16 Adrenaline-Packed Ways to Play South
After spending countless hours indoors, you’re probably more stoked to get out there and crush it seeking action-packed thrills. We can’t blame you, so we complied a list of (mostly outdoor, naturally socially distanced) adrenaline-packed pursuits to quench your thirst for adventure. Before you go, check with each provider to understand their safety protocols and make sure to take precautions to keep yourself safe.
(Roebling Road Raceway)
1. Rev it Up
Roebling Road Raceway There are few activities more adrenaline inducing than putting the petal to the metal in a racecar. Earn your racing stripes at Roebling Road Raceway in Bloomingdale, Georgia, located just down the street from Savannah Hilton Head International Airport. Novices with a street-safe vehicle are able to enroll in driving schools hosted on the track to gain experience and work toward a competition license. For those that the smell of burning rubber is where the heart is, club races and time trials are offered — just bring your own racing gear, racecar, and competition license. Contact the track to find out how to get involved and visit roeblingroad.com for scheduling information.
(Compass Sailing Charters)
2. Sail the High Seas
COMPASS SAILING CHARTERS Peg leg not required for high adventure aboard a Compass Sailing Charters. Sun on your face, wind in your hair, and no grinding motor to disturb you, this is an adventure into the heart of the ocean. Let Captain Steve Horton take the ropes while you fancy yourself a plundering marauder for the day aboard the SV Zingara, a 38-foot Morgan yacht. Marine architect Ted Brewer created these handsomely designed cruising vessels. Don’t mistake the traditional stateliness for sluggishness. Brewer did not sacrifice function for form. These sleek sailing machines don’t compromise on speed or ability. Relax and enjoy the salty spray and hope for a dolphin sighting or man the helm with Captain Steve’s help — no experience necessary, captain’s hat optional. Guests board at the Bull River Yacht Club. Call 912-441-3265 to schedule a charter.
3. Take Flight with Pilot Training
SaVANNAH AVIATION Savannah Aviation wants to make learning how to fly accessible for anyone who has ever dreamed of taking to the skies. They’ve expanded their team of instructors to 14 and maintain a fleet of 12 aircraft, which they’ll fly to a local airport near you for lessons whether you’re in Statesboro, Brunswick, St. Simon’s or elsewhere along the coast. They partner with Savannah Technical College to offer educational programming and actively work to create a sense of community in the aviation world. Contact them at 912.964.1022 or at savannahaviation.com to take your first flight.
(Georgia Mountain Falconry)
4. Hunt with Birds of Prey
GEORGIA MOUNTAIN FALCONRY Once reserved for kings and aristocrats, birds of prey were bred for royal hunts. Today, Georgia Mountain Falconry offers this noble adventure to the everyman. Join them in Dahlonega, Cleveland, or Dawsonville, Georgia, and head out to the forest to pursue game with one of their fierce hawks during the season from around Thanksgiving to mid-March. They offer half- or full-day experiences for small groups of two or more to witness this elemental display. In the meantime, join them for a raptor encounter with their hawks, falcons, and owls where you can take your new profile pic with an avian killing machine on your forearm where master falconer, Buster Brown, will introduce you to these majestic birds. Call 404.538.4355 for details or visit georgiamountainfalconry.com.
5. Carve a Kiteloop
BOARDLOFT Harness the wind as you skim along the Georgia coast strapped to the pure adrenaline-pumping power of a kiteboard sail. If you’ve ever seen these brightly colored parachutes zipping back and forth from the safety of your beach blanket, and thought, “that looks crazy.” Well, you’re kind of right. It is. But, it’s also possible to do it safely with the right instruction.
Spend less time in lessons, and more time catching thrills with Boardloft, the longest-running and only IKO-certified kiteboarding school on Tybee. Tybee’s consistent winds and flat waters make it a perfect location to learn from some of the best in the business. Rather than using trainer kites, they put students right into the real kit to get hands-on experience and start cruising as fast as possible.
