Sports Gift guide: There's no place like Beaches for shopping

For last-minute Beaches shoppers with sports enthusiasts on their lists, here are some tips.

Beaches merchants and athletes shared their thoughts on what's hot this holiday season in a variety of sports.

And for those who shy away from heading west of "the ditch," especially for holiday shopping, these items can be found east of the Intracoastal Waterway.

- Surfing supplies: From apparel to boards, there's a plethora of gear at the Beaches to satisfy all the surfers on your shopping lists.

Because the water is cooler this time of year, one of the hottest items in surf shops is the Xcel Infiniti wet suit ($289). You'll also need boots and gloves to complete the set, and Aqua East Surf Shop (696 Atlantic Blvd. in Neptune Beach, 246-2550) offers free boots, a $39 value, with any wet suit purchase over $200.

For the serious surfer, a custom surfboard is the ultimate gift; fortunately, the Beaches have no shortage of experienced board craftsmen. Winter is also the best time to buy a custom board, as craftsmen are usually less busy, making better deals more likely.

Whisnant Surfboards (2904 Mayport Road in Atlantic Beach, 246-6120) specializes in highly customized shortboards. Owner Mike Whisnant has been making boards for 34 years and will even let you watch the board-shaping process. His creations start at $469.

Dick Rosborough has been making his Roso Surfboards since 1984 out of his home shop on Fort George Island. Specializing in longboards, Rosborough works by appointment only. His boards, which start at $650, can also be found at Sunrise Surf Shop (834 Beach Blvd. in Jacksonville Beach, 241-0822). For an appointment, call Rosborough at 251-3501.

Mystic Surfboards (936 Shetter Ave. in Jacksonville Beach, 463-7228) specializes in "fish" boards, a wider shortboard with two fins that offers more glide than a normal shortboard. The "fish," which starts at $450, is ideal for the average weekend surfer and is perfect for Beaches wave conditions, said owner Jim Dunlop.

Top surfing accessories this season include Von Zipper Stache ($105, unisex) and Electric Eyewear Charge ($80, men's) sunglasses and the Nixon 51/30 tide watch ($300 and up). All are available at Sunrise, which also has an extensive selection of hugely popular Reef Sandals ($19 and up), including a preview of the 2008 collection.

- Running shoes: With the Winter Beaches Run coming up on Sunday, Feb. 10, and the Gate River Run looming on Saturday, March 8, now is a great time to get your favorite runner a new pair of shoes. The new ASICS GT-2130 ($95) is a great choice. The shoe offers strong support for most types of runners, features an antimicrobial insert to prevent odors and is perfect for running on the beach. They're available only at 1st Place Sports (424 Third St. S. in Jacksonville Beach, 270-2221) until New Year's Day, after which they'll be available everywhere.

The Brooks Adrenaline ($95) is a popular choice for female runners. Now in its eighth model year, the Adrenaline is one of the most versatile models available. Pair them with a pair of Nike Tempo shorts ($28) for a nice gift set. They're available at 1st Place Sports.

- Skating stuff: Skatelab (52 Third St. W. in Atlantic Beach, 249-2529) offers some great ideas for skateboarders this season, including decks (boards) by Alien Workshop, Habitat and Black Label. All are $57 and include grips and a free day of skating. Skatelab also offers their own line of clothing, which has recently made it into such retail outlets as Macy's and JCPenney. The most popular skating shirts are $14 and are available at Skatelab in Atlantic Beach.

After-school clinics for beginners, intermediate and girls are also available daily at Skatelab at a cost of $10 a day. Owner Brian Christenson also offers private lessons for $30 an hour.

- Guana getaway: For the budding naturalist or weekend ecologist on your list, an afternoon trip to one of the area's top natural treasures makes an ideal gift.

The Friends of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, in partnership with Ripple Effect Ecotours, offer kayak tours of the Guana River several times each month. The naturalist-led tour, in which participants paddle out in double kayaks to observe the area's indigenous species, provides information about the coastal estuary. Cost for the tours, which are open to paddlers 12 and up, is $45 per person. All kayaking equipment, instruction, reserve entry fee and tour, and bottled water are included. Reservations must be made in advance. For more information, call Ripple Effect Ecotours at 347-1565 or the GTM at 823-4500. Monthly schedules are available at www.gtmnerr.org.

- Beach bikes: Whether the cyclist on your list aspires to be Lance Armstrong or just enjoys a weekend ride on the beach, there are plenty of options at the beach.

For the casual beach rider, Trek custom-themed beach cruisers ($289 to $499 at American Bicycle Company, 240 Third St. S. in Jacksonville Beach, 246-4433) are just right. For the serious rider, the newly redesigned Trek Madone ($3,299 and up) is one of the hottest road bikes this season and is popular even with recreational riders. Another hot seller is the Polar CS200 handlebar-mounted cycling computer ($189), which tracks speed, heart rate and other vital information, which can then be downloaded to your computer to track data.

At Champion Cycling (1303 Third St. N. in Jacksonville Beach, 241-0900), the hot seller has been the Giant Sedona and Giant Suede comfort-oriented mountain bikes ($330 and up). These bikes are extremely versatile and ideal for the weekend warrior; they can take on beach, sidewalk and even light-duty off-road terrain. Champion is also the exclusive dealer in Jacksonville for Haro BMX Bikes ($210 and up) if your rider has designs on the X-Games.

- TPC tickets: The mother of all stocking stuffers for Beaches sports fans, tickets to the 2008 Players Championship are on sale. This year's tournament will be Monday-Sunday, May 5-11, at The Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. The 2007 event was the 19th consecutive sellout in Players history, and this year is expected to continue that trend. Tickets can be purchased at www.pgatour.com/theplayers or by calling 285-7888. They can also be purchased at 48 area Publix stores. Daily and weekly tickets and parking passes are all available for sale online, by phone and at Publix.

Brian Kosoy is Shorelines' sports correspondent. Please contact him with Beaches sports and recreation tips at bck716@hotmail.com.

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