Photo of the Day: Paragliding in France

Today’s positively ethereal image comes to us from Flickr user AdamJamesWilson, who captured this sky-high shot of a paraglider over Lake Serre-Poncon in Southeastern France. I love the image’s “vintage” muted colors, wisps of cloud and silhouetted figure all set against a glistening sun.

Taken any great photos during your travels? Why not add them to the Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Island of adventure: Brac, Croatia

We’re almost into a new year, so what better time to start planning for some new trips? While there are some great adventure destinations out there that have proven to be well-worth the journey, there are still some lesser known regions that have a lot to offer. One of these is the Island of Brac in Croatia, a region full of outdoor and adrenaline-pumping activities.

Hike up, or mountain bike down, the tallest peak in the Adriatic Islands

Standing at about 2,553 feet high is Vidova Gora, also known as Vitus Mount. From the top, you will be able to have an unobstructed view of beaches, mountain slopes, and some of the Dalmatia Islands. The trek consists of various terrain; at one point it may be rocky and steep while at other times the trail is low and sandy. The most popular hike on the island is from Vidova Gore to Blaca Hermitage.

It is also popular to mountain bike down the peak, which offers a thrilling way to see the scenery. Moreover, the island of Brac itself has a extensively developed network of white roads and single tracks for mountain biking. The paths have virtually no traffic, and the natural scenery of pine woods, olive fields, and secluded beaches combined with the mix of easy and challenging terrain makes this one picturesque adventure. For guided hikes and bike rides, contact Aldura Sport.Scuba dive underwater caves

Brac is home to some excellent scuba diving, especially because the island receives such little rainfall, making for very clear visibility. One great place is Lucica Cave, located in the biggest cove on the island on Brac’s southeast coast. The entrance to the cave is near the exit of the cove, about 10 feet underwater. Once you enter the aquatic cave, the average depth you will experience is about 58 feet, although at times it goes as deep as 134.5 feet. Once inside, you will be amazed at the expansiveness of the cave, as well as the size of the fish. If you’d like to take a diving course or go with a guide in Brac, some reputable operators include Amber Dive Center and Nautic Center Bol.

Windsurf or Kiteboard in the channel between Brac and Hvar Island

Make your way over to Bol on Brac Island and experience the ideal place for windsurfing. The channel between Brac Island and Hvar Island is well-known for its maestral winds that cause stable weather conditions that are perfect for windsurfing. The winds in this area are also stronger than anywhere else on the island, with mild winds in the morning, perfect for getting your practice in. Kiteboarding, water skiing, wake boarding, and para-sailing are also popular in this area. If you’re interested in windsurfing lessons, contact Aldura Sport. For kiteboarding, contact YellowCat Kiteboarding.

Rock climb in the Lozisca region

In Brac, there are over 100 rock climbing routes of varying intensities for visitors to enjoy. The climbing area in Lozisca, a village located in a simple stone glade, is the perfect place for beginner and intermediate climbers due to its variety of available routes. You can get to the village easily from the nearby areas of Sutivan and Supetar. Climbs in this area give participants great views of the the diverse landscape as rolling hills, green valleys, and shimmering water can be seen all at once. For a map of the routes with their intensity grades, click here. One popular tour company for this climb is Aldura Sport, who will give you 3 hours of climbing as well as a lesson to make sure you are prepared.

Sea kayak in an ideal location

The Island of Brac is a premier location for sea kayaking for people of all levels, mostly because of its predictability in terms of winds and currents. It is also very safe, as no matter where you are a beach is only 10 minutes away by kayak. The island also enjoys many areas with little tourism so the water and land can be enjoyed in a truly natural setting. For a more challenging kayaking adventure, the nearby islands of Hvar and Šolta are just few hours of paddling away.

Try the island’s popular sport of stand up paddle surfing

Stand up paddle surfing (SUP), which is a form of surfing that allows for increased visibility, can be done anywhere on Brac Island. One very natural route is Sutivan-Bobovišća. Begin at Sutivan and go along the northwest shore, paddling along a construction-free area of small pebble beaches with almost no boat traffic. For a longer, more challenging route, go all the way to Bobovišća, a town rich in cultural history.

Channel your inner circus performer and try slacklining

First introduced to Croatia during their annual extreme sports festival (see below), Slacklining has become a favorite adventure sport on Brac Island. Think of it as walking a tightrope, as participants walk on a flat nylon rope that is attached to two points. According to Eti Ljubetic Steka of Aldura Sport, one of the major adventure sports companies of Brac, “We usually do
it during the break of climbing sessions or after them during dinner time. For example, after climbing or biking, we take our groups to an authentic shepherd’s village for a traditional dinner, a lamb meal, and while waiting for the dinner we set up a slackline park in the village among the trees and have some fun.”

Attend the annual extreme sports festival, Vanka Regule, in July

For a week every July in Sutivan on Brac Island, peole flock from all over the world to attend the extreme sports festival, Vanka Regule. Since 1999, free climbing, trail running, sea kayaking, mountain biking, free diving, dry tooling, and more are enjoyed by attendees. Along with doing and watching active sports, there is a film festival to go along with the theme.

Video of the Day: Salt boarding

Some people love winter sports so much, they don’t give a hang if there’s an absence of snow. Check out this epic video, where a group of shredders hit the Utah Salt Flats for kicks at speeds up to 50 mph. The boards were supplied by snowboard company BLANK; no word on who handed out the road rash salve.

New website helps travelers find their next adventure

A new website promises to help adventure travelers find their next getaway, as well as discover new destinations they weren’t even aware of. The goal is to connect consumers with tour operators and guide services from around the globe, in an effort to make booking an adventurous holiday all the easier.