As far as watersports go, kiteboarding is actually one of the more accessible options if you want to get out on the water. Compared to windsurfing, kiteboarding is easier to master quickly. Since the sail stays aloft when you crash and burn, it lifts you right back up and out of the suck. Righting a windsurfing board takes a little more finagling. Kiteboarding, while certainly physical, requires a bit less muscle power to steer and maneuver than windsurfing. Plus, you can catch some serious air (once you’re properly trained, of course).
No experience is necessary to give this high-flying sport a try. Check the surf report and head to boardloft.com.
6. Hook a Gator
MIKE NADEAU WAS NOT A HUNTER WHEN HE PICKED UP A LINE TO HOOK HIS FIRST GATOR. NOW, HE’S A CERTIFIED GATOR WRANGLER AND ADVOCATE FOR RESPONSIBLE, ETHICAL HARVESTING.
MIKE NADEAU casts a line across the back of a 9-foot gator. The heavy-duty hook finds purchase in the gator’s soft belly flesh, catching under its bony backplates as the spooked beast tries to scramble away.
Next, “they go crazy, and you go for a ride,” Nadeau said. “You’re trying to reel him in like a fish, and you and the boat are going wherever he decides to go.”
The gator bolts underwater until he runs out of breath and Nadeau hangs on for dear life. “You jump in the water with that bad boy, and he’s going to win,” he warned. Nadeau sees the gator’s last breath rise to the surface in a pocket of bubbles and gets ready for him to pop up. He and his crew angle to hook the gator again before he starts his death roll. Then a well-placed bullet in the back of the head finishes the deed.
It sounds gruesome, and it is. But Nadeau speaks with nothing but respect for the hunt and reverence for the power of this prehistoric animal. “You’re always sensitive that you’re taking a life. That’s never a fun thing, but the thrill of the hunt and the control you have to exert over the power they possess … it is really a rush if it’s done out of respect for the animal,” he said. Nadeau harvests the gator to stock his freezer and provide wild-caught food for his family and friends. “It’s a very fun activity, but you need to do it the right way — legally and harvested for food and not just sport.
Nadeau didn’t start hunting until about four or five years ago, but growing up in Florida, many friends and relatives did. He worked in the corporate world and didn’t have the capability or time to dedicate to the sport. After moving to Savannah, he met friends who got him interested. He finally got his gator tag after applying for a number of consecutive years and being denied.
Gator tags can be hard to come by. Tag distribution is based on a point system — one point for every year a hunter applies and isn’t granted a tag. The number of gators harvested the previous year determines how many tags are available the next year. Hunters can wait for three, sometimes four years to reel in their first gator.
Tags are color-coded for specific restricted hunting areas, and each tag is good for only one gator a season, which starts in September. The regulations keep the gator population healthy and prevent over-fishing. The last time Nadeau pulled in a gator was four years ago, so Nadeau is crossing his fingers for a tag this year. His stock of gator meat is low, and he’s ready for the next hunt.
Once you get lucky enough to be granted a tag, the preparation begins. Nadeau and his friends will scout a month in advance of a planned hunt. Once they find one that looks like a keeper, they’ll note his location and come back hoping he’s stayed close to home. “We go where they are,” Nadeau said. “Then we kill the engine and wait.” It’s not guaranteed. The hunt can take up to an hour and a half, depending on the gator’s stamina. If they come up for air and catch a breath or break the line, you miss your opportunity. Nadeau didn’t get a gator on his first trip.
“They’re powerful, and you have to be careful,” he said. “It’s man against animal.”
Check out gator hunting rules and regulations at georgiawildlife.com/Hunting/Alligator.
(Heather Black, Tactical Games, Photo by Mark Staff)
7. Test Your Metal
TACTICAL GAMES “It’s like Crossfit and a Spartan Race but with guns,” Heather Black explained. Black found the Tactical Games when a Crossfit friend suggested her passion for firearms might be a fit for the Navy SEAL-style competition. “Crossfit competitions are fun. Spartan races are fun. But they’re not uncomfortable. I needed to try something new that was a little bit scary,” she said.
