Work your way through these increasingly hairy pursuits
Time Out Abu Dhabi staff
Restaurants, spas, lazy days on the beach… We all love a little bit of rest and relaxation, and here in Abu Dhabi there’s lots of it on offer. But there’s another side to the city as well, one that’s populated by skaters, off-roaders, surfers and skydivers. They’re living life in the fast line, and it’s time for you to join them.
Skateboarding Head down to the Corniche skatepark next to Family Park if you want to get outside on your board. There’s a great community atmosphere, and BMX riders and inline skaters are also welcome. Don’t worry if you’re a novice either, because being part of the community means there’s always someone on hand to show you how to master that kick flip you’ve been struggling with, or impart some advice on how to drop in on a half pipe correctly every time.
For those looking for the newest spot in town though, the place to be is Adventure Zone at Adventure HQ in Dalma Mall. Built specifically to cater for the city’s rapidly burgeoning skater scene, the park has all the facilities and obstacles Tony Hawk wannabes could ask for, including half pipes, bowls, a wall ride and an exciting street section designed to allow riders to showcase and practise their own style.
Want to get involved but you’re lacking some key equipment, say a skateboard or safety kit? For the latest ranges in skateboarding kit head to Rage in Al Wahda Mall. You can buy complete boards or decks, trucks, wheels and bearings separately and build your own setup. It also sells BMX bikes if your whip of choice has two wheels instead of four.
Adventure HQ: Open Sat-Wed 10am-10pm, Thu-Fri 10am-midnight. Level 2, Dalma Mall, Mussafah. Contact Adventure HQ (02 445 6995) or Adventure Zone (02 445 8903) for more information. Rage: Open Sun-Thu 10am-10pm; Fri-Sat 10am-11pm. Al Wahda Mall (02 443 7617).
Parkour There are extreme sports, and then there are extreme sports. Parkour, which is also known as freerunning, is about as wild as it gets. Parkour is a sport without limits, hence the name freerunning, as the individuals or groups who practise it traverse an urban landscape by any means, getting from one point to another via the most direct route. The result of this endeavour is that it transforms streets into urban gymnasiums, with freerunners performing acrobatic and often death-defying feats to scale buildings and skip across rooftops.
Don’t worry though if that all sounds a bit much for your first foray into freerunning though, because the guys at UAE Parkour will hold your hand (not literally) as they introduce you to the extreme sport. The team of experts runs training classes in a safe gym environment complete with soft mats and protective padding every week at Gems American Academy in Khalifa City A. There are classes for youths (aged 10-14) as well as for adults (aged 15 and over), that usually run 6-7pm and 7-8pm every Tuesday. Classes are currently on a summer break but will start again in September. The exact date is yet to be confirmed.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, why not hit the streets with UAE Parkour instructors and your fellow classmates? The UAE Parkour meetup group announces a location where the community can get together to practise their skills. Meetup jams happen every Friday at different places each week, and anyone is welcome. It’s a lot of fun, but expect to be put through your paces. For more information, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about UAE Parkour Jams, visit www.meetup.com/UAEParkour. www.uaeparkour.com.
Dune Bashing If there’s one thing we’ve got a lot of here in Abu Dhabi, its space for off-road driving. With vast landscapes of desert to explore just outside the city, petrol heads and thrill seekers are in their element, which is just one of the reasons dune bashing is so popular in the emirate.
Get the most out of your off-roading by having a few lessons with an advanced driver experienced in traversing the sprawling and often difficult terrain that can be in found in the Empty Quarter adjacent to Saudi Arabia – the best place to try dune bashing. Emirates Driving Institute offers a comprehensive one-day course that will teach you all you need to know about handling a vehicle in the dunes and how to cope if disaster strikes.
After the seven-hour session you’ll be ready to take your own wheels out for spin. Make sure you go in a group though, as being lost on the desert on your own is an extremely dangerous scenario.
