Your Life Is on the Line: How to Choose a Solid Company for Your Extreme Sports Adventure
When it comes to buying laundry detergent, office supplies, or gasoline bargain hunters usually come out smiling. However, when you want to dip your feet into the world of extreme sports, saving a few bucks could cost you big in the end. If you’re looking to Scuba dive, climb, paraglide, and skydive you’ve probably already come to the understanding that you are embarking on a more elite, exclusive experience than handball or Frisbee; so instead of looking for a bargain, look for the best. After all, your life will literally be in the hands of the operators and the gear they put you on. Here are three tips to help you find the operation that is right for you:
1. Make sure that all of your instructors are currently licensed and are using by the book procedures. In paragliding and hang-gliding every instructor is required to be licensed by the United States Hang-gliding and Paragliding Association (USHPA) domestically and other governing bodies internationally. If you are going on a tandem flight your instructor should hand you a 30 day USHPA membership form with a tear-off card you must carry in your pocket during the flight. After the tandem is over your instructor is required to mail the remainder of the form in to USHPA. If you are not presented with this paperwork take it as a clear sign that your instructor does not have a current tandem rating. All bets are off.
2. Check to see if the equipment used is current and in good condition. Often the bargain buster operations will save money by pushing more mileage out of climbing ropes, chutes, wings, and other safety gear. Before you sign up ask when your gear was purchased. When you arrive give it a once over for obvious wear and tear. If you have any doubt than there is no doubt. Pull out of the deal.
3. Ask about your instructor’s involvement with the sport. Another way discount adventure operations cut cost is through second incomes. Quality equipment, upkeep, and other overhead are usually fairly high in the adventure sport market. So if the operation is cutting the cheapest deals in town, and if they can still afford reliable gear, they are probably making the bulk of their income with a 9-5 job on the weekdays and moonlighting in the sport on weekends. Clearly most people nowadays have more than one iron in the fire; however, weekend only involvement is barely enough to keep your skills on level no matter what your passion. You wouldn’t want a weekend warrior flying your 747 to Hawaii. Ask for an instructor who is practicing three or more days a week. The more he/she lives and breathes the sport, the better. Also run a web search on your instructor’s full name and see what pops up. Don’t be shy about asking the outfit about any bad press. It is your right to know.
Good for you that you’ve come to a point in your life where you have both the means and the desire to seek after unique adventurous experiences. You’ve obviously paved some success in life to get to this point. You undoubtedly understand by now that you get what you pay for, so pay for a quality school or outfitter when you get into an adventure/extreme sport. Have yourself a thrill, but not the kind you have to recount from a hospital bed. Be safe and have a blast!