Poised briefly on the edge, jump-suit-clad guests gaze down at Northern California's rolling landscape as it sprawls out thousands of feet below. The whir of the 850-horsepower Cessna Grand Caravan drowns out the sound of a deep breath before a small jump transforms the mechanical din into a constant, enveloping whoosh as adventurers rush toward the ground in free fall. Established in 1987, Skydance Skydiving has engineered such peerless adrenaline rushes for thousands of thrill seekers, ensuring safety through training and expertise. Tandem jumps keep newbies in the able hands of attached professionals, who deploy the ’chutes and prevent their charges from realizing that all humans possess the power of flight. Prospective solo jumpers can enroll in classes that gradually work up to an unassisted jump, following thorough classroom training and assisted jumps.
Sportations connects amateur adrenaline jockeys to certified professional adventurers, drawing from a nationwide network of aeronauts and speed demons to introduce habitual pedestrians to the wonders of skydiving, ballooning, hang gliding, and stock-car racing. Thrill seekers can zipline across a forest canopy, hollering like Tarzan or taunting nearby birds until they agree to race. Helicopter tours ferry patrons skyward over landmarks and cityscapes, whereas paragliding adventures get up close and personal with blue skies and clouds. For most sports, Sportations accommodates groups of any size, from physics classes empirically proving gravity's existence to solo ballooning supervillains declaring dominion over all they see.
The tallest building in San Francisco, the Transamerica Pyramid, soars to a height of just over 850 feet. The instructors at Skydiving San Francisco climb about 9,000 feet higher than that—and then jump from an airplane. During tandem dives, San Francisco Skydiving's team members harness themselves to customers and rocket back toward earth at approximately 200 feet per second. Additionally, the company offers an Accelerated Freefall program. In that, teachers equip students with the tools to dive on their own so they don't have to learn by progressively jumping off from each stair in their house.
Air rushes past you at 120 miles per hour while the California countryside unfolds thousands of feet below. Blue sky and empty space surround you, and the voice of your U.S. Parachute Association–rated instructor is the only sound you can hear above the wind. At 4,500 feet, the instructor pulls the parachute cord, and the two of you gently drift down to land in 32 acres of open, unobstructed grass. This is what divers experience during tandem skydives or jumps as a part of the Accelerated Freefall program at Skydive Sacramento.
Pilots at the helm of a 15-passenger King Air twin turbine, a four-passenger Cessna 182, or a five-passenger Cessna 206 take students to altitudes of up to 13,000 in as few as 15 minutes. Fitted securely with harnesses and chutes, participants can ask their diving instructor questions about the sport before plunging from the plane in a hands-on free fall and canopy flight, during which they learn steering and hot-air-balloon-avoidance tactics. Though the instructors cater to first-time divers, they also coach more experienced students toward their skydiving license. Instructors, many with 2,000 dives under their belt, also teach students to land in a main grass landing area or a high-performance area with swoop pond.
The male and female firearm experts of American Home Defense shape their shooting and self-defense classes around legal regulations with an emphasis on personal safety. In private shooting lessons, students learn to handle three of the most common handguns and home-defense classes equip participants with the know-how to protect their families from intruders or a neighbor's moat monster.