1. Get tea-bagged-This has nothing to do with a bartender in ass-less chaps and everything to do with learning to fly. Everybody's seen those guys with the crescent shaped kites ripping through the breakers and wondered if it's as difficult and as much fun as it looks. The obvious answer here is yes to both, but kite boarding doesn't require superhuman strength or amazing athletic abilities. Instead, you'll need brains and patience.
Before you even get in the water you'll want a basic understanding of the wind-which can propel a rider in excess of 40 mph-and how to control the kite. Ranging up to 27 feet in length, the kite regulates both a boarder's speed and direction of travel, which the rider can manipulate with a subtle push or pull of the control bar. It takes several hours of practice to learn how to finesse the kite through the sky-this isn't the plastic Spider-Man number of your youth-but it's well worth the effort.
Once you master the basics, you can finally head for the beach, where the next challenge becomes maintaining your balance on the board while flying the kite. You might call it extreme multitasking, and it's not uncommon to see beginners getting lifted completely out of the water before splashing back down-a process known as "tea bagging."
Facing a steep learning curve, it's probably best to start off with a lesson, and for $169 the folks at West Coast Kiteboarding (they were nice enough to help us explain all this) can get you started. Visit www.westcoastkiteboard ing.com or call 619-813-2230.
2. Submerse yourself-There's a lot to see at La Jolla Cove, although most visitors never bother to break the surface. But if you're willing to strap on a mask, a snorkel and a pair of flippers, the La Jolla Ecological Reserve is just begging to be explored.
Sea lions, lobsters, octopi, horn sharks and sting rays all hang out here amongst the kelp beds, rock reefs and caves. Unfortunately, the reserve is a big tourist draw and hardly qualifies as undiscovered, but if you do a bit of swimming it's not hard to get away from the masses.
If you're new to snorkeling or just want a guided tour, SeaClypse Dive Adventures offers two-hour guided excursions in the reserve for $50. Call 619-203-3476 or visit www.sea clypse.com. If a solo mission is more your style, then La Jolla Adventures rents everything you'll need for about $17. Visit www.ljadventures.com or call 858-551-2683.
3. Fool a fish-Forget about the fish-finding radars and the scented glow-in-the-dark lures and leave your Pabst Blue Ribbon at home. It's summertime, the fish are biting and it's time to get back to the winner-take-all battle of wits that has raged between man and fish for centuries. That's right, wits.
We're talking fly-fishing, saltwater-style for Bonita, Barracuda, Halibut, Yellowtail and Dorado, which are waiting in the rolling surf of San Diego's bays, and in offshore depths to engage the brave.
Actually, just like the freshwater version, saltwater fly-fishing is about using graceful presentation to make a fish think that an elaborate combination of feather, fur, yarn and other materials is actually its natural food source. It's not an easy task and takes a bit of practice but the first time an unseen leviathan rises from the depths to take the bait, it all becomes worthwhile.
Andy Montana's Surfside Fly Fishing in Coronado offers three-hour surf-fishing classes for $75 and guided trips start at $160. For more information call 619-435-9992 or visit www.andymontanas.com.
4. Yacht like the poor-There's really no better way to spend the summer than cruising from one Mediterranean port to the next on your 60-foot yacht. OK, so maybe Mission Bay is not the Med, but you can still feel the salty sea spray on your face as you pilot a sloop across the waves.
The Mission Bay Aquatic Center rents 16-foot Hobies, 14-foot Lasers and 8-foot Sabots to experienced sailors starting at $15 for two and a half hours. The catch is you must either be a student or employee of a college or university in San Diego County. If you're neither, you can still take a sailing course starting at $135, but you're not allowed to rent.
Fortunately, on the other side of the parking lot from the aquatic center, the Mission Bay Sportscenter offers basic sailing instruction to the general public on the first weekend of every month for $85 and catamaran lessons on the last weekend of every month for $45. During the rest of the week the sportscenter rents six different sailboats ranging in size from 14 to 25 feet and in price from $18 to $45 an hour. No experience is required, but each rental comes with basic instruction and an extra $30 secures a one-hour lesson. Reservations are recommended, especially on the weekends, and the wind tends to be best in the late morning and afternoon. Visit www.mis sionbaysportscenter.com or call 858-488-1004.
1. Sleep around-It's tough to find a place to pitch a tent these days. In the most readily accessible areas, RVs typically outnumber tents a dozen to one and it's difficult to take in the wilderness with the Jeopardy! theme song blaring in the background. More remote locations are exactly that, remote, and campers often end up schlepping a lot of equipment for miles before finally collapsing at camp. Not to mention most wilderness options prohibit campfires, which is akin to taking the nudity out of sex.
That's not to say it's impossible to find a few places where tents are still in the majority and you're allowed to toast a marshmallow or two. Avoid holidays and weekends and you'll have these parks all to yourself.
When it's not burning, the 566,866-acre Cleveland National Forest is home to one of San Diego County's most spectacular wilderness preserves. Encompassing alpine meadows, hidden lakes, craggy peaks and desert flats, the forest boasts a variety of settings and a multitude of camping options. For more information visit www.fs .fed.us/r5/cleveland/ or www.lmva.org or call 619-445-6235.
