As the owner and operator of the University of Surfing, Matt Cole has transformed incredibly talented surfers into an accomplished team of instructors. From Kyla Langen, the 2012 Bud Light Lime Tour Champ, and her globe-spanning surf career to veteran teacher and decorated pro surfer Kevin Rhodes, students reap the benefits of the instructors’ years of experience during two-hour introductory surfing lessons. In addition to these basic lessons, the staff also coaches intermediate surfers and offers private lessons, giving advice about paddling, proper standing technique, and proper burial technique for broken surfboards. The wave-loving group also hosts daylong and overnight camps that cover the deepest aspects of surfing.
After one look at the pristine pools packed with toys, and it’s no surprise why La Petite Baleen’s four San Francisco-area swim facilities are so popular with kids. What may be surprising however, is that the flourishing network of schools started humbly in the backyard pool of John Kolbisen and Irene Madrid.
In 1979, the public school teachers were brainstorming ways to integrate their passion for educating kids with their love of the water. Starting with their own three children, some neighborhood kids, and one cleverly disguised frog, John and Irene began teaching swim lessons with a rather progressive philosophy: They approached swimming not just as an extracurricular activity, but as a means to boost self-confidence, build friendships, and learn to overcome fears.
More than 30 years later, La Petite Baleen has become a renowned family of schools, partnered with the U.S. Swim School Association and the Swim for Life Foundation. Part of the success has to do with how children are grouped. In weekly sessions, pods of tots of similar age, skill level, and personality evolve at a similar pace—earning individual achievement ribbons as they do. Kids make friends in the group, and the recurring scheduling means that they can stay enrolled with their new buddies indefinitely or until they grow their own dorsal fins. Each location’s indoor pools are kept at an inviting 90 degrees, in an attempt to make even the most timid student to feel comfortable in the water. Perhaps most importantly, the teachers participate in ongoing training designed to encourage empathetic, yet firm teaching methods.
LA Boxing’s instructors thumb their noses at the suggestion that fighting has no place in public. They happily subvert this social convention, leading students through safe and noncontact fitness classes inspired by the pugilistic arts. Each boxing, kickboxing, or group MMA class is lead by a professional fighter, who teaches basic skills during the up-tempo, one-hour workouts. Students warm up with plyometrics before strapping on 6-ounce gloves and hitting a heavy bag with combination of kicks, knees, and elbows. Classes may burn between 800 and 1,000 calories per session, improve coordination and stamina, and increase your tolerance for listening to the theme from Rocky IV on repeat.
Helmed by martial arts instructor Willy Cahill for nearly 50 years, the instructors at Cahill's Judo Academy dojo drill students in the martial arts of Kodokan judo and jujitsu. In spacious studio interiors, students embark on up to 2.5-hour classes, rehearsing throws, grapples, strikes, and joint locks to subdue opponents and force stubborn jam jars to yield their contents. The instructors are well-versed in the combat-focused jujitsu and in the less combat-intensive practice of judo, working to hone state- and international-championship medal winners participating in Olympic events, Pan American Games, and special competitions.
Dr. Aruna Chinnakotla has her feet in two seemingly opposite worlds. During the day, she's a primary care physician, studying and utilizing medical science to help others feel their best. But when she leaves her office, she trades her stethoscope for sequins, helping to energize others through Bollywood fitness dance. Fusion Beatz combines the doctor's passion for dance and medicine in a fitness program that exercises every muscle in the body. These high-impact dance moves also help students avoid injury unlike typical exercise regimes, which include cartwheeling through rings of fire.
Sedusa Studios' women-only studios sport expansive dance spaces with a dozen 20-foot dance poles and a troupe of highly experienced instructors. Step lively in a 60-minute muscle-toning Introductory Sensual Dance and Pole Dance class, which demonstrates basic moves, positions, and firefighter lingo to spark dancer/pole camaraderie. The Video Vixen Dance Workout class helps students build strength by teaching choreography inspired by the moves in current music videos. Booty-pop like the stars during the one-hour class while whittling thighs, abs, and glutes down into a seductively statuesque form. Additionally, The Pussycat Workout Dance class aims to shape up clients with previous pole experience, as they tone and learn new moves.
Both classes, guided by experienced female teachers, combine fitness and flirty dancing in a comfortable, nonjudgmental atmosphere, lending ladies the knowledge and know-how to tempt a partner, enjoy a night at the club, or spice up an upcoming PowerPoint presentation. Check the schedule for class times; more may be added based on demand.