Tim Roxborogh relives his youthful glories on the GC.
It was like high school PE class all over again, though blessedly minus the Lynx deodorant favoured by teenage boys in the 90s. Those memories of nervously awaiting your turn to bounce over the beam, or do a long jump, or a forward-roll and hoping you don't stuff up with everyone watching. Only this time it was three days of it on the Gold Coast and the beam, long jump and forward rolls had been switched out for indoor skydiving, jet-skiing, walking in an elevated rainforest and zip-lining.
Some students hated PE, but as a bespectacled schoolboy with decent hand-eye, I used it as a means of showing off and surprising people who assumed I'd be unco-ordinated.
"I can't believe you're not unco!" was said to me so often in those pre-Daniel Vettori years and the exhilaration of being declared "not unco!" was never anything short of immense.
Twenty years later and though the glasses have gone and the kilos have arrived, the determination to appear "not unco!" in front of others remains strong. Which made this action-packed three-day jaunt on the GC all the more fun.
First point of call was for a spot of mid-morning indoor skydiving. Why not? I'd already flown once that morning — across the Tasman — though this was going to be just a fraction different. Close to the beach in Surfers Paradise, iFly Indoor Skydiving gets you simulating a 14,000ft jump by blowing you around a clear, glass tube with jet-propelled winds around 250km/h.
You enter the tube one-on-one with the trainer while the other skydivers sit and watch how well you've remembered the instructions about turning, dipping, spinning and rising.
Too much fun. The wind grows in force and before you know it you're suspended in the air. Your cheeks and lips wobble like a happy dog hanging out of a car window and the whole experience is surreal.
After a minute or so you fly back to the door, are high-fived by your fellow skydivers and hope they've decided you weren't too unco for a first-timer. One lady in our group was in her mid-70s and seeing her overcome some very visible nerves was awesome.
Once you've done a few flights it's helmets off, goggles removed, ear-buds out and, away from the thunderous wind jets, you can compare your flying yarns. I'd love to do it again.
From skydiving to "skywalking", the next calorie-burning stop on the GC was in the lush Hinterland, less than an hour from the beach. Cooler, mountainous and drenched in green, this is a side of the Gold Coast far removed from the brashness of Surfers. The Tamborine Forest Skywalk takes you on 1.5 kilometres of forest trails, highlighted by 300m of steel bridges weaving high into the canopy.
The walk takes about 45 minutes, criss-crosses 30 acres of forest and encompasses a significant breeding ground for rare butterflies. If you're passionate about rainforests and the benefits of eco-tourism, Tamborine Rainforest should be a Gold Coast must-visit.
This elevated "skywalk" is one of the easiest ways to experience it.
Continuing the altitudinal theme, it was a short drive to a place that modestly bills itself as "the most extreme adventure attraction on the Gold Coast". Treetop Challenge, as part of Thunderbird Park, is something of a rugged theme park in the forest. Rope courses and rock climbing are among the activities, but it's no question that the star attractions are the zip lines of the "Canyon Flyer".
With harnesses tightly secured, the Canyon Flyer at Treetops has you more than 60m above the ground, travelling at speeds up to 70km/h. Zipping backwards and forwards across scenic Cedar Creek Canyon, we were a varied bunch including tourists from India and China.
As is often the case with a zip-lining operation (and they're springing up everywhere — this was my third time after forests in Rotorua and northern Thailand), the guides were young and energetic and gave every indication they really liked their job.
The same was true for my first time on a jet-ski. The following morning I was back on the coast and snaking my way through the mangrove forests and white sand beaches around South Stradbroke Island.
I'd wrongly consigned jet-skis to being an obnoxious relic of tacky places like Pattaya in the 90s, but things changed as soon as I saw the big grins of Dave Grohl and his Foo Fighters bandmates on the photo wall at Jet Ski Safaris.
If it's good enough for Dave (who'd visited a couple of years ago), it's good enough for me. And it turns out — shock horror! — that speeding over calm waters in 30C heat while exploring subtropical islands is actually a lot of fun. Who knew?
The obnoxious factor is greatly reduced as Jet Ski Safaris keep their guests and skis on a tight, polite leash within the marina before letting you loose well away from anybody else.
The waterways of the Gold Coast are genuinely beautiful and that was the reason I gave for being the slowest in the group.
I'm sticking by the story. It's fair to say that if it had been high school PE then I wouldn't have impressed anyone.
"I can't believe you're not unco!" said no-one when I was the last to park up my jet-ski.
But how attractive had those islands and waterways been? Luckily I was going slow enough to see them.
Getting there: Air New Zealand flies from Auckland to the Gold Coast.
Further information: See queensland.com.