Like me, you could be afraid of heights, but still love a good adventure. And like me, you may believe the best way to teach your children is to lead by example. Of course it is a little hard to push your kids to overcome their fears if you share those same fears, too.
A few weeks ago, I decided that getting over these phobias in a space that promises to make you feel secure even while it gets the adrenalin flowing, might be the answer. And so I headed to Clymb, the indoor skydiving and wall-climbing facility in Abu Dhabi, to see what (safe) adventures awaited, with my two boys, who are 9 and 7, in tow.
Clymb boasts the world's tallest indoor climbing wall, an intimidating prospect for someone like me, but the team promises anyone can scale this wall no matter their age or fitness ability.
After we put on our special shoes, our instructor Cyril started the session with a little warm-up. For about 10 minutes, we climbed sideways on a three-metre-high wall, did a few stretches, put on our harnesses and got ready for our first challenge: a 5.5-metre-high beginner's wall.
Helpfully, Cyril was on hand instructing us constantly as we climbed. Each part of the wall is different, so we alternated from one side to the other. Cyril would challenge us using the structure’s colour-coded holds.
“Now, you can only touch the grey and orange ones,” he’d exclaim, and my boys would excitedly look to follow in their rush to reach the summit.
At the start, the kids had a hard time finding their grasp and pulling themselves up, but we were able to reach the top within a few minutes. It was here that I faltered, and had a hard time letting myself go. I knew I was safe, but it took some encouragement. It was only after I saw my boys let themselves go so easily that I was finally able to do it, too.
Our confidence boosted, we were ready to move on to the next challenge. The intermediate wall is almost double the beginner's wall – 10 metres high to be exact – and that's when things got a little trickier.
The wall is not much harder technique-wise, but its height is intimidating. While my 7-year-old and I made it all the way to the top together, my eldest son decided to let go a little more than halfway through – which, at almost six metres, was the highest he's ever climbed and, as I reminded him, still an accomplishment.
Other walls, which are higher, require rope support – a skill that visitors from the age of 14 and above can sign up for. Some shorter walls, meanwhile, don't require a harness, and are focused on building strength.
While wall climbing is an activity my children are familiar with to an extent, the indoor skydiving was a totally new experience for them (I sat this one out). Once we were at Clymb's wind tunnel, which is the world's largest for indoor skydiving, we were lucky to see a team of professionals in training. It was like a show – and the boys were in awe.
The boys then met their instructor Richard Manalaysay, who gave them a body suit to put on top of their clothes. He escorted them into a training room, where they watched a video that explained the main body technique for skydiving, and the different signs the children and the instructor would use to communicate with each other inside the tunnel.
Each of the boys, equipped with ear plugs and a helmet, was given three rounds of a minute each. While the first two rounds focused on helping them find the right balance so they could fly, in the third round the instructor takes them a little higher.
It's amazing to see how children – and adults, too – get better with every step. Between the first and second rounds of skydiving, for example, my boys went from not knowing what to expect, to trying to remember everything they needed to do – and succeeding.
At the end, Manalaysay put on a little show for the children, flying in circles and up and down the tunnel. The kids left feeling a great sense of fulfilment, especially when they received certificates for both the activities.
Sanitising stations are widely available within the facility and we were constantly asked to sanitise our hands as we moved from one area to the other. Some walls had some missing holds in line with social distancing. Masks were required to be worn at all times, but were allowed to be lowered down during climbs.
Clymb Abu Dhabi is located on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi and can be accessed via Yas Mall. Coming from Saadiyat Island, you take the E10 exit and follow signs to Clymb Abu Dhabi.
For more information about tickets and special offers visit www.clymbabudhabi.com