There's a new way to rise above it all--Parabouncing.
With the help of a good harness, a couple of friends and a 21-foot-diameter, helium-filled balloon, the free spirited can soar up to 100 feet off the ground.
"We've done all the extreme stuff," said Jeff Gendelman of Santa Monica, one of the two men who developed the Parabounce. "But what attracts me to this is it's so safe and fun. It's for people who don't want to hang glide or parachute, but still want to experience weightlessness."
Along with his partner, Stephen Meadows of Los Angeles, Gendelman founded the company One Giant Leap and set out to improve upon the sport of balloon hopping, which, surprisingly, began in the early 1900s but died out during World War I.
The two inventors hired blimp and hot-air balloon builders to update the design with an eye toward safety. The balloon was outfitted with ripstop nylon, and the harness was constructed from military-type nylon webbing with stainless-steel locking carabiners. So, unlike latex or rubber balloons, the Parabounce cannot burst.
The new balloon immediately grabbed the attention of national media. It was featured on NBC's "Today" show last week and also will debut on the cover of Hammacher Schlemmer's fall catalog. "Entertainment Tonight" and "Leeza" are also on board to do segments about the contraption.
(Of course, it doesn't hurt that Meadows is married to talk show host Leeza Gibbons. When Gibbons strapped on the flying contraption in Los Angeles, she termed the experience "a gas.")
"You don't have to be a macho athlete to do this," said Gendelman. "Anyone from 8 to 80 can do it."
But if you want to own one, the price might bring you back down to Earth. It's $12,000 from Hammacher Schlemmer. Also, you need about 4,800 cubic feet of helium, which costs between $200 and $600, to fill the Parabounce balloon.
Half of the profits from the Parabounce go to children's charities. Two charitable events featuring Parabouncing are scheduled for Sept. 25 at Griffith Park and Sept. 26 at the Century Plaza Hotel.
For more information about the charity events, call (310) 855-0366. For information about the Parabounce, visit the company's Web site at http://www.parabounce.com.