I stopped holding my breath and closing my eyes long ago. I’m not saying my pulse doesn’t race from time to time, but I’m proud: I can now watch my 16-year-old son, Aaron, challenge his friends in the most daring of deeds.
If there’s one thing Orlando does well, it’s taking things to extremes. So Aaron and I combed the area last summer looking for the most audacious activities we could find (and live to tell about). Here, we rate our experiences on the extreme scale from 0 to 100 – him, according to stoke factor; me, according to pulse rate.
After I got my thrills on Wet ’n Wild’s slides (407-351-1800), I was ready to go tubing on The Wild One on the park’s lake, which opens at noon (May through September). I saw the first people heading off to get thrown around on a tube behind a Jet Ski. It was finally my turn, so my friend and I crawled into the tubes. The next thing we knew, we were flying over the wake into each other. Before we could re-grip the handles, we were jerked over the wake again. It was wild and it was wet but most importantly, it was fun. The stoke factor for this one was about 75.
Mom’s pulse rate: 80. This was relatively tame stuff that Aaron and his friends have been doing since their heads reached the qualifying height line for the slides. At The Wild One, for a small additional fee, they could have ridden a wakeskate or kneeboard pulled by a cable-operated ski tow, but they opted for the duo tube pull. They each got bounced off a time or two, but, as I found out later, that seems to be the point.
All I heard was a gigantic whoosh. Then, a shoulder-high wall of water came barreling from behind me, and I was told to stand up. I popped up and began dropping down the wave -- no small thanks to the hour-long instruction we got at the beginning of the class. A full hour and a half of surfing follows. Stoked.
Mom’s pulse rate: 60. My new screensaver is a picture of the boys catching the perfect wave at Walt Disney World’s Typhoon Lagoon surfing clinic (407-939-7529). Jennifer, the instructor and a former classroom teacher, imparted so much confidence and encouragement, I felt entirely less stressed than when I watch them surf the real waves of the Atlantic.
On our next visit to Orlando, we got to fly in the Sky Venture wind tunnel skydiving simulator, now the iFly Orlando indoor skydiving wind tunnel (407-903-1150). With winds about 130 mph pushing us up, we got four turns before our instructor showed us some flips and spins. At iFly, visitors get to belly fly with one-on-one attention from the instructor. I’m gonna have to give this one a 95 on the stoke scale.
Mom’s pulse rate: 120. My heart beat faster from the sheer exhilaration of watching the kids fly out of instructor Edward’s arms and occasionally disappear from sight as I peered into the vertical glass tunnel from the observation deck. I have to admit, it looked like a pure, gravity-free rush.
After Vans, we headed to Sammy Duvall’s for waterskiing and tubing. Right after our captain launched us in the air on our first jump, we were hooked. Beating after beating, it was so much fun. Sometimes we would fly up and flip in the air, then hit the water. The stoke factor for this experience was definitely 85. Another type of big air – parasailing – is also available at this adventure.
Mom’s pulse rate: 200. My heart was in my throat when I saw Aaron and his friend David get flipped high into the air off a two-person tube behind a speed boat. The captain at Sammy Duvall’s Watersports Centre at Disney’s Contemporary Resort (407-939-0754) took it as a personal challenge when the boys told him they liked the wallops. My pulse settled shortly when I saw them surface with big grins, only to escalate when they whooped “Let’s do it again!”
Including extreme sports in the family vacation can help bridge the gap between you and your intrepid teen. But you’ll get a lot more out of the experience if you understand his language and point of view. Here’s a crash course:
Stoked: Adjective conveying a state of excitement, as in: “I’m stoked about flying 10 feet through the air again.”
Helmet and pads: Teens may protest, but skateparks require them. Between runs,they may substitute goofy-looking knit beanies with the bills turned slightly askew.
Boards: All you need to know here is that more boards equal less boredom. Teens may master the surfboard, body board, skim board, skateboard, wakeboard or ironing board (ha – not likely).
Leash: The ankle-to-board tether. Cures separation anxiety.
Goofy-footed: One who rides the board with his or her right foot ahead of the left.
Drop in: The act of making one’s way down the face of a wave or ramp.
Gnarly: Adjective describing something that’s groovy, as in: “To decrease my pulse rate, a trip to the spa would be gnarly.”