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Sky high.

Something didn't feel quite right. Suspended seven metres above the ground, the sight of a coffee shop down below reminded me that I had forgotten breakfast.

Believe me, things got even more surreal as my intrepid side was slowly eked out of me at the UAE's new adrenalin-junky superstore, Adventure HQ.

Unlike the average-sports or outdoor-pursuits shop, this place has been built with real challenges in mind.

The endless rows of breathable clothing, specialist equipment and impressive gadgets take up residence as one would expect. The giant climbing pinnacle, aerial cable climb and minus-25-degree chill chamber? Well, that came as a bit of a surprise.

It's the first store (flagship at 30,000 square feet) dedicated to adventure pursuits and it's perfect for those with a passion for the big, wide outdoors.

But when I next found myself clambering EoAC" the only way I could possibly describe my lame attempt at what's more commonly known as rock climbing EoAC" up a specially crafted 30-foot climbing wall, it became suddenly apparent that this store is about so much more than fancy things to buy for your next camping trip.

"Adventure HQ was created out of a passion for outdoor adventure and the genuine desire to inspire more people to experience outdoor life," said Sam Whittam, general manager and founder. "Sure, we are here to sell products but we are also here to encourage the people of the UAE to get out there and enjoy the natural wonders the country has to offer."

Try before you buy

In a bid to live up to this, Adventure HQ offers a huge range of equipment on a try-before-you-buy basis.

"Products such as bikes, kayaks, coolers and tents will be available for rent," Whittam added. "Then if you enjoy your experience you can decide to purchase the product and a rebate of the rental price will be offered against the purchase. It's a win-win situation for all."

It's the one-stop-destination for all outdoor adventure equipment for a diverse range of active lifestyle pursuits including fishing, diving, kayaking, kite surfing, falconry, camping, hiking, cycling and off-roading to name a few.

And who better to have on board than UAE national adventurer Elham Qasimi as the brand ambassador. Last year Elham became the first Emirati to embark on an unassisted, last-degree expedition to the North Pole and, by doing so, became the first Arab woman to set foot there.

"There is so much to see and do in the UAE," said the Emirati. "It's important to show people what is on their doorstep, waiting to be explored."

Adventure HQ is a unique environment where you can actually get your hands dirty and give things a go. Facilities include the only Climbing Pinnacle and Cable Climb (Dh50 per session EoAC" unlimited time when not busy) in a store-environment and more daring adventurers can experience the coolest place in town: a minus-25-degree Chill Chamber EoAC" designed to put ski and snow gear to the test in frosty temperatures.

A pro-bike workshop is the centrepiece of the bike aisles, designed by European pro-bike mechanic Mark "Funky" Howard. Cycling enthusiasts, and anyone who fancies getting behind the handlebars for the first time are catered for in every way.

"You don't have to buy a thing," said avid cyclist Whittam. "It's about developing a passion for adventure. Come and try the wall. Challenge yourself."

Feeling extreme?

Here are five things to try.

n Caving: Muscat Diving and Adventure Centre. Call 050-3289642.

n Camping: Need some help with locations and advice? Call Absolute EoACA Adventure on 04-3459900.

n Climbing: Dorell Sports. Call 04-3065061.

n Cycling: Dubai Roadsters. Visit www.dubairoadsters.com

n Stand-up paddling: Abu Dhabi Stand Up Paddle. Visit www.uaesup.com

My verdict

The aerial cable climb is one of the oddest experiences I've ever had. When you skydive you have little control as someone jumps out of a aircraft and you're attached. On this, it's all about you. Your steps, your footing, your strength. One wrong foot and you would be left hanging above the mesmerised onlookers down below. I challenge anyone to give it a go.

The Adventure Club

Staying true to its motto of encouraging the public to become more adventurous, Adventure HQ launches The Adventure Club. It's free to join and gives customers the opportunity to pick up member-only offers and get involved with events (both inside and outdoors) organised by Adventure HQ.

Find out more

For more information or to sign up for The Adventure Club, visit EoACA www.adventurehq.ae or www.facebook.com/AdventureHQme

Sam Whittam, founder of Adventure HQ,

with national adventurer Elham Qasimi

The mid-air obstacle course

Bicycles, kayaks and other

equipment are available on rent

The rock-climbing wall

Adventure HQ not only offers sports gear

but also encourages and inspires people

to enjoy the great outdoors

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Jul 9, 2011
Words:821
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