A surfer walks to shore on Rockaway Beach

A surfer walks to shore on Rockaway Beach. (credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Baseball, football, soccer – what is that? You want to stay fit and have some fun but you’re not interested in possibly losing an eye, breaking a fingernail or chipping a tooth. Well then, you might want to find a giant bubble to call home because the following list of ten alternative sport and fitness activities are not any less challenging or strenuous than your usual games. They are, however, activities you’re not always going to find at the gym, YMCA or local park. Gather your gear and your nerve and prepare for a walk off the beaten path. – By Nicola A. Menzie
Students from the Manhattan Sailing School

Students from the Manhattan Sailing School. (credit: sailmanhattan.com)

Sailing Lessons

Riding the ferries or water taxis to and from work can surely be no substitute for drifting on a gentle breeze through the waters of the Atlantic on a calm, clear day. If you’ve never really taken the time to enjoy the view and think a knot only involves tying a tie, some sailing lessons may be in order.

Manhattan Sailing School

385 South End Ave #6H
New York, NY 10280
(212) 786-0400
Buzz: hands-on experience on a personal level with classes running through October from three locations (Manhattan, Hoboken and Jersey City) all for the “crazy low price” of $390

Offshore Sailing School

23rd Street and the Hudson River
New York, N.Y. 10011
(888) 454-7015

Liberty Landing Marina, 80 Audrey Zapp Drive
Jersey City, N.J. 07305
(201) 432-7763‎
Buzz: conducts classes at Manhattan’s Chelsea Piers and in Jersey City and offers full certification as well simple deals for those who just want to get a taste of sailing on the open sea (or Hudson River); prices start at $395 and discounts are available if you come with a friend or even a child (minimum age is 10).

Others: New York Sailing Center & Yacht Club, Atlantic Yachting, Hudson River Community Sailing.

Many of these groups offer club post-lesson access options to help you keep up with what may turn out to be your new favorite activity.

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19189306 Off The Beaten Path: Ten Alternative Sport And Fitness Activities

Surfing Lessons

If sailing on the open seas doesn’t get you close enough to the water then you may want to reach out to surfing groups and organizations that can get you equipped to go one-on-one with the waves.

New York Surf School

192 Beach 92nd Street
Rockaway Beach, N.Y.11693
Buzz: based at Boarders Surf Shop in Rockaway Beach, offers lessons for $55 per hour in a “healthy, positive environment” and provides all the necessary equipment

Skudin Surf

1 Lincoln Boulevard
Long Beach, N.Y. 11561
(516) 318-3993
Buzz: family-run since the 1970s, conducts lessons in Long Beach and Rockaway Beach for $75 (semi-private lessons)

Both NY Surf School and Skudin Surf are about an hour away from Manhattan (if leaving from Penn Station on the LIRR)

Others: Main Street Surf + Sport, Thrust Surfing Schools, Thrust Camp, Woody’s Surf Shop.

If you don’t have any beach buddies on the same wavelength, you might be able to find some on MeetUp with communities like East Coast Surfers and NYC Surfing Buddies.

An archery target

(credit: Wikimedia Commons/Julo)


Robin Hood won’t have anything on you after a few lessons at Pro Line Archery Lanes, Inc. or Queens Archery – no green tights required!

Queens Archery

39th Avenue & 171st Street
Queens, N.Y. 11358
(718) 461-1756
Buzz: rates start at $18

Pro Line Archery Lanes

95-11 101 Avenue
Ozone Park, N.Y. 11416
(718) 845-9280
Buzz: rates start at $13 ($5 for those under 16 and those over 65)

Archery may turn out to be your sport but, despite the economic climate, we do not recommend rounding up a group of merry men to rob anything.

Others: New York City Archery Group

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Participants take part in a mass yoga session in Times Square in New York June 21, 2010

Participants take part in a mass yoga session in Times Square in New York June 21, 2010. (credit: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)


New Yorkers are well attuned to this Eastern tradition of spiritual and physical composure but it isn’t all about stretching and breathing and sitting with your legs crossed – there is a group in the City that does it completely in the nude and another focused on helping you find inner peace by yukking it up.

Naked Yoga NYC

Buzz: students, taught in small groups for a fee of $25, are instructed to wear clothing to the yoga studio, come freshly showered and to refrain from touching others during the session… of course

Laughter Yoga

1420 Broadway, #1107
New York, N.Y. 10018
Buzz: no tricks, no tickling, no alcohol and no jokes, the group promises on its website

Others: Hot Nude Yoga (for men, focused on Tantric Yoga)

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Acrobatic performers Preston Jamieson and Kelsey Wiens perform atop the the Empire State Building 86th floor observation deck In New York City

Acrobatic performers Preston Jamieson and Kelsey Wiens perform atop the the Empire State Building 86th floor observation deck In New York City. (credit: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Circus Arts

New York Circus Arts

5321 Vernon Boulevard
New York, N.Y. 11101
(212) 751-2174
Buzz: classes like Trampoline and Tumbling, Flying Trapeze and Juggling to choose from and each runs for six weeks at $265 and up (or $50 and up for a single class)

Trapeze School of New York

518 West 30th Street
New York, N.Y. 10001
(212) 2428769
Buzz: classes, held indoor and outdoor at three NYC locations, are two hours long and start at $47

Who knows, you may finally get the opportunity to run away with the circus

Others: Coney Island Sideshow School (classes include Fire Eating and Breathing, Sword Swallowing, Bed of Nails and other painful arts), Hollywood Stunts (learn fake fighting, running through “glass,” falling from “towers”)

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A fake bull at Mason Dixon in New York City

The fake bull at Mason Dixon in New York City. (credit: masondixonnyc.com)

Bull Riding

If you get thrilled at the thought of possibly seeing your life flash before your eyes in eight to ten seconds (yes, that’s all long it takes), then there’s a bull in NYC with your name on it.

