Coronavirus lockdowns fuel skydiving, hot air balloon interest

People are looking for alternative, outdoor activities because of COVID-19 restrictions

Skydiving, hot air balloon rides and other bookings for thrill-seeking outdoor activities are taking flight as businesses that cater to adrenaline junkies reopen for business in time for the Independence Day weekend.

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“People are wanting to get out of the house and do something exciting,” Kelvin Wilkerson, a drop zone manager at Skydive Central in Maiden, North Carolina, told FOX Business Thursday.

Outdoor activity companies like skydiving are reopening for business. (iStock)

Skydive Central stopped advertising to save money when the business shut down in March, but Wilkerson says he’s been getting more calls than he was last year without paying to promote the business, which reopens Saturday. Wilkerson says the skydiving company is adhering to CDC guidelines and will give temperature checks to its staff members and uphold mask-wearing policies.

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The uncertainty surrounding the virus has sparked a “you only live once" notion, perhaps motivating some lucky to be healthy enough to consider crossing off more daring bucket list experiences that promote a sense of feeling reenergized, psychologists say.

“This whole pandemic has sort of changed people’s view on life in a way," Dr. Brittany LeMonda, a senior neuropsychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, said. "Those who are alive and healthy are saying, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, if this is something I’m going to do, I’m going to do it.’”

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The extreme outdoor activities is likely a way to compensate for the lack of more routine activities, which have been denied to most people because of lockdown orders, that help stimulate the pleasure centers in the brain.

“We’ve seen in the past when people, for whatever reason, have to cut back on the normal day-to-day activities that might bring them joy or excite them," LeMonda said. "We haven’t been able to go out to dinner, or go to the gym, we don’t get that same endorphin response and we might be looking for ways to get that in an extreme way because we haven’t had that in so long. The outdoor aspect coupled with the desire and need for this kind of pleasure gratification really makes sense.”

Above the Clouds, a hot air balloon company based in Middletown, New York, reopened this week with less than 50 percent capacity and sending up six riders per basket as opposed to their typical eight. Deana DeRosa, the company's logistics coordinator, says she's been fielding hundreds of calls since they reopened and have already booked engagements and small groups.

"We’ve had a huge spike in people who are wanting to try something new," De Rosa said. "They want to do some cool stuff and cross it off the bucket list people are realizing how quickly life can change."

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