Does mollycoddling push us towards extreme sports?

As you know, if you are an avid reader of our blog (!!!), extreme sports, called by some – ‘dangerous pastimes’ – are booming.

The latest one I’ve heard about is ‘coasteering’. Ever heard of it?

It’s an extreme sport that is a physical activity that encompasses movement along the intertidal zone of a rocky coastline on foot or by swimming. It requires no boats, no ropes – just skill, fine judgement and bravery. A defining factor of coasteering is the opportunity provided by the marine coastline for moving in the “impact zone” where water, waves, rocks, gullies, caves etc, come together to provide a very high energy environment.

Wearing wetsuits, gloves and helmets, participants of this sport swim along the base of cliffs on coastlines, climb the rock faces, dive into the sea or into caves. This is where the fine judgement comes in, not least the bravery, as with waves crashing in and the tide swelling and ebbing, this can be a highly risky enterprise.

Learning can be physically exhausting as shown here by paulnod.

But also fun – ankleshock100.

Each extreme sport has its own fraternity. And among them is an hierarchy: most coasteerers, like experienced mountaineers, regard zorbers or bungee jumpers as dilettantes out for a quick thrill. “We take risks,” says Tom Fox, an experienced coasteer, “but we take them from a place of safety. We’re fit, we train and it’s not all about getting a quick fix of adrenaline. When we master our fears, the reward is huge. Everything is heightened and I feel good for days.”

So what is the psychology behind the urge to do an extreme sport? Is it the adrenaline pumping thrill we are after or are we just reacting against mollycoddling?

In the past this search for thrill was not necessary. There were enough wars and strife in people’s lives to keep that thirst at bay. But nowadays, for most of us, life has become pretty mundane and it’s not surprising that people are on the search for something to inspire them with the thrill to live – and live dangerously, if only for a few hours a week. As 35-year old teacher, Martin Ollerenshaw, a surfer, says, “If I don’t do it for a while, I feel prickly. I need to take those risks to feel fully human, fully alive. It’s about joy and intensity – it’s an escape from the mundane and the routine.”

When you consider the steady erosion of children’s freedom such as handstands, skipping ropes and conkers being banned from the playground, you shouldn’t be surprised at the surge of interest in extreme sports.

Adrenaline holidays are moving from a niche market to a mainstream one:

A Mintel survey of the adventure travel industry last April found that activity holidays had increased by 17.2% over 4 years, far more than the overall market – 2.8%. Tour operator Thomson, for example, has 20 dedicated brands serving 400,000 customers a year. Danger is an international industry.

And age is no barrier, though Mintel did find that participants are most likely to be between the ages of 20 to 44. However, plenty of over-40’s have a taste for danger too.

When you compare the danger element in extreme sports to day-to-day living – it compares quite favourably. For example, in England 150 Britons die every year taking part in adventure sports (and remember, they know the risks undertaken when doing their chosen sport), whereas accidents on the roads and in the home kill 6,000.

Quite something that, isn’t it?!

Times are slowly beginning to change though and the world is slowly beginning to wake up to the fact that governance has over-mollycoddled the populace. There are signs that the tide is finally beginning to turn. As Ken Way, a sports psychologist, says: “If we remove risk from our lives we never find out our strengths and weaknesses. We stagnate.” Simon Barnes, a sportswriter, agrees. He says “some people think it’s got something to do with a death wish (extreme sports). It’s not. LIFE wish, more like.”

We couldn’t say it better than that…

We’ll end with a video from extremityTV highlighting the never-ending search for a challenge – and also highlighting what we love to write about.

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