The recently launched Kumutu is the brainchild of CEO Ryan Off, who came up with the idea of an adventure travel aggregator after growing frustrated with other online options. The site already has more than 900 adventure travel companies already signed up, and they’re targeting to build that number to 20,000 by the year’s end. That means that consumers will have a wealth of options at their fingertips when it comes to booking their next trip, and online ratings and reviews will help us to decide if the option we are interested in is right for us.

As you would expect with similar websites, Kumutu offers you the option to search by activity, such as cycling, kayaking, mountaineering or by country, with nearly 60 destinations, including Antarctica, currently available. The approach is very straight forward, and easy to understand, with your options being presented in a quick, clean manner.

Perhaps the best way to search is by using the Kumutu map however. When this option is selected, you’re presented with a Google powered view of the world, with specific operators represented with a push-pin on the map. Clicking on a pin in the location of interest gives you a pop-up with a very brief description of the tours on offer. Clicking on the tour operators name will take you to a page that is specific to that company, with far more information about what they do and exactly what kinds of adventures they offer.

Kumutu is a nicely laid out and very easy to use travel aggregator, but we have seen a number of these types of sites pop up over the past year or two, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to stand out in the crowd. If they hit their goal of 20,000 tour operators by the end of the year however, Kumutu could become your one-stop shop for booking all of your future adventures.

Ten best “Extreme Ironing” stunts from around the world

Sometimes questions are better left unanswered. Like how a sport called “extreme ironing” has circumnavigated the globe, fascinating folks from France to Fiji. Described on the official website as the “latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well pressed shirt,” it’s an activity that is as much a sport as it is a hilarious performance art. Here are the most unique incarnations of this increasingly popular international craze. Get ready to be amazed and amused as participants from around the world make a new name for this mundane household chore:

1. England: Multi-Disciplinary Extreme Ironing
Since the thrilling sport of extreme ironing was born in the United Kingdom, it makes sense that they’ve mastered the art. This guy has more than one trick up his sleeve when it comes to finding ridiculous places to get the wrinkles out of his duds. I’m just not sure they always score that high when it comes to productivity…

2. Japan: Speed Ironing on a Mountain Board

Short and sweet – this guy knows how to get the chores done. In speedy fashion he gains ground heading down a grassy hill, iron in hand, and takes a bold turn right in time to graze the shirt awaiting him on his ironing board. Who says you can’t extreme iron in a city park – at least that works when adventuring in Japan.

3. USA: Ironing in Transit, on Road and over Water
At first you think these crazy guys are just tied in to the side of a moving van attached to a soldered ironing board, but after they round a few curves the “van” takes to the water… Magically, this dual-purpose craft allows for two extreme forms of ironing, and to these Massachusetts pranksters that means double the pleasure. I know the state has much more to offer than this ironing activity.

4. Scotland: Street Level Emergency Ironing
Apparently in Edinburgh there are circumstances under which emergency ironing is necessary. But luckily this popular pastime has quite a following in these parts, including this fellow who’s one call in case you need him to run down the street after your dress clothes, iron in tow. Just try and block out the corny chase scene music track.

5. Austria: Rappel-Ironing

I made an exception for this Austrian guy who didn’t have a video camera – the video collage he got his friends to help him make shows just how much time they’ve got on their hands. Extra points for the matching spandex outfit and brightly-painted house off which he rappels. I’m assuming he likes to chat with neighbors passing by while he irons shirts, but I can’t imagine he wears suits much at all.

6. England: Sky Dive Ironing Championship Training

You can sky dive in England, and you can iron, but you can also to both at the same time. In fact, there are leagues dedicated entirely to the sport and regularly compete on points of style and creativity in extreme sky dive surf ironing, or whatever the league calls themselves. Watch as the teams prep for the big dives, there are a lot of clothes ready to hit the board. On your next trip to the UK look out for local Extreme Ironing competitions, they actually exist and can be attended!

7. Egypt: Ironing Underwater in the Famous Blue Hole

It isn’t at all the first thing I’d think of when talking up Egyptian travel, but the famous Blue Hole, an incredible geographic asset in the middle the desert, has more possibilities than meets the eye. To this gal it was extreme ironing, and she succeeding in reaching her goal of being the first and only diver to iron at the bottom of this aquamarine-blue body of water.

8. England: Extreme Ironing Skydive
You think these two are just jumping out of a plane with snowboards attached to their feet, but before too long you see they’ve got other plans, to use the bottom of the board at the ironing surface for their own form of extreme ironing. I’m sure if you get in a few jumps on your next extreme sports adventure to England, that the instructor might let you try out some of these moves if the spirit moves you.

9. New Zealand: Extreme Ironing on a Mountaintop
I can picture these Kiwi guys arguing all the way up the mountain about who would carry the ironing board, but however they managed to drag it up there, it is one incredible place to iron. The view of snowy crags and a sea of rocky peaks makes for a nice ambiance, I’m just not sure it would be my first choice of activity after mountaineering to the top of this exquisite New Zealand Peak, but hey, that’s just me.

10. USA: Extreme Ironing on a Bike
I’m not sure how this guy justified assembling this very complex rigging in order to conquer his ironing while rolling through New York’s Central Prospect Park. I can only assume from his hilarious video that his thought many others would be interested in his design in order to replicate his fanciful strapping of a gasoline generator to a mountain bike and an ironing board. At least one of these extreme ironers actually ended up with a wrinkle-free shirt!