The adventure-seeking staff members of ThrillZOWN organize outdoors adventures at more than 100 locations nationwide, letting customers experience the waters, air, and land of America’s diverse regions. Seasoned guides lead adventurers on whitewater-rafting trips on inland rivers, and instructors conduct lessons in surfing and filling out life guards' paperwork at coastal beaches. Other guides help guests plunge to earth safely in tandem-skydiving and tandem-paragliding flights, while aeronauts sweep them through scenic country vistas during hot-air-balloon flights. On dry land, equestrians teach customers to think like a centaur on horseback trail rides, and professional stock-car drivers guide them in laps around a racetrack.
As a child, Michael O’Daniel would sometimes spend his days among giant aircraft in a hangar as his father, a Pan Am pilot out of Miami, was at work. Michael found himself daydreaming about one day being able to fly; by 1980 he was a private pilot. Eventually he became taken with another form of flight—paragliding. He founded Powered Paragliding USA and over the years has spread his wings over Peru, Costa Rica, and he once completed a flight across the entire length of the Panama Canal.
A few years ago, Michael was joined at Powered Paragliding by Brian Goff, another pilot. Goff has hundreds of hours of flying experience; he's been behind the controls of everything from helicopters and airplanes to aerobatic planes and hot air balloons. Today, Michael and Brian man flights for clients of all experience levels. They can fly tandem with beginners, or train budding para-pilots on technique, safety, and how to switch lanes with birds. Expert flyers can take to the skies by purchasing their own paragliders and paramotors from the company.
Bubbles rush from beneath the diving group’s masks—one of the only nearby signs of moving life—as they float beside the sunken submarine U-352. More than 70 years resting in 110 feet of North Carolinian coastal waters have transformed it into a reef of sorts—rife with small tropical marine life—but the unmistakable shapes of torpedo hatches, a conning tower, and the massive propeller give away its identity. Above and around the hollow hull float Blu Water Scuba’s instructors, guiding a detailed tour to the wreck, which is considered among the most unique wrecks to inhabit American waters.
The dive shop’s owners-cum-teachers regularly plan excursions from their base in D.C. to explore seldom-seen, deeply submerged portions of the Atlantic. To ensure that as many people as possible can share such amazing experiences, they offer basic certification courses in open-water diving as well as in a slew of advanced underwater skills, such as rescue diving. They start training sessions in enclosed spaces such as classrooms, local pools, and senators' private hot tubs, ultimately diving in outdoor locations such as the local Lake Millbrook flooded stone quarry, where they administer certification tests. Apart from full PADI certification, they also teach introductory diving skills in the safety of local pools.
The pilots at DC Skydiving Center fly to heights of up to 2 miles before divers of all skill levels hurl themselves from the plane's side door. Before they ever leave the ground, though, students receive a safety briefing and thorough explanation of the jump process. The center’s instructors specialize in calming the jitters of newbie divers by strapping in with them on tandem dives, but they also regularly shed single tears as more experienced adrenaline junkies pull out their own parachute at the culminating point of accelerated free-fall programs. Once in the air, the small aircraft's large, panoramic windows grant breathtaking views of the capitol skyline and Blue Ridge Mountains, all of which are captured on RVT video by instructors on the descent.