X Sighting


By Kyle Hall / Photos by Paul Body & Sara Norris

In 1986, Top Gun showed San Diego’s propensity for intensity with extreme air combat, extreme motorcycle wheelies and extreme flight-instructor sexing - not to mention the most extreme high-five of all time. (It’s during the volleyball scene. Who could forget?)

When the X (as in “extreme”) Games first came to town in 1997, a record 221,000 fans watched local legend Tony Hawk win gold. Dude was extreme then. Now, he’s extremely rich.

If watching Tom Cruise and Tony Hawk reruns still gets the adrenaline pumping, then it may be time to consider signing up for AARP. But when the day calls for excitement of a higher order, find action satisfaction in these extreme local adventures.

Get High

Adventure takes flight

Offering retro thrills since 1994, Barnstorming Adventures provides cruises into the clouds. A tame ride in a circa-1920s biplane comes with an open-air view for two. If the modest speed kills the thrill factor, ask the pilot to try a few aerobatics - and hold your stomach.

A 1943 North American SNJ-4 Texan war bird that was used to train pilots in World War II now serves the nation by completing loops, whatever the heck a half-Cuban 8 is (ask the instructor) and other gut-churning aerobatics. On longer flights, customers are allowed to take the controls.

To satisfy the need, the need for speed, sign up for an air combat that takes wouldbe Top Gunners through the basics of dogfighting. After a pre-flight briefing, it’s throttle-up and into the blue yonder to fake-destroy other fighter planes returning fire. These flights may be discontinued in the fall, so would-be Mavericks should hurry over before their chance to fly gets Goose’d.

Barnstorming Adventures
3750 John J. Montgomery Dr., Ste. D, Kearny Mesa
Flights range from $219 to $596.

Marty Mc-Fly

Go Back to the Future on this real-life hoverboard

Can the Flyboard possibly be as awesome as it appears?

“It’s way more fun than it looks,” says Andrew Hickey, co-owner of Aquatic Aviation.

Connected to a jet ski by a 55-foot hose that reroutes engine thrust to the user’s feet, the Flyboard essentially turns the rider into a fire-retardant Iron Man. Hickey (pictured above) demonstrates how to steer the contraption by using his body to direct the high-pressure water stream. Flyboarders can maintain stable flight at above 30 feet, and
then propel themselves back to the water’s surface and below to explore the aquatic realm like a human submarine.

Perhaps the coolest part: being able to dive in and out of the water in giant arcs like a super-dolphin.

Aquatic Aviation
1880 Harbor Island Dr., Harbor Island
Sessions start at $149.

War In Peace

Battle it out on-base

The safest place to get shot by real-life Marines, The Paintball Park at Camp Pendleton provides eight expansive fields of war-game intensity. Obstacles to cower behind range from retired combat tanks to thatched huts to massive castles and life-size dinosaurs.

If paint-filled plastic balls making impact at 300 feet-per-second sounds painful, try the close-combat Airsoft park, where combatants shoot each other with smaller balls of solid plastic (sounds innocuous) and kid-friendly Splatmaster paintball guns that fire at slower speeds.

Before Suiting Up: A valid driver’s license, proof of registration and insurance are required for admittance to Camp Pendleton, so check yo’self before you wreck yo’ chances of playing paintball.

The Paintball Park
Camp Pendleton: 1700 Vandegrift Blvd., O-side
Miramar (temporarily military only): 2522T Maxam Ave., Miramar
Packages start at $50 for civilians, $35 for military.

An alternative to the big-boy parks on military bases is Total Combat Paintball at Otay Ranch Town Center in Chula Vista. The facility features a 40,000 square-foot playing area with inflatable obstacles, Splatmaster for the kids and, as the company’s website promises, “the only time you won’t go to jail for shooting your spouse.”

Total Combat Paintball
2015 Birch Rd., Chula Vista
Packages start at $32.99.

Make The Jump

It’s always a good time to drop-in

Skydive San Diego is a picturesque place for those hell-bent on jumping out of planes and landing in the same field from which they took off a few minutes earlier. Up to 23 jumpers at a time fly to an elevation of 13,000 feet before stepping out of the plane for a full minute of freefall, followed by a six-minute float to the ground. Beginners fly tandem, tethered to an instructor, while experienced daredevils in wing suits tear back and forth across the sky.

Skydive San Diego
13531 Otay Lakes Rd., Jamul
Tandem jumps start at $189, if booked in advance online.

See Gulls

Get a bird’s eye view of the coast

Torrey Pines Gliderport provides a variety of ways to soar, none of which involves being pushed out of an airplane - just jumping off a cliff. After signing waivers and learning safety guidelines, participants march toward the 320-foot cliffs above Blacks Beach to ride rising air currents for 20 to 25 minutes.

Tandem flights with hang gliding and paragliding instructors are available seven days a week, wind permitting. Inspired flyers wanting that pesky instructor off their backs can apply the cost of the initial tandem flight to certification fees.

Torrey Pines Gliderport
2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Dr., La Jolla
Tandem flights start at $150.

Have A Blast-Off

Being part of the jet set has never been so fun

Jetpack America is the crew behind a blooper that aired on Fox 5 (Google “jetpack fail”). Fortunately, they’ve mastered the controls since the 2011 incident and have found a permanent home in Mission Bay, where locals can get their feet - and everything else - wet, seven days a week.

“The technology has been around a while,” says Dean O’Malley, the company’s president. “It’s just been re-purposed to fly, rather than go across the water.”

And fly it does. Connected to a self-contained “boat unit” via a 33- foot hose, the jetpack provides 500-pounds of thrust by pumping out more than 1,000 gallons-per-minute, propelling the pilot up to 30 feet in the air, or across the water at speeds up to 30 miles an hour.

Jetpack America
1010 Santa Clara Place, Pacific Beach
Flights start at $159.

Monkey Around

Take a soaring safari and a treetop trek

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park continues to up the fun ante. The best bet is the Flightline Safari, a zip line providing the unique opportunity to enjoy wild animals while dangling above them. After a short training session and driving tour through the park’s breeding area, riders arrive at a distant takeoff platform so far from the landing, it’s barely visible.

“At 3,677-feet, it’s the longest zip line in the lower 48,” says tour operator Breanna Murray, who’s also San Diego Zoo Safari, photo by Sara Norris” alt=”San Diego Zoo Safari, photo by Sara Norris” src=”” width=”300” height=”224” />super knowledgeable about elephant cooling habits. (Spoiler alert: They use their ears as fans.)

The Safari Park also offers some extreme adventures: soaring to nearly 500 feet in a tethered helium balloon with a circular walkway, traversing treetops 35 feet from the ground on a ropes course with more than a dozen obstacles and an intimate meet-and-greet with a cheetah.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park
15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd., Escondido
$70 for Zipline Safari, does not include park admission.

Another Zip Code
For a more extensive zip line experience, check out Navitat Canopy Adventures in the San Gabriel Mountains north of L.A. It has 10 zip-lines (the tallest of which is 300 feet), four Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom-type rope bridges and 90-foot platforms from which to rappel back to Earth.

Navitat Canopy Adventures
6047 Park Dr., Wrightwood
Tours start at $99.