in corporate,'" quips Beckmann, an old-school skater himself, who welcomes the skate punks to hang out and watch the latest rad DVDs but doesn't invite them to veg by nixing the couch and lounge area in favor of a girl-friendly fashion section. His shop, featuring all the requisite pro boards and his own budget Pabst-label-aping Pulse line, also boasts the coolest dressing room in town: a huge corrugated steel tube outfitted with a door and hangers by Beckmann's handyman dad. Tubular!

The city's outdoor skate parks have become a battlefield of sorts between young and old skateboarders and even BMX bike riders, who all want to claim the turf as their own. One thing they all seem in agreement on is that the sprawling concrete playground occupying a corner of the Snedigar Sportsplex in Chandler, just south of the Bashas' headquarters in a largely agricultural section of town, has the best variety of bowls, jumps, dips and flips to please anyone on wheels. Veteran boarders may cringe at the sight of all the helmeted, knee-padded grade-schoolers who typically rule the pools, but the overall atmosphere is big-brotherish, with the big kids in baseball caps high-fiving the little ones in bright orange Vigor helmets and offering tips to keep them from tumbling in their paths -- a setup that benefits old and new skaters alike.
While Tempe's city government was very late to acknowledge its local skating scene, it delivered a winner with this new park, which opened in February. Area skaters are raving about the street-oriented course, saying it is by far the best in the state. Spread across 26,000 square feet, the well-lighted concrete park is attracting the top skaters in the region on a regular basis.

And no wonder: The park has various shapes and sizes of rails, ledges and stairs to give skaters a true street experience, as well as a large bowl with a pyramid and a cool vert wall and pool coping. A word of warning: Too bad Tempe didn't set up shade screens, because the place roasts in the summer. No pads are required here, and water and restrooms are available on site.

Skateboarding might not be a crime, but those damn punks seem to always find ways to get busted. Thankfully, Phoenix has the state's only indoor park at Metrocenter, where kids can skate 40 hours a week for less than the cost of a trespassing citation. To shred through Phoenix Skatepark's 36,000 square feet of pipes, bowls and street courses -- not to mention the rails and ledges -- kids can skate for four solid hours for $10, eight hours for $12, or spend $25 to skate for the whole week inside an air-conditioned facility that requires those under 18 to wear a helmet and pads at all times -- and keeps the cops at bay.
Many of the Valley's outdoor paintball parks look like glorified junkyards, littered with precisely the kind of old industrial waste barrels and weathered wooden fortresses your mother would've warned you not to play on -- which, of course, is part of the appeal. But at Westworld's indoor Xtreme Pursuit, a cavernous warehouse stuck in the shadow of the Grand Avenue overpass on West Camelback Road, the two fields are stocked with tournament-quality inflatable cylinders, cones, and "tombstones" made of the same vulcanized material used in heavy-duty river rafts. The refs can be cool or cruel, depending on their attitude of the day, but most are well-trained in airgun repair -- a plus -- and can fix a jammed cocker, impy or timmy faster than your opponents can reload their paint. Hard-core ballers, who universally praise the fully stocked pro shop, may bemoan the family-friendly facility's overabundance of youngsters and noobs. But hey, that just gives you more easy targets to practice on.
The dedicated pay-to-spray parks around the city all offer their own unique charms, bunkers and hiding spots. But these days the serious splatter-junkies stock up on their own paintball guns, paint, air and wear, and head out north of Phoenix on Cave Creek Road until just beyond the canal overpass, where a winding ride on a bumpy dirt path takes you to a somewhat forbidden (the paved stretch of Jomax is usually gated closed by highway patrollers) outdoor paradise for go-carters, ATV-ers, remote-control model-plane enthusiasts and, lately, paintballers. Here, amid nature's peerless assortment of rocks, hills, cactuses and the occasional manmade tire fortress, outlaw paintballers create their own version of the painted desert on a weekend basis. Just keep an eye out for Smokey.
The operative word here is "monthly." While there are a few ringers and rabid pinheads lurking about with their death-head balls and pro-style gear, the demographic of this nifty league tends toward amateur to midlevel bowlers with little time to spare. (Speaking of sparing, we recently witnessed a lanky young lady heft an air ball halfway down the lane, where it landed with a thunderous crack and somehow proceeded to take out the remaining three pins in her second frame. She clapped her hands and screamed with delight. We winced.)

The SNL season runs from September through July on the second Saturday of each month, with a "sweeps" contest in the August slot. Practice starts at approximately 6:45 p.m., and live balls roll at 7. Each team has four members, and one must be female. The cost is $26 per person up-front to cover the first and last weeks, $13 for each month thereafter (not counting the cost of shoe rental and other incidentals).

The SNL atmosphere is loose and fun, with much more camaraderie and friendly competition than you'll find in a weekly league. And -- most important -- the beer's cold and cheap.

Got a few hours to kill before your fave Scottsdale danceteria opens? Join your pin pals for a few frames of Cosmic Bowling (a.k.a. Xtreme Bowling) at the nearby Frontier Lanes, before trying to talk your way past the doorman at CBNC. Although many Valley alleys have been lowering their lights and blowing out their loudspeakers with Steppenwolf or Meat Loaf classics for years, this south Scottsdale bowl-a-rama strikes 'em all down with a chic clientele packing the lanes on Fridays and Saturdays for $15 (or Sundays through Thursdays for $12).

Music videos from such artists as Pink, and The Vines (but, oddly enough, not Bowling for Soup), and psychedelic light shows are projected onto two gigantic screens over the alleyways while punky skate bettys fling glowing balls alongside spiky-haired gym rats quaffing pitchers of Amber Bock, and clubwear-clad Scottsdale fembots smoking Parliament Lights.

Sure, you could save a few bucks by throwing gutter balls with Flo and Jethro out in Apache Junction, but why miss out on getting taunted by frat boys exclaiming, "Rolled a 239, bitch! Beat that!"?

It'll cost you about $1,200 a day to get your speed fix driving race-ready Corvette C5s out at Bob Bondurant's School of High Performance Driving. For most of us, that just ain't gonna happen, particularly on any regular basis.

For us, there's Speedway Raceway, where racing is so intelligently miniaturized it gives you a super-size thrill at a teeny-weeny price. At Speedway, you'll be driving 270cc Honda-powered Indy-style go-karts around a tightly hairpinned quarter-mile indoor track. In other words, you're six inches off the ground going 50 miles an hour through turns with only inches to spare. In still other words, your adrenal glands will be squirting like high-performance fuel injectors. All this for $20 for 16 laps. Or much less with the special discounts frequently offered by the raceway. Get racing.

Crotch rockets. Imports with supercharged engines, injected with nitrous oxide for extra speed. Tricked-out Mustangs that are all show and no go. Hoochie-mamas that can do a neck roll to beat Mr. Fantastic. Fly bitches that'll make you drool like a fool.

These are just some of the sights you'll peep if you head up to Speedworld in Wittmann on most any Saturday night for the come-one, come-all drag-racing program. All vehicles are welcome, from that '67 Camaro with the big block, to your sister's Scion fresh off the lot.

For $20, you can pretend you're Darrell Waltrip, or Danica Patrick if you're chickalicious. And about once every other month or so, After 9 Events ( sponsors a racing extravaganza out there that includes a bikini contest and foam party and lasts until 5 a.m. Think you got a car that can do that quarter-mile in less than 10 seconds? Then you better be there, buster.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of