The very young sport of snowboarding, probably never even dreamed of by the Greeks, was one of this year’s Olympics star attractions. It’s exciting to watch, it’s challenging and new, and more and more young people are pushing the envelope of their fear and physical abilities.
There are nine-and-twenty explanations for why our youth are gravitating toward the sometimes-dangerous extreme sports, but one thing is for certain – they are increasing in popularity every day. The hallmark is the “adrenaline rush” you get from participating, similar to the feeling you have when riding a roller coaster, but marked as well with feelings of accomplishment and self-esteem.
You may have known all that, or been able to figure it out on your own. What you may not know is that extreme sports do not have to be dangerous, and you can participate in them provided you’re in reasonably good health. You don’t even have to have the years of practice many extreme sports athletes have for certain sports.
Snowboarding, Rock Climbing, Free Falling, Cave Diving: Types of Sports
Notice any common denominator in the list of sports above? If you said that they are all outside, and that they all involve extreme terrain, I’d say you were right.
Extreme sports are perfect for people who love outdoor activities, and any outdoorsman can participate in extreme activities in his or her own sport and type of terrain. For instance, do you love hiking? Take it a step further and try caving, rock-climbing, rappelling, or whitewater rafting. Any of these activities provides you with the adrenaline high that extreme sports lovers are seeking.
And the youth culture of today did not invent extreme sports, though marketers certainly make it seem as if they did. Downhill skiing, surfing, mountain climbing, scuba diving – these are all extreme sports as well.
For a low investment of time to develop skills, go for whitewater rafting or caving. With a responsible guide, you can jump right into these sports. Tandem skydiving is another low time investment sport, with everyone from beginner skydivers to grandmothers doing it.
But participating in an extreme sport, whether it’s an easy one or a harder one, is only part of the challenge. The other part is doing it without dying – and for that, you need to know how to stay safe.
Extreme Sports Safety
The primary rule in any extreme sport is to never participate alone. Extreme sports typically have an element of danger, even the ones like caving that seem almost sedate. You can die participating, and if you are injured and alone, you have a serious problem.
You should always wear the proper safety gear for your sport, whether it’s helmets, extra lines for climbers, or something as simple as chalking your hands for grip. If you’re a beginner and you’re participating without the guidance of an instructor, talk to the salespeople at a sports equipment shop about what you should do to keep yourself safe.
Always take a cell phone with you, and if you’re traveling out into the wilderness, a phone or PDA with GPS capability can save your life. That brings up another issue: extreme sports tend to be performed in the wilderness, without an audience.
Extreme Sports Conditions
Besides being prepared for your sport, you should also be prepared for any special conditions involved in getting to your sports site. Caving, rappelling, kayaking, rafting, rock climbing – all these sports typically involve a lengthy trek to a relatively wild area.
For this reason, you should be prepared to camp, even if you don’t plan to camp. Bring a first aid kit with you including Benadryl, calamide lotion, and cortisone creams – the most common problems in the wilderness are skin irritation caused by plant and insect venoms.
Assume the worst is going to happen and for some reason, you won’t be able to drive out of the wilderness on the day you want to go home – bring blankets, a change of clothing, and sufficient food and clean water, or water purification tablets. If the worst doesn’t happen, you’ve taken up a little space in your vehicle, but if it does happen, you’ve just saved yourself a lot of misery.
Know what the weather conditions are going to be in the location of your extreme sport, and dress and prepare accordingly. If particularly bad weather is expected, like a snowstorm or heavy rains (which can cause flash floods and, worse, cave flooding), at least consider rescheduling. Playing an extreme sport on this exact weekend probably isn’t worth your life.
Choose Your Extreme Sport Carefully
There are dozens of extreme sports, and one of them is perfect for you.
If you are out of shape and need to get more active, consider extreme sports that will get you into the wilderness and hiking a lot. This both removes the temptation of fast food joints and gets you to be physically active right away. Good choices for this are rough-terrain hiking (planning for frequent rests), caving, climbing with a rope, whitewater rafting, and rappelling. Look for the sorts of sports that you can branch out from as you get in shape. For instance, if you love caves, you can start with easy caving and gradually build up to cave rappelling, cave diving, and wild caving.
If you’re in shape and looking for a sport with excitement that suits you, you’ll have a much wider range of choices. Start with the things you already love. If swimming is your thing, it’s an easy move to surfing, whitewater kayaking, and any of the million types of diving from snorkeling to cave diving.
If you prefer competitive sports, look around. Extreme sports are making some headway into the broadcast sports world, and snowboarding is now an Olympic event. Look for emerging sports, like extreme walking – yes, extreme walking, also called buildering, which is more like gymnastics on walls, railings, and rooftops. Don’t do any sport that is just outright stupid, like elevator surfing or car surfing; these aren’t sports so much as methods for committing suicide.
Above all, never get so carried away that you forget your safety. Your partners should help keep you safe, but ultimately, you’re the one making the decisions to do or not do something.