(credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)

Blessed with the enviable weather and stunning landscape that the Bay Area provides, getting fit and staying fit is more about pursuing a passion than just making a trip to the gym. Let’s give a shout out to our own top-quality independent sporting good stores in the process. They’re going that extra mile in customer service so their customers can comfortably go that extra mile in pursuit of a personal best.

Benicia Kite and Paddle Sports 
238 1st St.
Benicia, CA 94510
(510) 900-9463

Kite Naked expanded from a successful e-commerce site to include this ideal base right on the water. Owner Chris says if you have not yet tried stand-up paddleboarding, kiteboarding or kitesurfing, give it a go in Benicia, where conditions are ideal. The shop sells, rents and provides lessons to a mix of devoted fans and eager learners. Beginners start out in the marina year round, advancing to adventures in Carquinez Strait, where autumn is the best time of year. Just turn off the freeway and step into Benicia.

A Runner’s Mind, San Francisco (credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)

A Runner’s Mind
3575 Sacramento St.
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 800-7575

This new addition to the running store scene has made for extremely loyal and happy customers in year one. “It’s all about a sense of community and building relationships,” according to co-owner Mike who says the Burlington store wanted a San Francisco location near parks and away from downtown. Once the space was found, the interiors were lovingly crafted by hand by the extended Burlington store family. Co-owner Faisal invites you to just show up to join a Presidio running group on Thursdays at 7 p.m. or on Saturdays at 9 a.m. Get your free T-shirt and after the run, enjoy a hosted barbecue in the store’s big backyard.

Sports Basement 
1177 Kern Ave.
Sunnyvale, CA 94085
(408) 732-0300

Everyone inside of this store wants to be outside. While there are five Bay Area locations, soon to be six with Berkeley, each Sports Basement runs with a sense of community spirit. Free events posted on the SmorgasBoard in Sunnyvale include fun run, baby boot camp, karna camp, off the grid, bike ride, core fitness class, yoga, hands-on flat repair and Zumba class…and classes for kids, too. Anyone can join a mountain biking or rock climbing trip, or rent gear for a ski trip. Within the 50,000 square feet that stocks just about everything, a full-service bike mechanic service helps keep Silicon Valley cars off the roads. Sports Basement may have expanded, but it hasn’t forfeited customer service.

California Ski Company
843 Gilman St.
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 527-6411

Dedicated followers report happy feet on the slopes and further relief from time not spent getting boots sorted out at the resort. In business in the former Rialto Theater since 1989, California Ski Company is all about downhill skiing. Serious skiers make a date to see owner Greg and the team of custom boot fitters, not only due to customer demand, but also because these guys spend time testing skis on the slopes.

Sonlight Surfshop
575 Crespi Drive, Suite 1
Pacifica, CA 94044
(650) 359-5471

Get a wetsuit that fits and a board that suits you. Rental or sales, this ma-and-pa shop delivers customer service free of attitude with an emphasis on the enjoyment of the sport, not about the fashion nor the scene. Beginners should start here with an instructor to get their feet wet. Since 1985, Robin and Dan have been building an extended family of loyal customers.

Laurie Jo Miller Farr loves walkable cities. A tourism industry professional and transplanted New Yorker by way of half-a-lifetime in London, she’s writing about the best of the bay and beyond for Yahoo, USA Today, eHow, and on Examiner.com.