There is a time in life when the ordinary just won’t do. A time when you crave a hands-on approach to the kind of chest-clutching excitement formerly reserved for heroes. A time when your ears pound with the rhythm of adventure. A time when you crave an escape from the mundane as profoundly as you crave the air you breathe. This is the stuff that extreme dreams are made of.
And when you find your thoughts thrust eons beyond the everyday, you need something out of this world. You need intense activities designed to reach out and grab you in an unrelenting grip. Insane excursions simultaneously heart-pounding and not for the faint of heart. Exponential encounters that exist without equal. For the adrenaline junkie lusting to unearth the pinnacle of excitement, here are some of the world’s most gasp-worthy experiences. Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy road.
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, long lauded as one of the most beautiful ski areas in the world, is now the epicenter of an entirely different adventure-driven sport — and the basophobia-plagued need not apply. Similar to skydiving, wingsuiting is said to be as close as you can come to soaring.
What sets it apart is simple: A wingsuit dive requires, naturally, a wingsuit. That is, a garment that adds surface via fabric between the legs and under the arms. Also called a birdman suit, it enables a significant increase in lift, resulting in a markedly slower descent (as low as 25 mph compared to the 120 mph a tandem skydiver can expect) and thus greatly prolonging the time you are in free fall.
Still interested? You’ll have to do a lot of mundane skydiving before making your debut. As per the U.S. Parachute Association, would-be wingsuiters need to rack up no less than 200 skydives to qualify for training. Scenic though France may be, you needn’t travel to Europe to give wingsuiting a try as there are hundreds of stateside drop zones from which to choose. Florida’s Skydive City offers a First Flight Course, complete with ground instruction, wingsuit rental, video, debrief and solo clearance, while Wicked Wingsuits is an all-in-one resource that can not only outfit you but also hook you up with a professional coach.
You’ve conquered Hawaii’s Banzai Pipeline, mastered California’s Mavericks and burst the Bubble in Fuerteventura, Spain. So what’s a surfer to do? Simple: Head to the Cordillera de los Maribios mountain range near León, Nicaragua, and hang 10 down a volcano.
No, you won’t be catching a wave of molten lava. Volcano surfing takes place on the slopes of (mostly) inactive volcanoes. Although peaks in places like Hawaii, Ecuador and Fiji are being surfed, Cerro Negro in western Nicaragua is a clear favorite among the sport’s most impassioned aficionados.
According to legend, volcano surfing first erupted (see what we did there) in 2004, when a man by the name of Daryn Webb decided to ride a discarded mini fridge down the side of the Nicaraguan behemoth. No one knows what exactly happened to the fridge, but both the surfer and the sport survived, and since then, its popularity has grown exponentially.
With all due respect to Mr. Webb and his mini fridge, you are best served by engaging a guide before pushing off the peak. Project Expedition and Vapues Tours both offer excursions including overland travel from León, bilingual guides, technical training, board use, and safety equipment. You will be led to the top of Cerro Negro — a rough hike thanks to the steep incline and loose rocks — before taking the 2,300-foot plunge down the side of the volcano. Cheers to sticking that landing.
In Iceland, world-class heliskiing is nothing short of an art form. Outfitters like Viking Heliskiing offer private outings, one-on-one instruction, top-of-the-line equipment and the like. You can experience similar excursions in New Zealand with High Peak Heliski or stateside in Alaska with Black Ops Valdez.
But heliskiing is so 2018. All the cool kids know that the best way to find virgin powder is to take to the skies in a zeppelin before repelling out to conquer the pristine, unsullied swaths of snow below. Pioneered by Stefan Ager, Andreas Gumpenberger and Fabian Lentsch, the sport made its debut earlier this year when the trio abseiled from the safety of an airship floating above the Austrian Alps to ski their way down the 7,326-foot Kleiner Valkastiel.
