While a calm day lounging in the sand and floating in the serene Gulf of Mexico is always a treat, sometimes a person just needs a heart-pumping adventure.
Thrill-seekers, look no further. 30A and the surrounding area have plenty of places to find adrenaline-fueled activities. You just have to know where to look.
One hidden gem is tucked in the woods right off Scenic Highway 30A. Unbeknownst to many, Pickos Water Ski School has been teaching folks to skid across the water at 20 to 30 miles per hour for almost 30 years.
This school is no joke. The world-renowned trick skier, Cory Pickos, opened it in 1992. Pickos earned his first world record at age 13 and, over a 32-year career that may never be duplicated, he went on to secure 23 more world records, be the youngest member ever on the U.S. Elite Water Ski team and win two back-to-back world championships.
Today, world championship-level skiers train here, traveling from all across the globe to do so. But the school also offers lessons to amateur and even beginner skiers, allowing the thrill-seeker to train right alongside the world’s greats.
The school boasts three man-made freshwater lakes, including ski jumps for the most adventurous.
If you’re lucky, while you’re strapping into your skis, you might catch Adam Pickos, Cory’s son, himself a two-time world champion, practicing a few casual backflips or 360-degree spins on the glassy water.
Learning to Waterski at Pickos Ski School!
Let’s learn to waterski! We are just two days away from the U17 & U21 Waterski World Championships hosted right here on 30A at Pickos Ski School!! Mark your calendars! https://30a.com/world-junior-waterski-championships/
Posted by 30A on Friday, 20 August 2021
With over 200 miles of trails in South Walton, bicyclists have so much ground to explore. An electric bike can help cover more distance just a little faster. Plenty of fun can be had cruising around on 30A Electric Bikes by YOLO, exploring the miles and miles of paved trails around Scenic Highway 30A at speeds up to 20 miles per hour.
But for an extra boost of adrenaline, hop on one of YOLO’s Bolt Electric Bikes.
These bikes boast four-inch fat tires, meaning they can ride anywhere: over gravel, along rocky trails, and even right on the sandy beach. The Bolt can also go up to 27 miles per hour on a straight-away, an exhilarating speed on a bicycle. (Helmets required!)
The Bolt is a perfect companion for exploring the hike and bike trails that wind through Point Washington State Forest. Watch out for trees, but don’t shy away from the mud.
For even more fun and to really feel like a kid again, take a Bolt to the beach.
Riding a regular bike in the sand is ridiculous, impossible really. But with those extra-fat tires and a little help from the engine, riders can fly down the sand and splash through the water.
You might even find yourself whooping with delight, as do the grown men in this video:
Purchase or rent YOLO’s Bolt electric bikes at yoloboard.com.
Jumping out of a plane and free-falling at 120 miles per hour could be considered the king of adrenaline rushes. You can find this around here, too; it just takes a little work to get there.
A bit of a hike depending on where you are coming from (two hours each way from South Walton), one of the most scenic and unique skydiving options in the area is Sky Dive the Gulf, located in Elberta, Alabama.
Skydiving here means that after the first 45 seconds of free fall, when your wits come back, you can enjoy an incredible view of the gulf as you soar back to earth. The company even offers an option to land directly on the sand at nearby Orange Beach. This option is only offered once a day and early in the morning but is well worth it if you like to start your day with a heavy dose of adrenaline.
To take it up a notch and stay a little closer to home base, Skydive Panama City is another excellent option.
Here divers leap out into the open air at 14,000 feet, instead of 10,000 at Skydive the Gulf, meaning you get an extra 15 seconds of free fall, almost a full minute before your parachute opens.
Skydive Panama City is all about skydiving — all day, every day. With two to three runs per hour, divers can almost always find a spot as long as the weather is right. They can also accommodate groups of up to 40 even without advance notice and offer a full line of services for all skill levels from first-timers to experienced, certified jumpers or those seeking certification.
Instead of going up in the sky to dive back down to sea level, another option for adrenaline junkies is to start at sea level and plunge down.
Strap on some SCUBA gear to find a unique adventure right off the coast of Grayton Beach State Park. Sixty feet below the surface, divers can explore the Underwater Museum of Art, the first of its kind in the United States.
Named by TIME magazine as one of the 100 “World’s Greatest Places,” this underwater sculpture garden features 25 pieces by artists from across the globe. Once submerged, the sculptures immediately attract sea life, and over time they become living reefs, transforming the original pieces into undulating, ever-changing works of art. The museum, which opened in 2018, adds additional sculptures regularly.
