SUP is easy. Until you fall off. Paddlestroke SUP offers a beginner lesson that teaches basic strokes, how to maneuver, and, most important, how to get back onto the board if you take an unintentional swim. The two-hour lesson, in Potomac near Old Angler’s Inn, is $49. After mastering the basics, you can rent a board from a variety of spots in the area. The most beautiful place to SUP in DC is on a tree-lined section of the Potomac at Fletcher’s Boathouse. You can even paddle to two small waterfalls. Rentals are $22 an hour. Or get a season pass good at all Boating in DC locations for $249.
Want to scale a vertical wall like Spiderman? REI offers a half-day Intro to Climbing class ($120) at Carderock in Maryland—one of the first rock-climbing destinations in the US, with rock faces that can be 60 feet high. Carderock is but a steppingstone to even sheerer cliffs at Great Falls and the 300-foot-high cliffs at Seneca Rocks, West Virginia. Raining? You can practice at an indoor climbing wall, such as Earth Treks in Arlington and Rockville or Sportrock Climbing Centers in Sterling and Alexandria. Day passes are $20 to $26.
Learn to swing through the air with the greatest of ease—that is, suspended in a harness 25 feet in the air above a safety net. The problem with trapeze is that it can be addictive: Every time you learn a trick, you may want to try a new, more complicated one. The DC branch of Trapeze School New York, near the Navy Yard, offers a beginner class ($50) in which you learn a knee hang—as it sounds, you hang from a bar by your knees and have the option of doing a backflip into the net. In another session, you’ll learn the heels-off trick: Tucking your body into a ball with your heels on the bar, you launch yourself forward toward a “catcher.” By the end, you may want to join the circus.
Polo is the sport of kings. But you don’t need to be a king or even a duke to learn this tactical, adrenaline-pumping sport in which horses can accelerate up to 30 miles an hour. You don’t even have to own a horse—or know how to ride one. Seneca Polo in Poolesville offers beginner clinics each month ($120), while Mountain View Polo in Charles Town, West Virginia, has one-hour private lessons for beginners ($80, or $325 for five lessons).
Washington is a first-rate place to sail—and you can learn the ropes of a small boat in just one weekend at either the Washington Sailing Marina in DC ($430) or Belle Haven Marina in Alexandria ($450). Bigger ambitions? Learn to helm a yacht on the Chesapeake Bay in a three-day certification course at Annapolis Sailing School ($825). Either way, sailing may become a lifelong adventure.
This article appears in the July 2021 issue of Washingtonian.