Virgin Islands Extreme and Adventure Sports
Some of Youtube’s most popular videos are compilations of people doing extraordinary things like free climbing vertical rock walls, wing suit flying, and extreme surfing. Honestly, when I watch people doing the near impossible, I well up a little. The discipline, physical mastery and fearlessness needed to accomplish these death-defying feats gives me hope for our species. This human potential inspires me, especially while I’m exercising my coffee cup lifting muscle from the safety of my desk.
While marketers would have you believe it’s the adrenaline rush that pushes these athletes to pursue superhuman challenges, science proves otherwise. Adrenaline spikes are unpleasant, causing the fight or flight response – heart rate and blood pressure go up and respiration becomes rapid and shallow. Think of a near miss on the road or being unprepared for a speech in front of a huge crowd. Not something you want to repeat.
When you get high from extreme sports the neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are all elevated. This activates the reward center of the brain and creates the sensation of heightened sensory perception and great pleasure.
Fortunately, years of training and a natural athletic prowess are not necessary to get a taste of this extreme sports feeling. The Virgin Islands offers many opportunities to get you off your duff and get those happy hormones and neurochemicals pumping.
What’s the Buzz: Vigor, heightened senses, and a feeling of wellbeing and power
Where to get it:
Zip through the rainforest canopy of St. Thomas at an exhilarating and completely safe 35 miles per hour! Have your run of six zip lines, including the world famous Yo-Yo zip, which allows you to travel backward and forward on the same line for the ultimate zip trip! This 2 ½ hour tour starts at 1400 feet above sea level. From towering St. Peter Mountain you will bask in the views of Magen’s Bay and the BVIs from eight aerial platforms and two incredible sky bridges as your ACCT trained guides lead you through an experience of a lifetime.
Shark Week has just passed, *sad face* but don’t let that stop you. Every week is Shark Week at Coral World Ocean Park! Meet these magnificent and misunderstood creatures eye to cold, dark eye. After your orientation session, a guide will take you to Shark Shallows, where you will have an opportunity to enter a pool housing a variety of juvenile sharks that inhabit the waters of the US Virgin Islands. Experience the thrill of viewing the sharks up close from above and below the water as they circle the pool.
Jump from a plane at 10,500 feet for fun! Booyah! If that’s not getting high, I don’t know what is. At Skydive VI you can land your parachute, with the aid of your tandem instructor, on the West Side beaches of St. Croix, or experience free-fall over the mangrove coves of St. Thomas or the cays of Tortola. Whichever location you choose, you will never forget what your neurotransmitters do during the breathtaking, unexplainable experience of skydiving with Skydive Virgin Islands.
Keep on getting higher with a thirty-minute helicopter tour over the East End of St. Thomas, the North Shore of St. John or the West End of Tortola with Caribbean Buzz Helicopters. For more of a rush, try the Hello Sunshine tour – a doors off, wind in your face, 30 minutes of exhilarating helicopter fun. More of a night flyer? How about a full moon tour around St. Thomas and St. John? See the spectacular St. Thomas city lights and the diamond flashes of moonlight off the dark night seas from aloft. In operation for more than 20 years, Caribbean Buzz is extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of domestic and international aviation and offers luxury transportation in addition to tours.
Virgin Islands Cocktails and Cigars
Neurotransmitters either stimulate or inhibit brain electrical activity. The effects of our wacky friend alcohol does a little bit of both. Alcohol increases the effects of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which causes lack of coordination and slurred speech. At the same time, alcohol suppresses the neurotransmitter glutamate, which results in a type of physiological slowdown. Combine the drunk feeling of rising GABA and falling glutamate with alcohol’s coup de grâce, a spike of dopamine, and you get party time!
Nicotine also increases dopamine, but unlike alcohol, raises glutamate, the excitatory chemical involved in learning, memory and enhanced connection between neurons. Nicotine also produces endorphins. These small proteins are the body’s natural painkiller. The chemical structure of endorphins is very similar to morphine and leads to feelings of euphoria.