The UMA can be reached by boat. Dive 30A offers regular trips directly to the site from the state park.
SCUBA certification is required to dive in the gulf. For those looking to get certified, Emerald Coast SCUBA offers a course that culminates with a dive at the UMA.
Another way to get the heart rate going in the water is sport fishing. The gulf offers various entry points, from reeling in the big one on the deck of a boat to diving below the surface for an underwater hunt with a speargun.
Nab a seat on a charter boat that launches directly from the sand at Grayton Beach, and you’ll be fishing within ten minutes. Reeling in a big fish can be quite a workout, getting the blood pumping in no time. And it’s always an exciting rush to see what’s on the line as it surfaces, especially if it’s a shark.
With a bit more training and experience, freedive spearfishing is an ultimate rush.
Freedivers who are spearfishing plunge 70 feet or more beneath the surface, holding their own breath for over a minute (some can go up to three). The dive alone is a rush, the pressure of the water on the body at that depth is strong, and when the diver looks up, they know exactly how far they still have to go to get to their next breath.
Add to that, though, hunting for a big fish, aiming a speargun, and firing, all before booking it back to the surface. (Oh yeah, and you will definitely be nose-to-nose with plenty of bull sharks. Some may even try to snatch your catch right off your line.)
The South Walton Artificial Reef Association has 16 snorkel and diving reefs spaced out along the South Walton coastline. The inshore snorkel reefs are great for building freediving skills, but to find fish big enough for spearfishing, travel further out to the dive reefs.
As is true for all fishing in Florida, you need a license, and there are regulations on what you can catch, depending on the season. Only certain fish are available for spearfishing.
Freediving doesn’t require a license, but training is a must. Freediving can be dangerous for divers who don’t know the correct safety precautions and measures. Always dive with a buddy.
For beginners, Benthic Ocean Sports, a freedive specialty shop in Destin, offers a quick course that comes highly recommended. They provide classes for all skill levels, as well, including one specifically on spearfishing. If you have some experience, Dive Destin offers chartered spearfishing dive trips.
30A Deep Dive: Deep Sea Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico
What’s the biggest ???? fish YOU have personally caught? >> 30Adeepdive.com
Storyteller Overland │ Dometic │ Setco Services – Florida Title Company │ graytonbeachcharters.com
Posted by 30A on Saturday, 24 July 2021
If your need is for speed, Jet Skiing may be right up your alley.
Hop on a personal watercraft in the Gulf and, depending on how smooth the water is, lay on the throttle, cruising around at 60 miles per hour. If the water is even a little choppy, riders can catch some air jumping over the waves.
Jet Skiing also offers a great vantage point for spotting some impressive sea life, including bottle-nosed dolphins. Jet Skiers have been known for catching sight of handfuls of dolphins, sometimes even dozens, swimming in pods along the shoreline. (Passing and admiring dolphins is perfectly fine. Actually touching them or especially feeding them is prohibited by law. https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/mammals/aquatic/dolphin/)
Rent a Jet Ski or WaveRunner in Miramar Beach behind Seascape Resort at La Dolce Vita or Pompano Joe’s at Parasail Now. (https://www.parasailnow.com).
The Gulf of Mexico is famously not famous for its surfing waves. But on the right day, at the right time, plenty of fun can still be had catching a ride on a wave as it curls towards the shore.
Storms, hurricanes, cold fronts and wind swells can bring on conditions suitable for surfing. Around the 30A area, surfers just have to be willing to hop on a board whenever the conditions are ripe. It’s harder to find, but that makes it all the more sweet when it does come along.
30A Deep Dive: Surfing on the Gulf Coast
SURFING ON 30A?? ???? A real thing or pure fantasy? Watch????
30Adeepdive.com | Storyteller Overland
Posted by 30A on Tuesday, 24 August 2021
While paddleboarding is not often considered a high-octane activity, such as high-speed jet skiing or spearfishing, when you hit the waves of the gulf, it can give a boost of good feeling like nothing else.
Not only is it physically challenging, but the pure beauty of the surroundings can deliver an incredible rush that stays with you long after the saltwater has dried from your skin.
For more athletic adrenaline-spiking activities, the area boasts a ton of races, including Alys Beach 5K, 30A 10K and 5K (on Thanksgiving Day), 30A Half Marathon and 5K, and the Seaside School Half Marathon and 5K. The almost year-round good weather makes the South Walton area a great place to get your run on.
Beach volleyball can be a great way to release any pent-up stress from the day, and leagues and recreational meet-ups are plentiful around this area. It’s a rush of adrenaline with your toes in the sand.