By: Dave Gordon
As summer looms right around the corner, most of us are already making plans and dreaming about that obligatory jaunt to the Jersey Shore, going to a ball game, taking a splash in the pool, or getting to the tennis courts. Summer is the time for “fun in the sun,” to take a much-needed break from our busy lives, slow down the pace, and enjoy the sun and warmth we’ve been fantasizing about throughout the cold, snowy, dreary winter. It’s a time for swimming, ball playing, or just lying on the beach to take in the unparalleled sights and sounds of the ocean.

Some people, however, take summer to a whole new level. If you’re looking to expand beyond the ball fields, tennis courts and swimming pools, and want to explore more unusual sporting activities, here are some ways for you to get your heart pounding and heart racing with out-of-the-ordinary summer fun.

The Sky’s the Limit…

Learn to fly at FreeflightHYPERLINK “http://www.freeflight-aviation.com/” Aviation (60 Fostertown Road, Medford, NJ; 609-265-0399), a flight school that teaches beginners how to fly, and operate a club for pilots, all in a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.

Try to fly without a plane with hang gliding. Use sloped hills and the wind to launch yourself and your glider into the sky, as you hang below. The record at Mountain Wings (Ellenville, New York; 845-647-3377) is 201 miles and 11.5 hours in one gliding session. They stress safety in their programs, and only fly when the weather is cooperating. They use certified instructors and a gradual training program. The United States Safety Council has reported that hang gliding is a safer recreational sport than many others.

Go flying on zip lines at Camp Edge (Camp Edge Rd, Alloway, NJ; 856-935-1555, including a high ropes course), Shiloh Adventures (753 Burnt Meadow Rd, Hewitt NJ; 973-728-7845, including a 1,200-square-foot indoor climbing wall, high and low ropes courses), or Ironwood Outdoor Center (3 Camp Drive, Lumberton, NJ; 609-267-4104, includes rock wall, giant ladder, and flying squirrel).

Or try flying over the water with the wind by kitesurfing, which combines wakeboarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding and gymnastics by using a controllable power kite to propel a board across the water and waves. Try the NY Kite Center, the largest school and retail store in the Northeast, in Amityville, NY (an hour’s train ride from Penn station; 631-691-0793).
One if by Land…

For those who want the outdoor life, but on the ground, there’s hiking, wilderness camping and backpacking tours available with Wild Earth Adventures(Suffern, NY; 845-357-3380). They offer year-round visits to parks in the Tri-State area, both known paths like the Appalachian trail and off-the-beaten-track trails, including one-day hikes from easy to strenuous, and camping trips from 3 to 8 days.

Go climbingright in the city at Brooklyn Boulders Climbing and Community (575 Degraw St, Brooklyn; 347-834-9066). Day passes are $22 for adults, $18 for children. They offer introductory classes and sessions for experienced climbers who want to enjoy bouldering, top roping and lead climbing. They also offer classes on knot tying, harnesses and managing the ropes for others.

Two if by Sea…

If climbing’s not your thing, maybe take to the water. Learn to ride the waves at the New York Surf School (Beach 69th St, Queens; 718-496-3371). From $175 for a two-hour private lesson, or $70 per person for a group of eight, visit Rockaway Beach for New York’s biggest waves and small waves for beginners and kids. Classes are available year round.

Whitewater rafting, kayaking and canoeingallow you to enjoy the water in a whole new way. Options include the Hudson River and the Black River in northern New York State. The Hudson River Gorge is 17 miles of rushing water, especially in the spring, with views of open fields, cliffs and lush forests. Costs include safety gear like life vest and helmet, and a licensed New York State Guide (B.O.B. Rafting, 315-785-9386).

Get deep, deep into the water for scuba diving – extreme on its own, but it can be kicked up a notch by exploring caves, sunken ships and other cool underwater sites. Pan Aqua has taught diving for over 30 years, and offers open water training courses. (460 W. 43rd Street, New York; 212-736-3483).

If these activities sound unconventional, eccentric or bizarre – then even better. Summer is a time to add something different to life and create special memories. So why not take out some time from swimming and ball playing and try something out of the ordinary? Just remember to stay safe, carefully follow instructions, and have some summer fun that you’ve never had before.