Alas, despite the notable acumen of the athletes involved, it was the preparation rather than the execution that proved to be the activity’s biggest obstacle. Wading through endless red tape to obtain the necessary permitting coupled with the challenge of engaging a ready, willing and able airship operator (as it turns out, they are few and far between) results in a woeful lack of zeppelin skiing options. Sadly, this means you’ll have to wait a bit longer before you too can launch yourself from an airship to hit the slopes. So go ahead and strap on your bindings, but don’t cancel your chopper just yet.
“It’s a fixer-upper of a planet, but we could make it work,” remarked Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, about the possibility of settling on Mars. Indeed, space truly is the final frontier, and regardless of your willingness to admit as much, there are scores of us still firmly committed to our “When I grow up, I want to be an astronaut” phase. Well space rangers, consider your wishes granted. From simulated training while firmly planted on terra firma to catapulting into space via a very real hydrogen-oxygen rocket, the ability to indulge your inner galactic explorer has blasted its way out of fantasy and landed squarely in reality.
Kennedy Space Center has two rocket launches planned for this summer and with them a curated Feel the Heat package designed for those craving a front-row view. Bringing you as close to the launch pad as possible, it includes live reports, communicator-led commentary, up-close encounters with the Mars Rover Vehicle Navigator, and special appearances by veteran astronauts like Bob Springer. Want even more Space Center excitement? Sign up for the Astronaut Training Experience and take your first simulated spacewalk in a microgravity environment or land on the Red Planet, all without leaving sunny Florida.
If you are bored by mere simulations and have seriously unlimited means, Space Adventures awaits. To date, the high-flying company has already successfully launched seven clients into orbit, who have cumulatively traveled nearly 30 million miles and spent more than 80 days in space. Offering several bespoke experiences, including the chance to be the first private citizen to walk in space, Space Adventures breathes life into the dreams of celestial-lusting civilians.
As astutely explained by the International Rock Climbing School, “Free solo climbing is usually done either by complete idiots or climbing geniuses or Siberians. Members of all three groups die regularly. It is highly not recommended to anyone!” Enough said.
This wildly extreme form of rock climbing involves ascending without ropes, harnesses or other protective equipment. And despite the frequency of injuries and deaths associated with it, climbers are clamoring to give free soloing a go, citing the purist beauty that exists when summiting sans traditional aids.
The sport was thrust into the spotlight when Alex Honnold’s record-breaking 2017 free solo ascent of California’s El Capitan was made into the National Geographic documentary Free Solo. Directed by adventure photographer (and Minnesota native) Jimmy Chin, the Oscar-winning film debuted last summer at the Telluride Film Festival, and would-be soloists have been salivating ever since. While the desire to forgo the use of climbing accoutrement to instead rely on your physical prowess and mental determination is heady, given the plethora of potential outcomes filed under “What could possibly go wrong?” it is readily discouraged.
As a reasonable alternative, aid climbing offers you the adrenaline rush you’re craving without the treacherous risk associated with free soloing. Washington’s American Alpine Institute offers a four-day aid climbing and big wall technique course that promises to boost your climbing acumen.
Long before Ishmael first laid eyes on Moby Dick, whales have fascinated humankind. With their soulful eyes, curious nature and playful antics that bely their school bus–sized bulk, these mammoth mammals are easy to crush on. And with whales found throughout all of the Seven Seas, you can play with a pod practically anywhere in the world.
In the Polynesian paradise of Tonga, WhaleSwim Adventures offers glamping trips in which you stay in a beachfront tent tricked out with hardwood floors, an en-suite bathroom, and all the de rigueur trappings of a five-star holiday. Yet despite such indulgence, the whales are the real appeal: You spend your days paddling alongside the humpbacked bathing beauties who call the warm waters of Tonga home.
Not to be outdone by their more familiar baleen brethren, blue whales weigh in at up to 200 tons and reach 100 feet in length. Their tongues alone weigh as much as an elephant, their hearts matching the heft of a car — so naturally, the most adrenaline-seeking amongst us feel compelled to meet them face-to-face. Enter Natural World Safaris, a UK-based outfitter catering to those looking for a whale of a good time. Among their itineraries is a Sri Lankan excursion where you work alongside a research team and get up close and personal with blue whales — all while having your magical experience immortalized by renowned wildlife photographers, of course.