Mason Dixon

133 Essex Street
New York, N.Y. 10002
(212) 260-4100
Buzz: a southern style bar/restaurant, charges $5 per ride in a padded and fenced-in bull arena

Johnny Utah’s

25 West 51st Street
New York, N.Y.
(212) 265-8824
Buzz: very proud of their 300-pound, 6-foot bull, hosts weekly competitions and invites any cowboy and cowgirl 18 and older to get their buck on for free

Viva El Toro

188 Berry Street
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11211
Buzz: name means “long live the bull,” patrons can hop on (and crawl away from) mechanical for free

Johnny Famous

40-05 Bell Boulevard
Bayside, N.Y. 11361
(877) 553-6687
Buzz: sober patrons can saddle up for free

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Two handball teams compete

Two handball teams compete. (credit: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Team Handball

You may be thinking, I’ve heard of handball (racquetball without the racket) and stickball (like baseball with a skinny bat), but what the heck is team handball? Glad you asked. Team handball, part of the Olympics since the 70s, is a sport played by two opposing teams composed of seven players who battle to score by hurling a ball about the size of a honeydew melon or coconut pass the opposing team’s goalie into the net. The ball is dribbled like in basketball and thrown like in football, and players jostle each like in hockey.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, getting a membership with the New York City Team Handball Club may be a good place to start (http://www.newyorkcityteamhandball.com).

If old school handball is more you’re thing, Inner City Handball Association (http://www.icha.org/index.cfm) offers membership for $35. Of course, you can always pick up a game in any borough (https://www.nycgovparks.org/facilities/handball); Ditto for stickball:

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Players from the New York Shock Exchange men's roller derby team

Players from the New York Shock Exchange men's roller derby team. (credit: nyshockexchange.com)

Roller Derby/Hockey

This would require a little commitment as well as a helmet and mouth guard, so if you want to play it safe you might be better off finding a nice, quiet place to skate the night (or afternoon) away. If, however, you’re looking for some competitive, heart-stopping action (or a little buzz) roller derby might be more sport.

Gotham Girls Roller Derby

(888) 830-2253
Buzz: just for women

Long Island Roller Rebel

(631) 891-5887
Buzz: women only

New York Shock Exchange

Buzz: men only

If you’re more comfortable gliding in-line, sign up for Adult Hockey Prep classes at Chelsea Piers (http://www.chelseapiers.com) which cost $50/$500 per class/semester.

You can pick up a game at any of the roller hockey rinks in New York City’s parks (http://www.nycgovparks.org/facilities/hockey) or join a MeetUp group like The New York Roller Skating/Rollerblading Group (http://www.meetup.com/rollerskating-32) and Westside Rollerbladers (http://www.meetup.com/Westside-Rollerbladers).

Buzz: If going in circles or getting competitive is not your style, there’s always the Lezly Skate School where you can learn to get artsy with your skates for as low as $25 per class: http://www.skateguru.com.

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Boot Camp

Boot camps aren’t just for unruly youth or GI Joes and Janes anymore. Urban workouts, as they are sometimes called, are for those looking to break a sweat beyond the confines of a gym, so if the dumb bells and bench press just don’t do it for you anymore check out these alternatives.

Stacy’s Bootcamp

(646) 537-5466
Buzz: specific classes for moms and gay men, etc. , held mostly in Manhattan parks (one in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park) for around $300

Captain Quinn’s Fitness Boot Camp

(888) 850-1674
Buzz: held at two Brooklyn locations at the cost of $10 per hour-long session

Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp

(646) 354-0039
Buzz: an one-hour class that takes students across the Brooklyn Bridge and back, kicking their butts along the way; classes are $20 ($15 for first-timers) and are varied depending on your needs (expect to pay more for some programs, one of which is also held in Central Park)

Others: Warrior Fitness Boot Camp, Focus Integrated Fitness, NYC Adventure Boot Camp For Women

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A Capoeira group performs in New York City

Capoeira group performs in New York City. (credit: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)


This Afro-Brazilian tradition combines martial arts and dance accented with music that gives the impression of fluid acrobatic play – but it can get rough (with headbutts, elbowing and body throws, for example). There are several locations across the boroughs that teach the ancient art form.


Capoeira Angola Center

140 West 14th Street
New York, N.Y. 10011
(212) 989-6975
Buzz: classes are $15-$20 per session

New York Capoeira @ The Ailey School

405 West 55th Street
New York, N.Y. 10019
Buzz: single classes are $17, discount for multiple classes

Capoeira Brasil

35 West 31st Street, 6th Floor
New York, N.Y. 10001
Buzz: $20 for a single class, monthly packages available


Capoeira Angola Palmares

Arrow Park Community Center
35-50 35th Street
Astoria, N.Y. 11106

Fitness Point Gym
25-14 34th Avenue
Astoria, N.Y. 11106
(347) 731-4461
Buzz: $15 per class, free for participants who have Arrow Park Community Center membership


Capoeira dancers at the Raizes do Brasil center in Brookly, New York

A Capoeira dancers perform at the Raizes do Brasil center in Brooklyn, N.Y. (credit: Daniel Perez)

Raizes do Brasil

347 Flatbush Avenue, 2nd Floor
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11238
Buzz: single classes are $20, 10-class card is $180; private instruction also available

Others: ABADA Capoeira New York, New York Capoeira Center, Grupo Maculele Capoeira

Some other activities to consider: rock climbing, pole dancing, firearm training, cricket, adventure course

What did we leave out? Give your own recommendations for alternative sports and fitness activities by leaving a comment below.

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