There’s a good reason so many chipper holidays fall in the height of winter: Spreading goodwill and cheer is the social antidote to the winter blues brought on by shorter days and colder temperatures. While we here in the Golden State come in for merciless ribbing from our fellow Americans if we’re caught complaining—after all, diehards still have the chance to surf in the morning or go hiking in the afternoon even at this time of the year—opportunities to soak up those mood-lifting rays of vitamin D these winter months pale in comparison to what we get in the summer.
Which is to say that if you’ve got a friend or loved one who’s hiding under the covers, or just stuck in a rut, sometimes a little push to get out there and test the limits of the old comfort zone can be the best thing for a person. Luckily, there are plenty of places locally that provide activities for the intrepid, from skydiving to ballroom dancing, so a gift certificate may be just the thing.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding and Kayaking
It’s dispiriting how quickly the novelty of living in a beach town can wear off; newcomers arrive imagining how good for the soul it’ll be to see the ocean each and every day, only to lose that initiative within the first month. Getting out on the water and touring the bay on a stand up paddle board or kayak with the Kayak Connection (413 Lake Ave., #3, Santa Cruz; 831.479.1121) may help reinvigorate that inspiring ocean connection. Covewater Paddle Surf (726 Water St., Santa Cruz; 831.600.7230), the local headquarters for all things stand-up paddle, has a two-hour introductory lesson special that includes photos of the proud paddler.
Go deep—up to 40 feet deeper—by giving a PADI open water scuba certification class at Adventure Sports Unlimited (303 Potrero St. #15, Santa Cruz; 831.458.3648). After drifting down into a whole new world, fledgling divers will resurface with a brightened appreciation for this landlocked one.
Want to deliver an even bigger kick? Rather than floating down to great depths, give the gift of a fall from great heights with Skydive Surfcity (160 Aviation Way, Watsonville; 831.435.5169). Strapping onto the back of one of their frequent fliers in a tandem dive one way to change perspective while soaring over spectacular ocean views.
Sometimes the struggle up is actually more rewarding than the free fall down. Scaling walls with the gift of a membership at Pacific Edge Climbing Gym (104 Bronson St. #12, Santa Cruz; 831.454.9254) can be like a vertical dance that requires a fulfilling synthesis of balance, strength, flexibility and yogic mental control.
For those who may be into the dance but not the heights, let them trade in the belay partner for a tango partner with the gift of a class at Palomar Ballroom (1344 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.426.1221).
If this present is really just an excuse to play matchmaker with the recipient and that hot Argentinean, keep in mind that getting him or her to the next level may require more than just fancy footwork. A Spanish language class at Aux 3 Pommes (765 Cedar St., Suite 102, Santa Cruz; 831.421.0898) might prove to be more fruitful.
Originally published in the Santa Cruz Weekly: