By Avery Yang
Daily Press Intern

Injuries plagued Michelle Greco — UCLA woman’s basketball standout, WNBA champion and three-time Italian Serie A1 champion — often during the course of her playing career. Through her injuries, being at the Santa Monica beach and, especially, riding her bike along the beach’s bike path had been a mental and physical release whenever she came back home for her off seasons.

“After finishing a long basketball season, I would come back here to my home for two to three months for the offseason, and there was nothing like getting on a bike, going down on the bike path, going to Venice, meeting up with friends, coming back during the sunset, playing volleyball, you name it, this was always my release,” Greco said.

“This was my fun — this is the type of lifestyle that I’ve always envisioned I’d live.”

That nostalgic liberation is a large catalyst as to why Greco decided to start Joy Ride, a tour company that provides tourists and residents of Santa Monica alike a unique perspective of the city’s history and scenery, all on a leisurely bike ride down Santa Monica and Venice’s bike paths that run adjacent to their beaches.

Greco, as evidenced by her tan complexion and energetic attitude, is an outdoors junkie. Every sport imaginable is in the trunk of her SUV, and her garage contains several bikes that range in usage from decrepit to brand-new — Greco’s beach cruiser, a bike that she still uses whenever like-minded friends are in town, is worn down enough that the next mile on it could be its last, while her favorite bike, a Lakers-themed bike, is in pristine condition. Greco “pampers that bike with a diaper.”

Joy Ride’s co-founder Lindsey Harding, a former teammate of Greco’s and current guard for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, said that Greco lives and dies by the Santa Monica beach: “[Joy Ride] is something that we both enjoy, something we both love — we both love the beach, we both love Santa Monica. This is just another way of being active, and it has nothing to do with basketball, but that’s why we love it so much.”

Joy Ride offers three different bike-tour packages.

The first, the standard Bike Tour package, provides a two-and-a-half hour bike tour along Santa Monica’s beach and into Venice, where a tour guide leads guests past a number of the cities’ landmarks while imparting historical and factual insight.

The second, the VIP Beach Service, starts with the first Bike Tour, then transitions to a day on Santa Monica Beach, where Joy Ride provides all-day access to water and beach sport equipment that one may use to his/her liking, including boogie boards, footballs, soccer balls, volleyballs and smashballs.

Joy Ride also allows visitors to call in a special request for water and additional beach activities as an extension of the VIP Beach Service — whether a guest would like to host a beach volleyball game or a bachelorette party on Joy Ride’s section of the beach, they would be able to do so per request.

The third service is the Sunset Tour, similar to the Bike Tour, where guests bicycle down the Santa Monica beach, but the tour is timed to coincide with the day’s sunset. This bike-tour is more of a scenic ride, more suited for a photo-op rather than an architectural or anthropological lesson on the surrounding areas.

Greco, a resident of the city since 2001, aims to provide tours that come from a local’s perspective, rather than how a rival, conglomerate tour company may approach the business.

“Being able to create a tour with a local’s perspective and flare to it is unique,” Greco said. “I’m not someone who just flew in from Spain or Germany and I’m trying to make a buck off of Santa Monica. This is my home and I love it, and I want to be able to share the beauty of the local area with people.”

Greco wants to provide field trips and health initiatives to local Santa Monica schools in the near future.

Greco said it’s the opportunity to meet and build relationships with people that inspires her.

“For me, it’s all about getting to interact with people from all over,” Greco said. “Getting to interact with people from anywhere from Australia to Taiwan — that part, to me, is why I did this.”