Black played sports growing up, but says she was never really known for her athleticism. “I didn’t get into it until after my fourth baby,” she said. She was seven weeks post-partum when she took her first Crossfit class. She wouldn’t recommend starting that way, but it’s what got her into the competitive fitness game.
Finding out about an affair after four babies flipped her world upside down. “It was a fork in the road moment — make me better or ruin me. That was the impetus for wanting to go out and try new things. It forced me to get out of my comfort zone,” she explained.
The Tactical Games test athletes’ shooting prowess under physical and mental pressure. As a former military wife, she had friends who could show her the ropes. They worked with her on her shooting technique — often the hardest part for beginners. “The whole premise is: How well can you shoot in a high-pressure environment while being fatigued? The obstacles are easy. Everyone gets messed up on the shooting part,” she said.
For Black, the attraction comes from the adrenaline rush of facing something that scares her and finding the courage to do it anyway. That’s the philosophy she takes with her clients. Black is now passing on her quest for new challenges as a trainer as well as a competitor. “Proving to yourself that you can do hard things is my whole premise. I can raise four kids by myself. I can get over that obstacle I didn’t think I could get over,” she explained. “It gives you a level of confidence that you can take wherever you go, not just in the gym.”
Based on military training operations, the games push athletes to their limits, measuring shooting skill and ability after a strenuous, Spartan Games-style obstacle course where poise and composure are compromised. Sign up for a race at thetacticalgames.com.
(The Big Nasty)
8. Muck it Up
THE BIG NASTY There’s something quintessentially Southern about muddin’ through a field in a suped-up four-wheeler — the dirt, the muscle, the rev of the engine. It’s enough to make you say, “Woo doggie!” Bring an off-road capable vehicle of your choice to The Big Nasty, a Georgia ATV park offering more than 20 miles of trails, puddles, and swampy bogs. Head out to Bloomingdale for a day trip, or pack your camping gear and stay a while. Check it out at riderplanet-usa.com.
9. Survive the Zombie Apocalypse
ESCAPE SAVANNAH Escape Savannah’s newest game will put your wits, problem-solving and intellect to the test to save humanity from utter and complete annihilation. Answer riddles, crack codes and solve puzzles in 60 minutes to avoid a zombie attack and your inevitable turn from human to white walker. Grab your group and book a private session or test your spontaneity with strangers, but beware age and group number restrictions. If zombies just aren’t you thing, you can confront the supernatural or attempt to outwit mischievous pirates. Visit escapesavannah.com to reserve your spot for Zombie Apocalypse: The Quest for the Cure, an immersive escape room experience.
(Georgia’s Highest Peak, Brasstown Bald)
10. Conquer New Heights
BRASSTOWN BALD Get high in the Lowcountry and climb or fly to the next level. Bag the highest peak in Georgia, Brasstown Bald, in Blairsville. At 4,783 feet, enjoy 360-degree panoramic mountain views, a great workout, and a check off your list (if you’re into bagging peaks, that is). Perhaps the best way to conquer new heights is to fall from them — true adrenaline junkies know there is no better rush than jumping from a plane over 10,000 feet above Earth. The Jumping Place Skydiving Center in Statesboro, Georgia offers one-time tandem jumps as well as skydiving instruction for United States Parachute Association license certification. Whether you’re looking for a one-time thrill or routine fix, book your skydiving experience at thejumpingplace.com.
11. Pop an Ollie
SK8 CHARLESTON Elder millennials remember the heyday of skateboarding culture when a boy in Airwalks, cargo pants and a visor beanie made teenage hearts do kickflips. Reconnect with your inner grom minus the angst and acne at SK8 Charleston, a 32,500 square foot skate park designed and built by Team Pain Skate Parks. It’s one of the only skate parks in the Lowcountry and features two bowls, a street course, and a 200-foot-long snake run. If you still recall watching Tony Hawk land a 900 at the 1999 X Games, check out Sk8 Charleston to relive your Sk8er Boi glory days.
