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  1. Outdoors

Take It Outside Planner: Zip 'The Canyons,' surf without a board and float on the Blue Run

Haley Connor of Davenport scoots down the “Speed Trap,” one of nine zip lines at the Canyons in Ocala.
Published Sep. 2, 2015

ON HIGH: ZIP THE CANYONS

Florida flatlanders don't get many opportunities to enjoy a little elevation. Living at sea level, even driving over a little hill can give you a thrill. But head two hours north to "The Canyons" in Ocala, and you'll get all the height you can stand and more. The zip line complex, built atop a 94-acre limestone quarry, has the highest and longest wires in the state. It takes about 2 ½ to three hours to get through all nine zips, and unlike many complexes where you have to climb towers, most of the runs are cliff to cliff. The longest zip is "Speed Trap." It's 1,100 feet long, and at the peak, you are 135 feet off the ground. Canyons also has a special "Super Zip," where the rider lays prone, that measures 1,600 feet long and carries you 165 feet in the air. Be prepared for a workout. The entire course is about a mile long. There's a special, surprise rappel at the end that will test your nerves. As expected, with the longest, highest and fastest zips in the state, demand is high, so reservations are recommended. Cost is $96 per person. zipthecanyons.com.

HUMAN SURFBOARD: NO EQUIPMENT NEEDED

Back in my lifeguarding days on Clearwater Beach, my colleagues and I used to look forward to the high surf kicked up by passing summer storms. At the first hint of a wave, we'd grab our Churchill swim fins and head out into the breakers. The trick is to swim as hard as you can, stick out your arm and then "surf" your way into the beach. Who needs a board? Among hard-core wave riders — surfers, standup paddlers and boogie boarders — accomplished bodysurfers command the most respect. It is a sport that demands top physical conditioning, an intimate knowledge of the sea and a fearless disposition. The best part is that anybody can do it. Even you. It doesn't take much to get started. Just wait for a wave, stork and kick as hard as you can, and then when you feel the wave grab you, stick out your arm, palm down, and start surfing. The previously mentioned swim fins help you generate the speed needed to catch bigger waves. They also provide an added measure of safety in case you're caught in a rip or longshore current and need to get back to shore. Beginners should stick to smaller waves and beaches with a gradual slope. If you find yourself on a beach with a steep dropoff, it might not be the best place to learn how to bodysurf.

FLOAT ON: THE BLUE RUN

You know a local when they call the Rainbow River by its original name, Blue Run. The water's perfect — 74 degrees, 365 days a year — and so clear, you can see minnows swimming along the bottom. This well-known tubing and kayaking destination 100 miles north of Tampa Bay can get crowded on weekends, but go early on a weekday and you might have the 5.6-mile run all to yourself. You can paddle in a canoe or kayak, sit back and relax in an inner tube, or get your dive flag and swim with a mask and snorkel. The headwaters are a semicircular spring with four main boils. Just 14 feet at its deepest, the river features public swimming access at Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon, but many folks opt to drop their tubes and inflatable rafts in at K.P. Hole, a county park about a mile or so downstream. The state park also has a concessionaire that provides transportation up river and also rents tubes. The state-run tube facility is at 10830 SW 180th Ave., on the east side of the run, but will only be open on weekends after Sept. 27. floridastateparks.org.

HAVE SOME PRIDE: REP YOUR WATER

People come from all over the world to catch Florida tarpon. Here's your chance to show pride in your state. Rep Your Water donates 1 percent of its sales of apparel with Florida designs to the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. Price: $25. repyourwater.com.

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