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.
Breezes swirl down a corridor made by trees standing up to 100 feet and perched atop levees, which form the banks of the 200-year-old Bear River. Above rustling branches and the calls of nearby eagles, the hum of an engine cuts through the tranquil air. Dave Jewell of Blue Sky Powered Paragliding takes thrill-seekers—some as old as 80 years of age—soaring up to 500 feet above rolling, farm-dappled country and between Bear River's banks on propeller-powered parachutes. Though currently surveying Californian skies, Dave has led flights and organized clubs in Japan, Nigeria, Mexico, Germany, and France, and he continues to draw on knowledge of flight mechanics from extensive Air Force parachute training. Today, Dave takes off from 24 acres of campground, where a paragliding club meets occasionally to heckle poorly shaped clouds.
A sweeping bonfire pit, rustic picnic tables, and grassy swathes for RVs welcome campers waiting their turn to fly. Dave also mans a parachute and equipment shop where he conducts repairs and reanimates the corpses of dead kites. Dave insists that he never tires of his sport, as the weather and surrounding terrain are always changing, making his higher-altitude experiences "terrifying without being terrifying.” With a small wingspan, the motorized parachutes can also approach wildlife more closely than other aircraft; on one flight Dave found himself flanked by two bald eagles, beating their powerful wings just 20 feet away.
Dive High's instructors teach students how to hang-glide with ease and safety. In beginner's lessons, they?ll learn fundamental skills such as taking off, landing, and how to call your hang glider back to your arm if it flies off on its own. The lessons become more in-depth over long-term courses, eventually allowing students to take sustained flights over the San Jose area.
The views from an airplane can be stunning, so long as you're lucky enough to snag a window seat. But those faraway sights don't compare to wind in your face and birds-eye views of mountains, valleys, and coastlines during East Bay Hang Gliding's thrilling self-propelled flights. Since 2011, instructor Robert Booth has introduced more than 600 students to the world of hang gliding, teaching them flying techniques and safety protocol at their own pace. A specialist in the field, his goal is building up a strong hang-gliding community pilot by pilot, which has informed every piece of his comprehensive and breathtaking training program. Along the way, students can opt for tandem flights or solo expeditions, an advantage that birds don't even get when they're first starting out.