Renowned for its Sierra Nevada-like feel, the 1,897-acre Palomar Mountain State Park's campground caters to traditionalists. With more than 14 miles of hiking trails and excellent trout fishing in Doane pond-a California fishing license is required-there's lots to do during the day and, with the Palomar Observatory just up the road, the mountain really comes to life after dark. For more information visit www.parks.ca.gov and click on "find a park" or call 760-742-3462.
2. Dangle precariously-For those who dig heights, there's apparently no greater thrill than tempting fate while ascending a sheer cliff face. Experienced rock climbers flock to Santee Boulders, Mount Woodson and Mission Gorge to do their thing, but novice climbers will want to learn the ropes under the watchful eye of an expert first. While climbing gyms are always a good option, there's nothing quite like clinging to real rock with one hand under a cobalt blue sky as a raven pecks away at your fingers. You just don't get that indoors.
Vertical Hold, San Diego's only permitted guide service, offers single-day guided introduction courses for $95 and a two-day course for $175. Visit www.verticlehold.com or call 619-886-3368.
3. Walk like a hiker-What differentiates a walk from a hike? Some might say significant elevation change does the trick while others insist it has something to do with the size of the load you're carrying. Honestly, it really doesn't matter. The point is to get out there and use your little feet to propel yourself somewhere while soaking in the natural beauty. Or is the natural beauty the point? Here are a few places to do all of that, no matter what you call it. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen and a cell phone just in case.
* Mission Trails Regional Park is one of the largest urban parks in the country, and with more than 50 miles of trails it's got a little bit of everything. The newly re-opened Oak Canyon Trail (trailhead at the old Mission Dam parking lot) is a three-mile round-trip jaunt offering a taste of each of the park's many unique habitats. Climbing the more than one mile of switchbacks up 1,392-foot Cowles Mountain (trailhead at corner of Golfcrest Drive and Navajo Road) is a great way to blow off steam, and day trippers might want to try the 10- to 15-mile trip along the Rim Trail via Suycott Wash (trailhead at Calle de Vida off of Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.)
* The Palomar Mountain Observatory Trail is inside the Cleveland National Forest (trailhead at the Observatory Campground off of Road S6) and extends two miles up to the observatory at Palomar's summit, offering views of the Mendenhall valley and wildflowers along the way.
4. Play a round o' Frolf-That's Frisbee golf or disk golf for the long-winded and ill-informed, and if you've never spent the day trying to land a flying disk in a little chain basket then thus far you have truly lived your life in vain.
The good news is that you can repent at Balboa Park's Morley Field Disk Golf Course, a 19-hole (basket?) course that spans across 20 acres. Green's fees and disk rental cost a whopping $3.50 during the week and soar to $4 on the weekends.
Just like its uppity country-clubbing cousin, the object of Frolf is to land a disk in the basket in the least number of "strokes." After that, rules vary, but, for the most part, anything goes. However, some avid Frolfers have been known to inhale performance-enhancing substances, but don't worry. If you ask nicely they'll probably share.
Six Walks to cap off your day
In photog terms, "magic hour" is the time of day just before the sun is about to set. For us pasty folks, it's the only time we can be sunscreen-free. For others who get itchy and irritated when it's hot, this is the time of day to cool down and mellow out. As for walking, the Japanese say you're supposed to take 10,000 steps a day. Here's how to finish off the last couple thousand.
1. Balboa Park-Stroll in and out of covered walkways where Spanish architecture meets well-placed spotlights for one of the loveliest settings in all of San Diego. If you're lucky, that big fountain with all the pretty lights will be going.
2. Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade-Running parallel to Harbor Drive, the promenade is a 1.5-mile straight line with room enough for cyclers and walkers to coexist without incident. Promenade Park is almost too cool for this town, with its evenly spaced hills of grass (or "urban forest" as some call it) and giant misting fountain.
3. Pick a pier
Ocean Beach Pier-At 1,971 feet long, it's said to be the longest concrete pier in the world. The T-shape at the end gives you options-shall you go left, right or neither?
Crystal Pier (Pacific Beach)-Initially it was going to be called the Pickering Pleasure Pier after its creator. That name was changed to the Crystal Pleasure Pier Ballroom and Joy Zone. What ballroom, you ask? Why, the one at the end of the pier. Unfortunately, it was so unstable, visitors were getting seasick and so it was torn down in the 1930s. But you can still walk to the end and imagine what it must've been like back then.
Oceanside Pier-At 1,954 feet long, it's almost as long as the OB Pier. What it's got on OB is a Ruby's Diner at the end. Nothing says "summer" like a Blackforest milkshake.Imperial Beach Pier-San Diego may be "America's Finest City," but "IB is the place to be." So sayeth the town slogan. Fronting the pier is "Surfhenge," a bizarre public-art work. At the end of the arrow-shaped pier is The Tin Fish restaurant (open til 8 p.m.), where you can munch crab cakes and get an eyeful of both TJ and Coronado.