Each extreme sport seems to have a dedicated core of enthusiasts who not only do things that seem completely outrageous to the rest of us, but also seem to speak a different language. To help you communicate with extreme sports types, here’s a quick intro to four disciplines.
Base Jumping is one of the most extreme of extreme sports. The death rate is high and the practice is either illegal or frowned upon almost everywhere. It’s a little like sky diving but instead of jumping out of a plane, base jumpers leap off cliffs and man-made structures with parachutes on their backs. They don’t have much time to pull the cord and there are often obstructions that get in the way. It’s a dangerous game. In order to be considered a true base jumper you must have jumped off a Building, an Aerial, a Span (bridge), and the Earth (a cliff). The four letters B.A.S. and E give the sport it’s name.
Surfing is one of the more popular and less lethal extreme sports. In fact, it’s one that almost anyone can try. You need to be able to swim but that’s about all. There are three types of surfboard. The short board (think 6ft or less) is harder to surf than bigger boards but it’s easier to paddle out through big waves and more manoeuvrable. The more skilled the surfer and the bigger the waves, the shorter the board- at least that’s what short board surfers say.
Long boards can be up to 10ft long or even more. They’ll catch even the smallest waves and surfers who can handle their long boards well can do some pretty impressive stuff. The phrase ‘hang ten’ is the name of a long board trick where the surfer stands right at the front of their board with all ten toes hanging over the front. In between the short and the long is the general-purpose mini mal board- the popular all round option.
Rock climbing is divided into a number of sub-disciplines. There’s bouldering, where rocks and boulders are climbed without rope. The ‘problems’ are usually short, less than 15ft in height. At the taller, scarier end of the spectrum, boulderers describe their problems as ‘highball’. Roped climbs are usually either ‘led’ or ‘seconded’. When leading, the rope is brought up with the climber. As they go up the climber clips it either into pre-placed bolts (sports climbing) or into special pieces of equipment they jam into cracks on the way (traditional or trad climbing).
The ‘second’ comes up after the leader and unclips the rope. Sometimes beginners or more experienced climbers working on a very hard project will ‘top rope’, or climb on a pre-placed rope. In most cases seconding is a lot safer than seconding, and top roping is very safe indeed. Most dangerous of all is solo climbing (not to be confused with free climbing, which means something different), where there is no rope on a full-height route. Etiquette states very firmly that if you haven’t led a climb cleanly and without falling, you can’t say you’ve climbed it. Every climb has its own name and a grade from 5.1 to 5.15c.
Parkour (pronounced par-coor or par-core) is the most urban of extreme sports. Also known as freerunning, this is the art of racing full tilt across obstacles like walls, stairs, and railings. It’s not just about speed but also about style. The best practitioners are more like gymnasts than joggers. They incorporate handstands, flips, and other tricks into their runs. You can imagine what happens when parkour goes wrong- bricks and mortar a pretty unforgiving- but on the other hand it looks cool when it comes off perfectly, and that’s the important thing!
About the AuthorJess Spate is a climber, mini mal surfer, and extreme sports enthusiast from Cardiff, South Wales. She works for Appalachian Outdoors and also Fountain Spirit.
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