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Choose Your Own Adventure!

Make this the year your outdoor dreams become a reality

It's a new year, and that means just one thing: new beginnings-and a time to realize all those dreams and goals from the past that you've never gotten around to tackling. You have 365 days ahead of you-plenty of time to prepare yourself mentally and physically for the adventure of a lifetime-your lifetime. Now, get out there and live it.

» You've Always wanted to... Soar Above the Clouds

Ever dream you could fly... and wake up on the floor next to your bed? That doesn't have to be the farthest you fall this year. Fly for real and you won't even need a cape-just a parachute and some big cojones.

Your Goal: Jump out of a plane. Skydiving is undeniably one of the most daring and exciting activities you'll ever experience. It's like the ultimate amusement-park ride-one that'll have you rocketing from one extreme to the other. The ride itself starts like a roller coaster as you jump out of a plane at a height of around 10,000 feet and free-fall for close to a minute, with the air racing past you at speeds near 110 mph. Then, with a pull of your parachute's cord, you're instantly transported to the world's highest Ferris wheel. Still hundreds of feet in the air, you calmly cruise back to the ground, peacefully watching the scenery as you complete your descent. Tuck and roll to the ground and the ride is over-until you get home, brag to your chickenshit buddies, and relive it over and over again.

Where to go: Skydiving companies operate all over the U.S., so-as with most of the adventures on our list-this is one experience that doesn't involve traveling far from home. And training is a cinch. All you have to do is know how to fall. Just make your first jump a tandem so you have an instructor guiding you along the way. The only prep you really need to do in advance? Gaining the courage to throw your body out of a plane thousands of feet in the air. To find a place to jump in your area, check out the U.S. Parachute Association at uspa.org.

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» You've Always wanted to... Climb a Mountain

Whether you're searching for wisdom, enlightenment, or just a rush (and a killer workout), reaching a mountain's summit can be an emotionally powerful moment-and an addictive thrill you'll want to seek over and over again.

Your Goal: Summit a "fourteener" (a nickname given to the tallest peaks in the continental U.S., all of which are taller than 14,000 feet). You don't have to risk life and limb on Everest in order to make your mountain dream come true. In fact, you don't even have to leave the U.S. to find some of the world's best climbing destinations. Get started with some practice climbs of low-lying mountains in your area, with your eventual goal by year's end being to climb a fourteener. Although they vary in climbing difficultly, there are some that can be tackled by a relatively inexperienced mountain man. (The best time to climb is during the summer months, when snow and ice are at a minimum.)

Where to go: Longs Peak in Colorado. Longs Peak is the best big-mountain climb for beginners. It's also one of the most climbed of all the fourteeners and has some very safe routes to the top. Located in Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak stands 14,259 feet above sea level, making it the 18th tallest peak in the continental U.S. (If you go there, keep in mind that nasty weather can move in quickly, so watch the clouds and be prepared to postpone your summit attempt if need be.) nps.gov/romo

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» You've Always wanted to... Ride the Waves

Those who have done it say surfing is a spiritual experience like no other. It's also hella fun. There's no better way to experience a wicked ride courtesy of one of nature's more powerful forces. It will definitely make you want to leave your paddleball at home next time you head out to the beach.

Your Goal: Get schooled in the surf. Even if there's no hope of you becoming the next Laird Hamilton, just walking into the ocean with a surfboard under your arm can be a redefining moment in your life. It transforms you from a simple beachgoer to someone who's there for some serious action. Climb aboard your ride, paddle furiously with the oncoming swell, jump to your feet and surf a wave, and you'll wonder why you haven't been doing this all your life.

Where to go: There are literally hundreds of beaches in the world where you could go to tame a wave, but if you're going to make it count, why not go to one of the most memorable? Huntington Beach, California-the official Surf City U.S.A.-offers miles of white-sand beaches with plenty of incredible whitecaps. Local surf shops such as Toes on the Nose (right next to the Hyatt Regency on the beachfront) will provide you with the wet suit, board, and instructor needed to get you up and surfing within a matter of hours.

Or, if you're looking for something a bit more exotic, plan your own surfing vacation. Quiksilver-one of the preeminent names in surfing-has extended its reach beyond surf products to run a travel service that creates customized trips around the world, including high-end luxury-yacht and surf trips to Tahiti, or more affordable surf adventures to Nicaragua or Costa Rica, where you'll carve waves during the day and party with the locals all night long. quiksilvertravel.com

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