(Hopper’s Paintball and Airsoft)
12. Paint Your Pals
HOPPER’S Who among your social circle would win in a shootout? You can find out at Hopper’s Paintball and Airsoft in Savannah. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to corner that one friend who always shorts the bill at group dinners and blast him full of rainbow-colored paint. With eight themed fields and counting, Hopper’s is armed to host you and your party with rental equipment and a pro-shop. The airsoft option makes paintball safe for younger players, so bring your family out to work out any residual quarantine quarrels. hoppersga.com
(Historic Banning Mills)
13. Fly Like Superman
HISTORIC BANNING MILLS Strap into a harness and get ready for the ride of your life at Historic Banning Mills. Located approximately one hour from Atlanta, the resort holds claims to two Guinness World Records for the world’s longest continuous zipline and canopy tour at an astounding 39,127 total feet and the tallest artificial climbing wall at nearly 140 feet.
The Evel Knievels among us can channel Superman 300 feet off the ground on Flight of the Falcon, a 3,400-foot-long zipline. Or test their skills on the brand-new Terminator Lake Tour — a zipline, ropes course, sky bridges, and free-fall experience that takes guest on an aerial adventure through vast old-growth forest. With zip lines not-so-subtly named the Two Springs Screamer and the Terminator, it’s not for the faint of heart.
Lest we forget about our little daredevils, the Crazy Squirrel Village offers a two-tiered obstacle course geared toward younger children with 20-foot and 60-foot ropes course options. For family members who prefer to be ground-bound, Banning Mills features hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, and an on-site spa.
If you’re the type who’d rather fly like a bird than swim like a fish, visit historicbanningmills.com to live out your wildest airborne fantasies.
(Nantahala Outdoor Center)
14. Shoot the Rapids
NANTAHALA OUTDOOR CENTER You’ll hear the roar of the rushing rapids before you see them. By the time you see them, you’re in them. Then, it’s paddle, paddle, stroke, stroke, hold on for dear life until you reach the next pool.
Though whitewater rafting and kayaking fight a bad rap (one only needs to watch Meryl Streep singlehandedly navigate raging chutes at gunpoint in “The River Wild” to swear off the sport altogether), they can both be done safely and responsibly with the help of skilled guides. And the guides at the Nantahala Outdoor Center are some of the best in the business.
Nantahala Outdoor Center, or NOC for short, serves more than a million guests each year on over 120 different water- and land-based excursions. Home to 22 Olympic kayakers, including two Gold Medalists, NOC knows the rivers they navigate intimately. There’s a reason Outside Magazine named them “The Best Place to Learn” and the New York Times called them the “Nation’s Premiere Paddling School.”
Get your feet wet with one of their many rafting itineraries on seven different rivers in Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Each fully guided tour includes all the gear and instruction you’ll need to take on the river safely. Take your passion for adventure to the next level and learn the trade in one of their world-class paddling, rescue, or guide schools. Their guides are highly skilled, decorated, and known for being leaders in the industry — one having earned a world record for the highest waterfall run in an open canoe in 2014. Head to noc.com to scope out your first foray into the wild waters.
15. Mountain Biking
MULBERRY GAP Throw the bikes in the car and head to Georgia’s Designated Mountain Bike Capital — Mulberry Gap in Ellijay — for the best mountain biking in the state. You bring the bike, and they take care of the rest. The southern Appalachian Mountains are crisscrossed with trails for all levels, and Mulberry Gap offers guided tours for newbies to the sport. For avid members of the mountain biking community, cabins and campsites are the perfect place to freshen up after a ride and share stories and brews with your trail mates. Don’t forget to bring your furry friend along for the ride, too. Mulberrygap.com
(Tybee Surf Lessons. Photo by Leeann Ritch)
16. Hang Ten
TYBEE SURF LESSONS Blast some Beach Boys tunes and head out on a surfin’ safari with Tybee Surf Lessons. Their skilled and certified instructors show you how to pop up and catch your first barrel in Tybee’s great-for-beginners conditions. Arrive at North Beach Jetty solo or with your group, equipped with proper swimming attire, sunscreen and a smile and your instructor brings the rest, surfboard and all. Say aloha and book a lesson at tybeesurflessons.com.