What’s the Buzz: Lack of inhibition, arousal, relaxation, and feelings of pleasure
Where to get it:
Brothers Whit McFarlane and Griffin McFarlane craft small batch artisanal sugarcane distilled vodka out of their St. Thomas distillery – the first vodka distillery in the Virgin Islands. ARC Vodka has a smooth, crisp flavor with no chemicals, dyes, or additives, and none of the harsh aftertaste of commercially produced spirits. The brothers combine their purest of vodkas with fresh organically grown fruits, herbs, & spices sourced exclusively in the Caribbean to create exquisite and unique flavors that have become the rage with locals and tourists alike. The ARC bottles are little works of art in themselves and make the perfect gift.
Continuing the Virgin Islands renaissance of craft distilleries run by brothers, John and Joe Brugos are dedicated to distilling high-quality rum, vodka, and gin, crafted with great attention to detail and authenticity. Virgin Islands Craft Distillers join the growing group of local small batch distilleries creating fine spirits in the Virgin Islands. Locally sourced bush tea botanicals go into their gin, local sugar cane is the base for their rum, and hand picked ingredients are infused or blended to taste as gorgeous as the islands they come from.
Native islander Akil “Pete” Petersen tours the world to source the finest cigars for his Virgin Islands clientele. Every cigar is selected for its quality tobacco with sumptuous flavor and for excellent craftsmanship. Contact Pete directly for wholesale or for events. Pete offers custom humidors and cigar bands for special occasions or corporate branding. Find A.P. Cigars at Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort, Caneel Bay Resort, Mahogany Run Golf Course, and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.
Virgin Islands Meditation and Yoga
MRI scans show that after an eight-week course of meditation practice, the brain’s fight or flight center, the amygdala, shrinks. This region of the brain, associated with fear, is involved in the initiation of the body’s response to stress. As the amygdala shrinks, the pre-frontal cortex – associated with higher brain functions such as awareness, concentration and decision-making – becomes thicker. Many activities boost the size of the pre-frontal cortex (typing this article, for example) but it’s the disconnection from the amygdala, the brains stress center, that gives rise to the mental health benefits of meditation such a lower stress and feelings of peace, focus and clarity.
Quiet asana, pranayama and yogic meditation activate the parasympathetic nervous system which leads to relaxation. Vigorous practices like vinyasa and breath retention, in turn, activates the energizing sympathetic nervous system. The key is a balance – vigorous practice followed by relaxation techniques to deepen the parasympathetic response. This combination leads to extreme feelings of wellbeing and bliss.
What’s the Buzz – Wellbeing, connectedness and transcendence
Where to get it:
Believe me, you get the best kind of high – a sustainable and healthy one – from practicing yoga and meditation. I speak from experience; I’ve practiced both for over 25 years. I know you can amplify this experience even further (even though I can’t find the research to back it up) by practicing yoga upside down. Point Wellness is the only authentic anti-gravity aerial yoga suspension studio in the Virgin Islands. The studio, located on St. John, was launched by the originator/creator of the aerial yoga fitness genre, Christopher Harrison, and utilizes the original, patented Harrison Hammocks.
May Trieu, a Chinese Buddhist born in Vietnam during the Vietnam War, has realized her dream of building the first Buddhist temple in the Caribbean. The Nirvana Temple in Estate Mandahl, St. Thomas is is a wonder to see; both classic and a fusion, the three building temple compound borrows from Chinese, French, Mediterranean and Caribbean architectural styles. May Trieu – a doctor of acupuncture, reflexology and acupressure – built the temple to promote love, compassion and a spiritual life. Yoga classes are offered each Sunday and meditation practice and sangha is offered on Wednesdays.
The Courtyard, located in downtown Christiansted, offers all things healthy and new-age including vegetarian fare and baked goods, local art, a community bulletin board and a full schedule of wellness classes. Get your happiness fix with yoga, hula hoop, belly dancing, floor barre, poi, TRX, and a variety of workshops in their open-air studio located above the palm tree covered courtyard and dining area. Classes are offered six days a week. Enjoy a glass of wine at the juice bar after class and continue the high!
It is our human condition to be driven by our neurochemicals; if we weren’t, we’d never get off the couch. Love, ambition, happiness – these are all a type of high or buzz. Life looked at through this lens is a great equalizer. Technically, there are only four things that we enjoy (DOSE):
how we get them is another story.
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