By David Higgins
Are you tired of the same boring week in-week out routine? Are you starting to feel like you have done most of what there is to do on Okinawa, or are you itching for an outdoor adventure that just happen to be close to home?
Maybe something that really gets the heart pumping and invigorates you the way jumping off the quarry cliffs or riding your bike really fast down a hill with no hands used to do? It sounds like it is time to put aside the baseball mitt for a day or two and try out some of the extreme sports that are offered right here in Okinawa. Strap yourself in because we are going to give you a brief but encouraging glimpse of some of the choices that are offered close to home.
Where to begin? Let’s start by considering the geography of Okinawa; 360 degrees oceans and sky that are not afraid to open up and throw a good temper tantrum, mountains that stretch upward to meet the sky and outward, shifting towards the ocean to offer boundless vistas, ancient mountains whose spines are wound with age old trails, lakes and rivers sheltered by the land and abundant with dark pools where the big fish lurk. Intrigued yet?
Now, we consider the many ways we can explore and enjoy these diverse landscapes. Hiking, snorkeling, surfing, kite surfing, scuba diving, fishing, windsurfing, kiteboarding, skydiving or hand gliding. And that is just the beginning. Or, if you would rather not immerse yourself in nature, how about some home grown karate, skate or long boarding? Overwhelmed yet? Well, you should be! Yet the intention of this article is not to give you all of the dirty little details, but rather to whet your appetite for adventure opportunities that warrant your interest and that, excuse the excess of puns, but that you can either sink your teeth or dip your toes into. The poison is your choice.
Let’s start with the ocean considering that this is an island. Okinawa offers some great surf. If you are a weathered surfer, the summer brings about some strong typhoons that can kick up substantial swell and punchy waves. For beginners, make sure you stick to the off season to start and maybe get some lessons or watch and talk to the locals before heading into the water. This sport takes some time to really get a knack of so don’t get discouraged, follow local rules and be safe. If you are more interested in swimming with the fish, grab a snorkel and mask or rent scuba gear to check out Cape Maeda or for the more adventurous, Cape Hedo. Again, this is an island so there are diving and snorkeling spots everywhere. Check with the local dive shops for advice.
If you are a true land lubber and would rather stay dry, you can start by strapping on some comfortable shoes or sandals and bring a bottle of water because you are heading to Hiji Falls to explore some steep steps and a gorgeous view. The Onna Coast offers up some great beach hikes while the Nago Castle Park is laden with winding trails.
Everyone has a different approach to how they want to ‘dive’ into adventure sports. Some are willing to dive in feet first, literally over the edge of a cliff into an abyss with only sail, carabiners and a handle bar to hold white-knuckle while others would rather start gradually by slipping slowly into the shallows of the oceans near-reaches; propelled by flippered-feet and guided by an expert to experience the underwater world through the lens of a mask while also maintain oxygen at a non life-threatening rate through a snorkel tube. Either way, the most important point is to get yourself out there to experience what Okinawa is really about.