Looking for adventure on your next vacation? Is water-skiing and parasailing too passé for you? Extreme sports are growing in popularity, as thrill seekers look for the next big adrenaline rush. And adventure outfitters are rising to meet the demand, offering niche sports to the public. The following activities are all available at sites in the United States. You’ll have to do some research to find locations, which sites offer equipment rentals and/or lessons, and other specifics. But whatever your motivation — whether you’re looking for thrills, or just the ultimate selfie — these sports will get your heart racing.
5. Try Sandboarding or Sand Skiing
Who needs snow? Many winter sports are now year-round affairs, as sand has replaced snow for many skiers and boarders. Top sand sport sites in the United States include Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado and Marina State Beach and Dunes Preserve in California. Sandboard.com calls Jockey’s Ridge State Park in North Carolina’s Outer Banks the best sandboarding site on the East Coast, but the sport is allowed only October through March, out of peak season in the OBX. Another popular destination is Bruneau Dunes State Park near Boise, home to the tallest (up to 470 feet) freestanding sand dunes in North America, rents gear for sandboarding adventures. While sand-skiing opportunities are relatively limited — there aren’t as many massive sand dunes as there are ski slopes in the United States — the novel sport is gaining in popularity. And no, traditional snowboards and skis are made to slide on snow, and don’t work on dry sand. But hey, at least you won’t need to layer up against the cold.
4. Rent a Wingsuit
By now you’ve probably seen the videos of intrepid adventurers jumping off of cliffs wearing flying squirrel-style suits. Or perhaps you’ve seen these daredevils jumping out of helicopters. You can try a wingsuit, too … if you have the right experience. Companies such as the Texas Wingsuit Academy and DC Wingsuit School rent suits and provide instruction. But there is a catch: You must have 200 successful skydiving jumps under your belt. Wingsuits are challenging and difficult to master. Plus, you’ll still be performing the final landing phase via parachute. But there is an incredible allure to this sport — some skydivers now work their way through jump school and the requisite 200 jumps with the sole aim of wearing a wingsuit on their 201st jump.
3. Rent a Water Jetpack or Flyboard
Because we just passed a Back to the Future year in 2015, right? You now can find many outfitters renting water-powered devices allowing you to glide, walk or fly briefly over the water. These jetpacks come by several different names, and some now use pneumatic propulsion in addition to hydropower. This sport’s a bit pricey: expect to pay around $125 to $150 for safety instruction and 30 minutes of flight time. If you’re undecided on whether that’s worth the price, there are some amazing videos on YouTube showing these devices in action. And even more amazing hydropower toys are coming in the near future: The recently developed Flyboard Air can run “hoseless” for up to 10 minutes over a span of 10,000 feet (almost two miles) at speeds up to 93 mph.
2. Go Helicopter Skiing
If you love skiing, but hate crowds on the slopes and at the lifts, then helicopter skiing (aka heli-skiing) may be the way to go. The big rush here is the opportunity to ski down long, remote runs of fresh powder. And there is always powder, because you have these long runs to yourself and the handful of skiers who shared your flight. Bonus: The views on the flight are typically stunning. Obviously, such a venture is not cheap, as you’re paying for a helicopter’s flight time. Rates start at around $1,000 per day. That price may or may not include lodging and meals, but it usually includes about four to six ski runs per day. Perhaps heli-skiing will always remain in the domain of the 1 percent, but these adventures are now available at sites from the U.S. Rockies to Alaska. One notable outfitter is the Ruby Mountains Heli-Experience in northern Nevada’s Ruby Mountains range, which has been running these excursions since the 1970s.
1. Try Deep-Water Soloing
Free solo climbing may be the most extreme, dangerous sport on Earth. Some of these daredevils scale sheer cliff faces thousands of feet high with no ropes or safety equipment. The sport’s rules at that level are simple: you fall, you die. If you’re looking for the thrill of free soloing, without the possibility of plummeting to your death, then deep-water soloing is a nice compromise. Simply put, this is free solo climbing over deep water below. After reaching the top, climbers will often dive back down into the water. Also known as “psicobloc” (translation: “psycho bouldering”), the sport began in the late 1970s in Europe. Deep-water soloing has become trendy in several U.S. locations, including Utah’s Lake Powell, Kinkaid Lake in Illinois and Banks Lake in Washington. Despite the concept, this is not a solo sport; if you’re trying some of the higher climbs, you’ll want someone in the water below to assist you in case of a fall.