Desert driving courses are offered daily. Courses can be taken by one or two people. Dhs1,100 Sat-Thu, Dhs1,200 Fri for one person. The cost for two people is Dhs600 (per person) Sat-Thu, Dhs650 (per person) Fri. www.edi-uae.com (04 263 1100).
Ski Dubai While skiing draws up to 1,500 daily visitors to Ski Dubai, the Middle East’s only indoor snow resort, it has more to offer than just that. The centre, which is covered with real snow all year round, covers 22,500sqm – the size of three football fields – and is 25 storeys high. Along with its alpine-style restaurants and temperatures hovering around minus 1°C, you could almost kid yourself you’re in the alps. Snow Park is a 3,000sqm snow-covered cavern within the centre. Grab a pal and make a beeline for its toboggan hill – where you can shoot down its twin track on a lightweight sledge.
Alternatively, roll down the hill in a giant zorb ball, even jumping a 10ft ramp. The centre has five ski runs which vary in height, gradient, length and difficulty, so all levels are catered for. Beginners can take lessons, while experienced skiers and snowboarders can practise moves on the centre’s longest run, which stretches 400m and falls over 60m – or why not show off on jumps and rails in the freestyle zone? You can attempt the world’s first indoor black run, too. If that sounds too tame, ride the snow bullet, the world’s first indoor sub-zero zip line. Your heart is bound to pound as you whizz along the 150m line, 16m above the slopes. All skiing and snowboarding equipment except for hats and gloves is included in the ticket price. Skiing and snowboarding lesson Dhs170 kids, Dhs200 adults; power pass Dhs300 includes zipline, zorbing, chair lift and big slides; tobogganing extra. Mall of Emirates, Dubai, www.theplaymania.com (04 409 4090).
Hot Air Ballooning Okay, so this isn’t the most extreme activity going. However, you’ll need a pretty good head for heights not to be affected by the view when you look down from your flimsy wicker basket as you swirl in the wind 3,000ft above the ground. The views over the desert are stunning and offer a totally new perspective of this fabulous emirate, making the ride worth it for that alone. Thrill seekers will get a little something out of it too; there’s nothing quite like realising you’re thousands of feet in the air, hanging under an inflated sheet with no safety harness to make your heart skip a beat.
Get up in the air and do your best Phileas Fogg impression with Balloon Adventures Emirates, who advise that the best time for a trip is at daybreak, as the temperature is cooler and the light lends itself well for photography. Be warned, a trip isn’t cheap – but it will also be an adventure you won’t forget in a hurry. Adults from Dhs995, children (aged five-12) from Dhs850. Small exclusive charter (one-eight people) from Dhs11,450, large exclusive charter (nine-24 people) from Dhs21,600. www.ballooning.ae (04 285 4949).
Skydive Dubai Now things are getting serious. If you’re looking for the ultimate heart-stopping activity, it doesn’t come more panic-inducing than throwing yourself out of an airborne plane. Skydiving is on every daredevil’s bucket list, and Skydive Dubai is one of the premier skydiving locations in the world. So don’t put it off any longer – now is the time to do it.
Experienced staff with thousands of jumps under their belts and the best equipment on the market make Skydive Dubai one of the safest and most enjoyable facilities of its kind in the world, and there can be no better view as you plummet to earth than the Palm Jumeirah stretching out into the water. You can enjoy it for longer as well, as the full altitude jump (4,000m) is higher than most you’ll be offered around the world, allowing for more freefall time. Solo jumps for experienced skydivers and a skydiving training school plan are available, but if you just want to experience the feeling of hurtling through the sky as gravity pulls you to earth once, then a tandem jump (where you jump attached to an expert) is for you.
Check the rules and restrictions posted online before booking your jump. Dhs1,999 for a tandem jump with digital stills and a video of your experience. Skydive Dubai, Dubai Marina, www.skydivedubai.ae (04 377 8888).
