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.
» 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
» 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
» You've Always wanted to... Have a Crowd Cheer You On
Maybe you weren't the greatest athlete in high school, and you spent more time hitting the books (or causing trouble) than you did taking one for the team. Or maybe you're just looking for a way to relive your glory days. Either way, all you want now is the roar of the crowd behind you.
Your Goal: Run for the gold. Don't underestimate the thrill of running a race-especially if you've never done it before. What most runners know-and most folks who've never really taken to running don't-is that there's no better way to push yourself, test your limits, and see how you measure up than by competing in a race. And finishing your event (even if it's a small one) before an anxious crowd of spectators provides more personal satisfaction than almost anything else you could ever do.
Where to go: Step out your back door. There are clubs and organizations that sponsor races in even the smallest American towns. Just decide on the distance and type of race that's right for you. Since multisport races such as duathlons and triathlons include biking and/or swimming, they're a great way for beginning racers to break up the potential monotony of running only. (For tips on running your first triathlon, turn the page.) If a road race is what you're after, a good place to start would be a 5K or 10K. Don't be intimidated if you've never been in a race before-most races cater very well to newbies. And don't focus on breaking the tape your first time out. Set a goal for yourself, but keep it within reason. If it's your first marathon, your goal should be just to finish the race, not to set a record pace. If it's a duathlon or triathlon, shoot for a specific time, rather than simply to win. And no matter what, remember to have fun-and see just how far you can push yourself. For more info about road running, check out the Road Runners Club of America at rrca.org; for more info about multisport races, log on to usatriathlon.org.
» You've Always wanted to... Really Break the Speed Limit
Stepping on a gas pedal and barreling along the freeway is too easy. If you want to experience real speed-the kind that sends adrenaline levels soaring and your heart rate firing like a machine gun-you've got to do it on two wheels.
Your Goal: Race a mountain bike down a single track. Riding single-track trails, which are only wide enough for one biker at a time, is the ultimate way to go fast. Ripping down a narrow dirt track and through the trees, catapulting around a tight turn, pumping around berms, and picking up speed all along the way-you'll never experience a ride quite like a single-track one. But do it once and there's no way you won't want to do it again and again.
Where to go: There are rideable single-track trails all over the U.S.-probably some in your town-but if you are going to start this year, then do it with the largest in America. The Maah Daah Hey trail comprises more than 100 miles of single-track courses, winding all throughout the badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. Hailed as the next great mountain-bike mecca by those in the know, the Maah Daah Hey is not exactly built for beginners. But if you're fit and adventurous, and if you start training now, within a few months you'll be prepared to rip some of the sickest single tracks ever created. "It's a good challenge," says Mark Seveno, owner of Western Spirit Cycling Adventures. "It's a unique ride, and it may be one of the only reasons you'll ever go to North Dakota." Western Spirit books trips covering the entire Maah Daah Hey trail, and it guides epic rides that cover the whole trail over the course of five days. westernspirit.com
» You've Always wanted to... Have Fins
It's a sad twist of fate that caused evolution to leave us landlubbers with lungs instead of gills. But, while a life under the sea with a busty mermaid is out of the question, exploring the underwater world for a few hours is something every guy should experience at least once.
Your Goal: Learn to scuba dive. We've all sat and stared somewhat longingly into a fish tank or aquarium, trying to imagine life underwater. Scuba diving is as close as we're ever going to get to being on another planet: a completely foreign, weightless experience with alien sights and sounds, all of which are completely removed from the stressful hustle and bustle of life on earth.
Where To Go: Start your underwater adventure by getting a resort certification in scuba diving. In a safe environment, you'll learn the basics of how to dive, such as how to breathe from a tank, what to do if water gets in your mask, and basically how to survive out in the ocean. Once you've got a taste of the sport, escape the tourists and plan a truly memorable experience to a far-flung tropical destination, such as the tiny Micronesian paradise of Palau.
Renowned as one of the premier scuba-diving locations in the world, the waters of Palau are rich with sea life, and preserved shipwrecks sit on the ocean floor. An archipelago made up of more than 400 islands with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants, Palau is the ideal adventure location-without the commercialization and tourism that clutter most popular tropical islands. Although locals speak English and use the American dollar, there's not a McDonald's in sight-making life in this island paradise almost as rewarding (and exotic) on land as it is beneath the waves. visit-palau.com