Cool Ways to Spend a Hot Summer

By Mitch Traphagen  (

ELLENTON - The forecast shows a steady string of temperatures in the 90s. It seems that even picking up the television remote control is enough to make you break out into a sweat.

Believe it or not, however, there are things happening beyond the hermitically sealed windows of your air conditioned house.

Even during the peak of the hot weather months, people are finding ways to beat the heat and make the most of the dog days of summer.

Hit the Ice!

Perhaps one of the best ways to forget about the 90 degree temperatures is to hit the ice at the J.P. Igloo Ice and Inline Sports Complex in Ellenton.

J.P. Igloo offers figure skating classes for all ages and abilities, adult and youth hockey leagues and lessons and inline skating in addition to public skating hours.

For those not interested in spending time on the ice, the facility also boasts a health club, a pro shop, a snack bar and even a Beef O’Brady’s restaurant.

The facility is also home to the Southwest Florida Figure Skating Club.

Adult and child figure skating lessons range from absolute beginner to advanced levels all the way up to Olympic training with private coaching.

For those interested in competition, the figure skating lessons are designed to enable students to enter the United States Figure Skating Association competitive structure.

J.P. Igloo also has a Sports Performance Center that offers individualized conditioning for a variety of professional sports - from hockey and figure skating to the NFL.

The figure skating rink is also open to the public at various times throughout the week. Every Sunday night admission is $6 which includes skate rental. Friday night is family night and $30 buys admission for four people, skate rentals and a pizza and pitcher of soda from the snack bar.

Take a Dive!

There are no cry babies on the Apollo Beach Racquet Club swim team. Crying wouldn’t help because on this team, attitude is everything.

You have to have attitude to begin swimming each day at 5:30 a.m.

Before the sun comes up on a summer day, the kids have already started on their two and a half miles of laps for the day.

For a few of them, that is only half of their workout. Some of the kids return in the afternoon for another two and a half miles.

But for team coach Michael Greenwell, swimming laps is only a part of the equation.

"Every kid here is an A or B student," said Greenwell. "I don’t know if it’s the work ethic we have here or if it’s just their willingness to succeed."

It is likely both as the team has consistently found success during weekend competitions and beyond.

"It’s become the norm for 30 percent of our team to qualify for the Junior Olympics," said Greenwell. "Ten years ago we were 12th in the nation in producing national caliber swimmers. Today we’re in the top three."

But for Greenwell, success is not measured exclusively through winning at competitions.

"We teach a lot of physics here - laws of motion, movement through water, inertia and friction," he said. "We put the kids in canoes first to let them see how the canoe moves through water, then they go into the pool and they become the canoe."

The swim team at the Apollo Beach Racquet Club is not a domain exclusively for the best of the best - any child is encouraged to sign up for the various teams.

"Attitude is a big thing here," said Greenwell. "Attitude and commitment - that’s the difference between this team (the advanced team) and the novice team. It’s not the swimming level - if I can get the commitment, it will work."

During the summer, the program may be taken as part of the day camp offered by the racquet club. During the school year, Greenwell walks the kids to the nearby Apollo Beach Elementary School or ensures that they are off to other area schools when practice is over.

It does take attitude and commitment - for both the parent and the child - to begin practice each day before dawn.

But the coach sees a big benefit to that as well. "When the school day starts, the kids have already had a good workout and are wide awake and ready to learn," he said.

For Greenwell, success is helping the children excel in every facet of their lives.

"I’m looking for these guys to be leaders," he said. "Not necessarily on the swim team but in life."

Catch a Wave!

If just reading about all of the activity involved in skating and swimming is making you feel like you’re experiencing the early symptoms of heat stroke, Yamaha may have the perfect solution for you.

The Yamaha WaveRunner FX140 is the world’s first four-stroke personal watercraft. Far from the noisy and obnoxious jetskis of the past, the FX140 is environmentally friendly and very, very quiet.

With little more effort than a slight movement of the wrist, the FX140 will change your mind about the peak summer months. It’s good to be on the water.

Having a four-stroke engine means that the gas and oil do not have to be mixed. Filling up the watercraft is as simple as pulling up to the fuel pump. It also means that there is no oily slick left in your wake.

For those nearby, it also means that there is no annoying "jetski noise." Even at speeds over 50 m.p.h., the 140 hp engine produces only a steady hum.

The FX140 seats three people and is powerful enough to tow a waterskier.

With an suggested retail price of more than $9,500, however, there is a price to pay for this kind of fun. Of course that may also be one of the benefits - few speed and adventure craving teenagers have that kind of cash.

According to the local dealer, Barney’s of Brandon, the price point isn’t scaring away the buyers. "We can’t keep them in stock," said Barney’s business manager Lee Blackwell.

Jetskis have not had the greatest public image over the past few years. Other than the pollution and the noise, the vessels were often seen as the vehicle of choice for the young and insane.

While the FX140 answers the noise and pollution problem, Barney’s is taking on the latter problem by offering safety programs for personal watercraft owners.

"We offer free training and the salesperson goes through almost a full day of training with each buyer," said Blackwell.

Additionally, the company offers a free monthly safety seminar that is open to the public.

"We cover boating safety, trailer safety, rules of the road and other subjects," said Blackwell. "If someone wants to discuss something specific, all they have to do is give me a call so I can be ready for it."

According to Blackwell, Barney’s works closely with the Brandon U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla to ensure that their customers and everyone around them is safe on the water.

All of this adds up to having a great time on the water during the summer heat.

At the beginning of the media presentation for the FX140, I told the Yamaha representative, for the sake of full disclosure, that I was not fond of jetskis. To be even clearer, I strongly disliked them.

I left the presentation wishing I could take one home.

How About a Story?

If everything you’ve read to this point sounds like a bit too much, there is still hope for passing beyond the well air conditioned confines of your home.

The Riverview and Ruskin libraries offer multiple programs for kids and always have a great selection of books for adults. There are also demonstrations and discussions of popular books for teens and adults.

And to be completely honest, story time at the library is not just for children. I can say that from experience.

No matter what the temperature is outside, it is always cool in the library.


Contact Information:

J.P. Igloo Sports Complex: 941-723-3663 or

Apollo Beach Racquet Club: 641-1922

Barney’s of Brandon: 628-9418 or

Ruskin Library: 671-7638 or

Riverview Library: 671-7690 or

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