The Great Adrenaline Rush
Athletic Thrills Await You in Alameda
By Linda Childers
Adventure sports enthusiasts are spoiled with the wide array of choices in Alameda. Whether it's a bungee jump off a local bridge, windsurfing on Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach or a wicked game of roller hockey at Bladium, there is something for everyone who likes to get active. even if your current activity schedule stretches no further than the remote control, there's a pursuit waiting for you in Alameda. Most offering don't require previous experience, an you can get up to speed easily with lessons and equipment.
Bungee JumpingLooking to bungee jump off a bridge? Icarus Bungee of Alameda is here to support your extreme adventure. Owned by Daniel Roza, a native of Alameda, Icarus offers group bungee jumping excursions on weekends throughout Northern California. Roza, who works as a full-time engineer, has designed most of the equipment that is now used by other bungee companies. His company, which boasts a perfect safety record, attracts both first-timers and avid jumpers.
“About 80 percent of my students are first-time jumpers who have always wanted to try bungee jumping,” Roza says. “For most people it’s a once in-a-lifetime experience.”
Roza, who was raised in Alameda and has served in the Navy as a combat engineer for the past 23 years, began bungee jumping in 1988. After falling in love with the sport, he decided to start his own company, based in his hometown. His is the only bungee jumping company in Alameda.
Roza needs five participants to schedule a weekend jump, and participants meet him at the designated jump site, usually arriving the night before and camping out. Jumps are conducted off bridges ranging from a minimum of 100 feet to a maximum of 600 feet. Roza prefers students to be at least 16 years of age and in good physical health, though he says his oldest jumper was in his early 90s. He has also taken two paraplegics for jumps over the years.
“Bungee jumping can be a dangerous sport,” says Roza, who returned from deployment in Afghanistan in June. “It’s the ultimate adrenaline rush.”
Cost is $125 for two jumps per person (prices may increase). Icarus Bungee, P.O. Box 801, Alameda, CA 94501. For more information, call (510) 521-JUMP or visit www.icarusbungee.com.
Inline Skating and Roller HockeyIf you think inline skating is just for kids, think again. Jen Giorno, hockey director of Bladium Sports & Fitness Club, says that adults make up the majority of her private students.
Bladium offers inline skating lessons for children and adults 6 p.m.-7 p.m. every Tuesday. Once you’ve mastered the art of inline skating, consider joining one of Bladium’s roller hockey leagues. Introductory inline hockey classes are offered every Thursday, with a 6 p.m.-
7 p.m. class for children and a 7 p.m.-8 p.m. class for adults. Eventually, you may want to take your skates outside to Cityview Skatepark on the decommissioned Alameda Naval
“Roller hockey is a great sport for people who have sustained knee injuries and are looking for a low-impact exercise,” Giorno says. “I have a bad knee that doesn’t allow me to run, but I can play roller hockey for hours.”
Bladium Sports & Fitness Club, 800 W. Tower Ave. Cost is $6 per inline skating lesson for nonmembers and free with a Bladium membership. You can either bring your own skates or rent equipment at Bladium. Private skating lessons are also offered for $40 an hour for groups of one to three participants. For more information, call Giorno at (510) 814-4999, ext. 111, or visit www.bladium.com.
Shark DivingT his outfit has been featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and it has offered expeditions since 1998, but many residents are surprised to learn that Alameda is home to the No. 1 shark-diving operator in the United States.
From September through May of each year, chartered boats leave Great White Adventures and head out to the Farallon Islands, 27 miles off the coast of San Francisco where the 15 passengers onboard will come face to face with one of the ocean’s most feared predators, the great white shark.
“Our guests are seeking the experience of a lifetime,” says James Moskito, president and divemaster at Great White Adventures in Alameda. “For many, the opportunity to see great white sharks in their natural environment is a childhood dream come true.”
Between September and November, Great White offers daily tours to the Farallon Islands where guests can either choose to view sharks as a topside observer (remaining
on the boat) or don dive gear and go eye to eye with sharks while submerged in an 8-foot-by-7-foot steel cage. During the rest of the year, the company offers cage-diving trips to locations including Isla Guadalupe off the coast of Baja California, where divers can view hammerhead sharks, and Fiji, home to tiger and bull sharks.
Until 2003, Great White trips began at the Grand Harbor in Alameda. Today, the boats have increased in size and launch from Emeryville. The only shark-diving company in Alameda, Great White attracts local residents as well as tourists who travel to California for the chance to get up close and personal with great white sharks.
“After taking one of our trips to the Farallons, approximately 35 percent of our clients return to take a cage-diving trip to another destination,” Moskito says. “It can be an addicting experience.”
Guests of Great White are lowered in teams of three to spend a half-hour viewing the sharks. Teams typically make three to four dives during their daylong expedition and often they view more than they originally anticipated.
“Our tours aren’t for the squeamish,” Moskito says. “It’s not unusual to see a shark attack an elephant seal and rip it to pieces.”
Despite the often-graphic nature of the trips, shark diving has grown in popularity as an eco-friendly alternative to other adrenaline adventures.