Circuit Driving Yas Marina Circuit isn’t just open for the week that Formula 1 rolls into town; you can access the tracks for the other 51 weeks of the year and have one of the most thrilling experiences anywhere in the UAE. Jump into a car and have a drive on the track yourself, just like the professionals do it. There are different packages to choose from. If you’re a real petrol-head, then the Aston Martin GT4 package is the one to go for. Climb into the driver’s seat and feel the rush as you push the pedal to the floor, then caress the 4.7 litre V8 engine through the corners, trying to improve your technique as you go. An instructor will teach you the racing lines and give you pointers as you drive, while your friends and family are welcome to come and watch you fulfill your racing dreams. Alternatively, if you want to go even faster, why not opt for the Formula Yas 3000 experience? It’s as close as you’ll ever get to driving a Formula 1 car. These cars were all specifically designed by F1 engineers at Cosworth for Yas Marina Circuit, so they look, feel and drive just like their F1 big brothers. Both driving experiences are Dhs1,500. Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Island. For more information or to book, visit www.yasmarinacircuit.com (02 659 9800).
Yas Waterworld Admittedly it’s not a sport, but Yas Waterworld does promise adrenaline rushes. Best of the bunch is Liwa Loop, the only looping waterslide in the Middle East. Daredevils are locked into a capsule, and the floor just drops away, leaving you to hurtle straight down and around a giant loop that’s almost perpendicular to the ground. It’s all over in seconds, but your heart will be racing long afterwards. The park has great summer discounts as well, including four admissions for the price of three, so now is as good a time as any to get down there. Tickets start from Dhs240 for adults and Dhs195 for children under 1.1m. Book online and receive four tickets for the price of three. www.yaswaterworld.com (02 414 2000).
Surf Hit the waves at Wadi Adventure in Al Ain for the ultimate UAE surfing experience. The pool is 150m long and the waves are over 3m, giving surfers all the swell they could ask for. Dhs100 for 90 minutes or Dhs150 for a one-hour lesson, plus Dhs50 adults’ entry, Dhs25 kids’ entry. Private session Dhs1,400 for 60 minutes. Directions on www.wadiadventure.ae (03 781 8422).
Flyboarding Strap your feet into boots attached to a board and try to control yourself as you’re thrown upwards into the air. The board is powered by a hose linked to a Jet Ski, so when the Jet Ski engine guns, the board rises 3m in the air – taking you along with it. Balance is the key, as is a good head for heights. Dhs300 for 30 minutes, Dhs500 for one hour. Email email@example.com Abu Dhabi Marine Sports, Kite Beach, Yas Island, www.flyboards-uae.com (050 817 3071).
Jetlev Flyer The first of its kind in the UAE, the JetLev Flyer is a 16kg carbon fibre backpack attached to a 10m hose, with an engine the size and shape of a Jet Ski at the other end. The engine shoots water into the hose, rocketing whoever’s wearing the pack 10m into the air at 40km/h. Dhs995 30 minutes, Dhs1,400 one hour. Gulf Water Sports, Ghantoot Marina, www.gulfwatersports.ae (055 297 9311).
Jet Skiing Our favourite Jet Ski location in Abu Dhabi is Ghantoot Marina, where you can rent one for a reasonable price. Just make sure you read TOAD’s Jet Ski law breakdown first. Over-16s only. Follow Sheikh Rashed Al Maktoum Road (E11) towards Dubai, take exit 399, then the flyover and head for Al Jazira Resort. Dhs300 for 30 minutes, Dhs500 one hour. Ghantoot Water Sports, www.ghantootmarina.com (02 562 9168).
Wakeboarding A little bit cooler than waterskiing, wakeboarding is one of the most popular water sports in Abu Dhabi. If you’re a novice you’ll need lessons to be able to stand up on your board, and a motorboat to drag you through the waves. Luckily you can get both at Watercooled, Hiltonia Beach Club. Dhs230 for 20 min. Hilton Abu Dhabi, Corniche West, www.watercooleddubai.com (02 681 1900).