WHITNEY MEERS

Intern, Skateboard Diva, Crusader

BEST PLACE TO BE BANNED FROM
Skatepark of Tampa

The boys over at SPoT have won a few Best of the Bay awards in the past and now they have a new one to add to the list. Last November, I wrote an opinion column for the USF student newspaper about some instances of sexism in the organization´s online giveaways. The park´s general manager took it upon himself to promptly ban me from the park and then refused to speak to me about the situation. Being an avid skateboarder for more than seven years, I was upset about it — for a while. Then I asked myself, what smart person would want to go to a place that would ban her for exercising her First Amendment right to free speech? What person would want to be in a place that treated her unfairly and inappropriately because the management was pissed off at what she had to say? Not me, that´s for damn sure.

Skatepark of Tampa, 4215 E. Columbus Drive, Tampa, 813-621-6793.

BEST BOAT RENTAL
Solar Surrey Boat Rental

The tiny boat dock behind the Museum of Natural History at The Pier in St. Pete rents 21-foot boats for $65 an hour on weekends and for half-price Monday-Thursday. Two hours will get you a leisurely ride for up to 10 people, and patrons can pack sandwiches and cruise around the bay at 6 miles per hour. The Surrey boats are also more eco friendly than most; they run on electricity, not gasoline. A 1-mile ride through the bay gives a spectacular view of St. Petersburg and the surrounding areas and an up-close encounter with the dolphins living in the bay.

Solar Surrey Boat Rental, 800 Second Ave. N.E., St. Petersburg, 727-858-BOAT.

BEST ART EXPERIENCE
Industrial Carnival, April 30, 2004

Walking to the front entrance of the Bustillo Cigar Factory on April 30, I might have been surprised to see a horse amid a crowd of people had I not known something incredible was going on inside. With more than 40 artists´ works, Industrial Carnival was an art show, but also more than that. It was an experience. A gigantic hand built from wood and metal tapped its fingers as crowds gathered to watch, and a massive metal jaw chewed a wad of pink bubble gum while experimental music played in the background. Monsters and mysterious works of art were sporadically placed around the gallery. The upper floor of the warehouse was turned into a dim, spooky home with beds and chairs, and a young woman singing brilliantly and playing the piano as small groups walked by. People wearing T-shirts and jeans mingled with Cinderellas and mental patients. Some people came for the free beer, some for the art and others to check out Wrestlewomania, the women´s wrestling exhibition that went on deep into the night. Industrial Carnival was weird, twisted and entertaining, a showcase of what lies in the imaginations of the people around us.

BEST PROFESSOR
Dr. Jonathan Gayles

It´s disheartening to know that some people walk away from college without ever having a professor who leaves them with a greater sense of being. I´ve had several, but Dr. Gayles, an assistant professor in the Anthropology Department at University of South Florida, is truly the most outstanding of all. Students attend his classes because his lectures and discussions are so engrossing, so engaging that one will always learn something from him. Unfortunately, Dr. Gayles will leave USF this year to pursue other opportunities elsewhere, but he has truly been a blessing to the university during his time there. Dr. Gayles is an outstanding professor and a wonderful person, and I can think of no one better to receive a Best of the Bay award than him.

BEST GUERRILLA SKATE SPOT
Park & Ride Ledges at USF

The ledges are a little bit chunky and tall and there isn´t much else to skate in parking lots nearby, but that´s the way skateboarding is most of the time. When someone brings a flatrail or a grind box over and calls a crew to meet at the USF Park & Ride Ledges, it´s on. Some of the best nights I´ve ever had were spent skating underneath the stars with my friends. Undoubtedly, one will always end up sweaty and thirsty skating in the Florida heat, but in the night, after the rain has come and gone, the temperature is just about right for skateboarding. Security guards and police officers won´t hassle those skating near the ledges. Maybe the ledges aren´t the best spot for skateboarding, but they are the best place for skaters in Tampa to gather, skate and have fun, which is what skateboarding is all about.

The Park & Ride ledges are located on a side street near N. Palm Drive, across from the USF Credit Union.

BEST SKATE SHOP
Westside Skateshop

John Montesi, a former pro skateboarder and all-around rad guy, knew what he was doing when he opened Westside Skateshop a few years ago over in Tarpon Springs. Thousands of people visit the shop every year, from little ones just learning to ride down the driveway to seasoned professionals. Proof is there; autographed boards hang on the walls of the shop, and an especially important row consists of original pro model decks bearing Montesi´s name from his professional tenure. The shop is dedicated to skateboarding (no Rollerblades or scooters allowed), selling numerous top-name boards and accessories. The staff is helpful and knowledgeable and is willing to help out as much as possible. A gigantic couch invites people to hang out and watch a skate video on the big-screen TV after they´re through shopping. None of the other shops in Tampa Bay can compare to the personal, friendly feel of Westside.

Westside Skateshop, 39336 U.S. 19 N., Tarpon Springs, 727-939-2308.

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