It seems that each year we see several new extreme sports come to light. It’s surprising how much time thrill seekers put into finding new activities to test their bodies and minds. This article details some of the most interesting extreme sports around at the moment.
Powerbocking is running, jumping and moving around in spring-loaded stilts. The stilts consist of two foot plates which have snowboard-style foot bindings, rubber foot pads and a fibreglass leaf spring. Using only their bodyweight and some movement, most users can jump 1-1.5 metres off the ground and run at speeds of up to 20 mph. The average user can also take 9 foot (2.7 metre) strides in the spring-loaded stilts.
For some, powerbocking is an extension of free running, and it allows users to jump, run and perform acrobatics which they couldn’t otherwise. The spring-loaded stilts have been around a while and are being applied to a number of different sports and hobbies.
Limbo-skating is growing in popularity. It’s the art of doing the limbo on a pair of roller skates, and requires flexibility, strength and balance.
Image: Will Merydith
Children all over the world are becoming aware of limbo skating, and the unofficial world champion was found in India. Aniket Chindak successfully managed to limbo underneath 57 cars in 45 seconds, having started skating at just eighteen months of age.
Racing down an active volcano at speeds of up to 50mph might seem like lunacy, but it’s growing in popularity. That’s why thousands of travellers head to the foothills of Nicaragua’s Cerro Negro each year to surf the 2, 380 foot volcano. Protective jump suits, knee pads and helmets are used to protect participants as they race down the volcano on specialist plywood boards.
Image: Peter Gene
Slackliners use nylon webbing stretched between two points. It’s like tightrope walking but the line is not taut – it is loose, stretching, bouncing, and making participants life more difficult. The degree of slackness can be adjusted to suit the user, and its dynamic nature means that special tricks and stunts can be performed on a slackline which cannot be performed on a tightrope. It might not seem that extreme, but enthusiasts have slacklined at heights of up to 3, 280 feet. Despite this, tricklining or low-lining is more popular; where the slackline is set-up just a few feet from the ground, allowing participants to attempt more risky stunts and spectators to get a better view.
Jousting is a game which emerged in the middle ages, based on the use of lances by heavy cavalry in warfare. It became a sport of nobles before it was superseded by equestrian sports from the 17th century onwards. Jousting is where two knights on horses ride towards each other high speed and attempt to strike each other with long lances, attempting to break the opponent’s lance or send them off their horse.
Image: Jeff Kubina
Since the 1970s there has been some renewed interest in jousting and jousting re-enactments. Now a TV show is bringing real jousting back. Full Metal Jousting is the work of Shane Adams, a Canadian with 17 international jousting championships under his belt. The show, which is produced for History Television, follows 30 keen enthusiasts as they attempt to become real jousting knights with Shane’s tuition. It’s an extreme sport, so broken bones and fractures are par for the course.
Extreme Ironing, or EI, is a tongue-in-cheek extreme sport and performance art which sees participants taking irons and ironing boards to remote, extreme locations and doing their ironing. Locations have included mountainsides, forests, in boats, during ski trips, on top of statues, in the street, underwater and even on the middle of the M1 motorway in the UK. In the photo below you can see two keen extreme ironers carrying an ironing board in a wheelbarrow to the top of Snowdon.
Free Running and Parkour have been around a while, and are basically the same thing. Acrobatics in an urban environment. Free runners use urban structures as obstacles to run between, jump, vault and somersault over. The difference in definition is that free runners will go from A to B in as stylish a manner as possible, while Parkour traceurs will get between the two points in the quickest and most fluid way possible.
Big Wave Surfing
Surfing itself is often seen as an extreme sport, but mucking about in foot-high waves is nothing compared to big wave surfing. Big waves refer to waves that are at least twenty feet in height, and surfing these monsters requires special boards, skills and tactics. A lot of the skill can just be in predicting these waves and being in the right place at the right time.
Garret McNamara broke the big wave surfing record back in November 2011, surfing a 78 foot wave in Portugal. He had to wait six months for the Guinness World Record team and a number of surfing photography experts to confirm that the wave was indeed the biggest ever surfed.
Base jumping is parachute jumping from fixed positions, and BASE stands for the four types of fixed objects that can be used; buildings, antennas (towers), span (a bridge, arch or dome) and earth (a cliff or natural formation). Where BASE jumping differs is that it uses smaller parachutes than that which are used for skydives, as they need to be deployed quickly at lower speeds.
BASE jumpers don’t tend to use reserve parachutes, as there wouldn’t even be time to deploy it. A 150m freefall can take just 5 seconds so jumpers need to be quick on the draw.
Valery Rosov, a Russian BASE jumper recently broke the record for the highest starting point for a BASE jump in the Indian Himalayas. The 47 year old jumped from the 21, 500 foot mountain and took just 90 seconds to reach the bottom and enter the record books.
For many people skydiving is the ultimate high. What could be more extreme than jumping out of an aeroplane at 14, 000 feet and freefalling towards the ground? Well forget a tandem skydive from just a few thousand feet, what about a skydive from a height of 120, 000 feet? One Austrian man is currently putting the plans in place to do just that.
Felix Baumgartner is a skydiver and BASE jumper, who has a number of other unique achievements under his belt including the lowest BASE jump, the highest parachute jump from a building and being the first man to cross the English Channel in free-fall. Baumgartner’s “spacedive” will start from the edge of space; 26.7km in the sky.
Felix will need to wear a pressurised suit for the jump to maintain air pressure and supply him with oxygen. It’s like a NASA spacesuit but even tougher, functioning at temperatures as low as minus 70c. If the integrity of the suit is compromised at any point his body tissue could swell and the moisture could boil.
If the jump is successful, he will beat a record held for over fifty years by US Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger, who jumped from a balloon at 102, 800 feet and is an advisor on the project. It’s expected that Felix will be the first man to break the sound barrier without the use of a machine or vehicle.