by Allie Pape
The summer Olympics in London are just around the corner, and swimming, basketball, and soccer will all have their day. But if you're like us, you might find yourself oddly compelled by some of the weirder Olympic events, ranging from the popular (watching adorable teenage girls demolish all comers in the floor routine) to the obscure (what the heck is dressage?) The Olympics always cause a bump in people wanting to try out the sports they've just spent three weeks watching on TV, and since we assume you're already in the know about the nearest pool, basketball court, and soccer field, we thought we'd offer some insight on the best places in SF to try some of the Olympiad's more unusual sports for yourself.
The sport: Gymnastics
The place: AcroSports
If you're looking to wear out your brittle old bones emulating the flips and tumbles of the 15-year-olds on your TV screen, look no further than AcroSports. They're the only SF gymnastics outlet to offer classes for adults, including tumbling, contortion, the trapeze, the trampoline, and even breakdancing. (Now that's an Olympic sport we'd like to see added to the roster.)
The sport: Judo
The place: Soko Joshi Judo Club
99-year-old Keiko Fukuda, the highest-ranking female judoka in the world, is the head teacher at this small, women-only studio in Noe Valley. As the last surviving student of Judo founder Jigoro Kano, Keiko and her team of expert judokas will give you all the info you need to know to throw, grapple, and stranglehold your opponent with aplomb. (Not a lady? Soko Joshi has open sessions for both genders once a month; otherwise, consider checking out Mits Kimura Judo in SOMA or the San Francisco Judo Institute in Parkside.)
The sport: Equestrian
The place: Mar Vista Stables
Though Golden Gate Park once had stables, they shuttered in 2001 due to city budget issues. The closest equestrian center to the SF city limits is Mar Vista Stables, located just south of Fort Funston. They offer private riding lessons for both adults and children, or if you'd rather just make it a day trip, they'll take you on a guided horseback tour of Ocean Beach.
The sport: Archery
The place: Golden Gate Park Archery Field
Thanks to the one-two-three punch of The Hunger Games, The Avengers, and Brave, heroes who know their way around a bow and arrow have never been hotter. If you've got your own setup, the archery field in GGP is free to use; otherwise, consider dropping by nearby Cupid's Gate Archery to take lessons or rent equipment.
The sport: Table tennis
The place: House of Pong
Yes, it's really an Olympic sport, and no, they don't appreciate it when you call it ping-pong. This spot on Fisherman's Wharf (which has been patronized by unlikely table-tennis aficionado Susan Sarandon) holds twice-monthly events with booze, a round-robin tournament, and a practice robot. Need to brush up on your skills before you compete? Consider taking lessons from renowned coach Masaaki Tajima at the Sunset Table Tennis Club, or get some group practice at one of the Berlin-style American Tripps events. Dear Mom has a table, too.
The sport: Fencing
The place: Halberstadt Fencers' Club
Founded in 1942 by Olympian Hans Halberstadt, this club still fields a number of Olympic competitors (both American and international). Their eight-week Adult Beginning Foil class will show you all the basics of footwork, offense, and defense, and if you stick with it long enough, you might even be able to join the competitive league. As their site eloquently puts it, "All you need is the desire to hit your opponents in the chest with a 3-foot metal stick and have fun doing it!"
Allie Pape is a writer in San Francisco. She also writes for 7x7, DailyCandy, and The Bold Italic.