Rick Best with his van.
© Garrett Ellwood
By John Freeman, special to USTA.com
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - Wherever Rick Best goes, he brings his adventures with him.
They’re packed into his 2002 Volkswagen van, dubbed "Starship." Filled to the brim, there’s a full-sized kayak, a surfboard, a snowboard, a paragliding sail and harness and, for good measure, a tennis ball machine.
A criminal defense lawyer in Denver, Best, 53, is a man of many pursuits. And more than a few laughs.
Asked his legal specialty, he couldn’t resist.
"I keep the criminals on the streets," said Best. "To me, they’re innocent until proven broke. I guess that’s how lawyers get such a bad name, right?"
He’s kidding, sort of, but he’s serious about his adventures.
Prior to this weekend’s USTA League 4.5 Senior National Championships, where he is competing for USTA Intermountain, he drove "Starship" westward to St. George, Utah. He competed there last week in the annual World Senior Games. His two sports? Try "none of the above."
Instead, he opted for swimming (200-meter breaststroke and backstroke) and the discus toss. He didn’t win, but finished "second or third, I can’t remember."
On the road, he lives out of his van, not some fancy hotel.
"He may seem like a crazy hippie," said teammate Andy Rinehart, "but knowing him, he’s probably got a big trial coming up next week. He’s just an amazing guy."
Asked to pick his favorite pursuit, Best went with paragliding. He’s done it all over the world, including Venezuela, Turkey, Germany, France, Switzerland, and that was just this year. His favorite venue is off Torrey Pines, just north of San Diego, where he soars offshore three times a year.
"Once you figure out what you’re doing, it’s really more relaxing than thrilling," he said. "I mean, what could possibly go wrong?"
Well, you could crash into a mountain.
"Did that," he said, "about 15 years ago." He paused, then added: "Most guys my age go through some sort of mid-life crisis, seeking adventure. I’ve been living on the edge since I was 20."
These days, he proudly shows off a self-shot video of him paragliding above Torrey Pines. His mother wasn’t all that impressed.
"She said, ‘You’re an idiot.’ I couldn’t argue with her."