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Scaling and Soaring Through Tampa Bay


Eminem once opened a song with “His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy… he’s nervous but on the outside he looks calm and ready.”

No lyrics could describe someone’s life better when being all harnessed up staring at a giant rock wall. Looking from ceiling to floor at the different colored crevices, plotting the safest way to get to the top without plummeting back to the bouncy foam-matted floors can definitely get your adrenaline flowing. That rush, that feeling of accomplishment when you reach the top, is why many escape to the adult playground that is Vertical Ventures.

With one location on Pioneer Park Boulevard in Tampa and a more expansive location in St.Petersburg, the warehouse of rock walls attracts all different kinds of members of all ages. Some will come occasionally, climbing to get away from a conventional workout, and others will climb as practice for even more defying heights in outdoor climbing competitions.

“I’ve been doing this for about eight months now as a newfound hobby and it is addicting,” USF student and frequent climber Katelyn Jennison said. “I have participated in outdoor climbing competitions in Alabama and Georgia and am here almost everyday challenging myself to prepare for the next competition.”

Don’t worry– you don’t have to be a competition climber in order to enjoy the wall-to-wall obstacles of Vertical Ventures. For those who have never tested gravity quite like this before, introductory classes are offered daily to give you a feel of the different methods of climbing, whether it is using a rope, bouldering (no harness or rope used) or leading (hanging upside down and clipping your harness in as you go). The rocks are also constantly being changed weekly to keep the courses diverse and challenge climbers in different aspects.

Aside from combining to strength, core, and mobility workouts in the art of climbing, Vertical Ventures also offers an array of tightropes for those aiming to master their balance.

With the different calisthenic motions it takes to complete these eccentric workouts and tasks, you would expect the average participant to be fairly young. But, Vertical Ventures typically sees more adults than adolescents or children.

“During the week our members average from the ages of 18-40 and come for all different types of climbing and activities,” Vertical Ventures employee and climber Aroldo Vitorio said. “On the weekend it becomes more family-oriented between children’s birthday parties and even corporate companies using our facility for private events and team-bonding exercises.”

Given all Vertical Ventures has to offer the rates are fairly standard, and getting the most for your money is a guarantee. A $15 admission applies to those above the age of 12, but the site offers other deals like a one hour “quick climb” for $10.

On Tuesdays a student and military discount is offered, Wednesdays is ladies night where women can climb for $9, Thursdays are reserved for group specials, and Fridays are lit when $9 can give you “all you can climb” from 8 to midnight where the strobe lights and DJ are in full effect.

Now, lose the wall. Lose the harness. Add a small airplane and strap on a 170 pound man to your back.

On the other end of the adventure spectrum and in a test of mental as opposed to physical stamina, Skydive City located in Zephyrhills offers a more in-the-field type of experience. The stakes are higher (literally), but so is the thrill. At 13,500 ft, any person over the age of 17 and under 220 pounds can soar the Tampa skies with a little help from one of Skydive City’s experienced jumpers.

In a tandem jump, first-timers can experience the descent of a lifetime, without having to do much except be comfortably strapped like a baby to the front of a typically tall and handsome skydiver. However attractive your human life-preserver may be though, this is lot of trust to put in someone you have just met. But rest assured, Skydive City’s team of tandem jumpers all have well over the necessary requirements for an instructor license, which ensures your partner has at least 500 jumps, has been in the sport for at least three years and has taken the necessary tandem course. Even more, many of the tandem instructors have dedicated their careers solely to the sport.

“The instructors that we have during the week, this is their full-time job, they do it every day,” Skydive City employee and licensed jumper, Haley White said. “Skydiving is a dangerous activity, but here we have never had a tandem student fatality.”

Before you have reached this glorious final step in the process however, you must first prove you cannot be shaken by legal documents and awkward body positions. After signing an aggressive amount of papers assuring that your death is imminent, and completing a 20-minute routine of precautionary safety instructions that reiterating the necessary body position when jumping (arms and legs raised up, falling stomach first), you are now ready to fall from the sky. Don’t worry, you just have to remember one thing– you are a banana.

Once in the air at 13,500 ft., the actual descent is a five to seven minute process that begins with a 60 second freefall and followed by four to six minutes of under-the-canopy flying. While the point of anxiety for many comes from the a fear of a defective parachute, White assures that, while rarely in need of deployment, there is always a plan B.

“All the rigs have two parachutes in them, there’s a main and there’s a reserve,” White said. “So if there’s any kind of malfunction with the main you can just get rid of it and pull your reserve parachute.”

Skydive City prices run anywhere from $179 to $294 and come in a variety of packages that can include pictures, an edited video of your experience complete with music, and/or a bottle of champagne to suppress the nerves. The company also offers an option to jump from a lower height at 10,500 ft for a lower price. However, buying tickets through Groupon may be your best option if you are trying to save some extra cash. Here, the typical $199 ticket option can be purchased at a discounted rate for $114.

It is a guarantee, whether you’re climbing or free falling, the adrenaline rush is something that cannot be matched to that of an everyday run or kicking a ball around.


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