“Great white sharks are one of nature’s most beautiful yet misunderstood creatures and they are rapidly becoming extinct,” Moskito says. “Viewing them under water is poetry in motion. Most people emerge from the cage with a sense of calmness and a newfound respect for
The good thing about cage diving is that you don’t need prior diving experience. Shark cages have tubes going up to the boat, so divers simply suck on the tube to breathe fresh air.
Great White Adventures, 2516 Blanding Ave., (510) 814-8256, www.greatwhiteadventures.com.
Cost is $775 for a cage dive to the Farallon Islands (includes breakfast, lunch, snacks, beverages, transportation and all equipment) or $375 to be a topside observer (includes everything listed above). Prices vary for packages to locations other than the Farallon Islands.
Dragon BoatingExperience one of the world’s fastest-growing sports right at Mariner Square. Dragon boating, which originated in China some 2,000 years ago, is an active workout for all ages and abilities, including non-swimmers. Each team is composed of 22 crewmembers—20 paddlers, a drummer and a steersperson. The boat itself is 46 feet long, weighs more than 1,200 pounds and sports a drum and a colorful carved dragonhead and tail during competition. Dragon boaters paddle from February through November and participate in races and festivals, and twice-weekly practices are all part of the dragon boat experience. Alameda has two co-ed dragon boat teams: the Alameda DragonFlyers, an adult team, and the Alameda Fishtix, a youth team for ages 13 to 18. Both hold their practices at Mariner Square, with the adult team meeting 9 a.m.–10:30 a.m. Saturdays and 6 p.m.–7:30 p.m. Wednesdays. The youth group meets 4 p.m.–5:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays.
Instruction and equipment, including boat, paddle and life vest are provided. Newcomers are invited to attend practices and should bring water,
sunscreen, a hat, quick-drying clothes and either water or tennis shoes. Youth teams are free; adult teams charge a membership
fee of $120.
For more information visit www.alamedadragonflyers.com or call (510) 521-7555.
Kiteboarding and WindsurfingIf sharks aren’t your forte, Alameda is also home to a variety of other water and land sports. And Rebecca Geffert, co-owner of Boardsports, says Crown Beach is the ideal place to learn both windsurfing and kiteboarding.
“We have shallow, warm water; a 2-mile-long beach; side onshore winds and sunny weather for most of the year,” she says.
Geffert and her business partner, Jane Cormier, teach hundreds of people how to windsurf and kiteboard each spring and summer. They guarantee to have students up and windsurfing in two
Windsurfing is a sport that allows participants to travel over water on a small 2-meter-to-4.7-meter board powered by wind acting on a single sail. The sport is a hybrid between sailing and surfing. Boardsports offers beginning windsurfing lessons for ages 13 and up and a special camp is offered for children 5 to 12.
“The side onshore breezes at Crown Beach are great for beginners, because if you get too tired or have an equipment failure, you just sit down, and the winds bring you right back to shore,” says Geffert.
Windsurfing is a fast sport, Geffert adds, in which advanced boarders have been known to reach speeds exceeding 50 mph.
“Windsurfing is like being on your own private sailboat,” she says. “When you’re out on the Bay, you forget about everything.”
Geffert admits it’s easy to get addicted to both windsurfing and kiteboarding. “I left the corporate world to begin teaching at Boardsports five years ago,” she says. “Two years ago, Jane and I bought the business.”
Kiteboarding is a sport that is rapidly growing in popularity. In 2000, there were 2,000 kiteboarders worldwide. Today, the figure tops 150,000.
Jim Lumis of Novato has enjoyed extreme sports, including sailing and hang gliding, his entire life. In May, he decided to add kiteboarding to the list and took classes at Boardsports.
“Kiteboarding is a tremendous amount of fun, and Crown Beach was the perfect place to learn,” he says. “I was also impressed by how Boardsports places a huge emphasis on safety and learning how to kiteboard properly.”
“A lot of people think you can just pick up a kiteboard and take off, but there’s actually a longer learning curve with kiteboarding than with windsurfing,” Geffert adds.
Boardsports begins teaching students the art of kiteboarding through a two-hour class on kite control. After mastering kite control, students move on to a six-hour water/land lesson that teaches kite skills, including launching the kite and deploying safety systems. Equipment is included in all Boardsports’ classes, but for those who decide to pursue kiteboarding as a weekend pastime, equipment, including a new kite (complete with bar, lines, harness and board), can run in the neighborhood of $2,000.
The experience of kiteboarding itself is priceless, Geffert says.
“When you’re out there on the water, it’s like taking a mini-vacation,” she says. “It’s not uncommon to look down and see bat rays or seals. Kiteboarding gives you a different perspective
Boardsports School, south end of parking lot at Crown Beach, open 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Friday–Sunday, March–September, (415) 385-1224, or www.boardsportsschool.com. Two-day windsurfing lessons cost $165 (wetsuit and gear included). Kiteboarding is $350 for the six-hour beginning course. Private lessons and packages are also offered.