Extreme Sports


Summer is the season of extreme sports that only the most daring and capable athletes attempt to conquer. Over time extreme sports such as big wave surfing, mountain biking, and rock climbing have come to revolutionize the modern sporting world, creating a uniquely wild culture gaining popularity year by year.

The article Understanding Extreme Sports: A Psychological Perspective states extreme sports as “further along a continuum from adventure sports where death is a potential. […] Instead of a traditional narrative that emphasizes winning, extreme sports accentuate exploration, discovery and a relational perspective linking profound knowledge of self and task and attunement to information in the environment as key to effective performance.”

Although these sports are seen all over the world, they all have common distinctions, making them completely different from traditional sports. Not only are the sports themselves unconventional, the athletes and the audience who enjoy these sports are completely divergent from the typical athlete or sports fan. 

Most extreme sports are not played in traditional settings, but instead mainly outdoors on rugged terrain or the daring slopes. The athletes in these sports are adrenaline chasing daredevils who are not afraid of a challenge, even if it means at the toll of their own wellbeing.

This is what makes these sports extraordinary, but jointly makes them difficult and dangerous. In extreme sport culture, it is in every athlete’s interest to one up their competitors, taking risk upon risk to out-race, out-style, and outperform their opponents. Dangerous decisions at such a high level of competition compromise the athletes’ health, and the very people competing disregard their safety in order to be the best at what they do.

In the Netherlands, five windsurfers drowned due to stormy weather conditions in May of 2022. The ocean in Scheveningen had a thick layer of foam over the water, causing incredibly dangerous conditions. People were advised to not enter the water, but a group of 10 surfers ignored the warnings, and with little to no regard for their own safety they ventured out on the beaches of Scheveningen.

The puzzling thing about this incident was that the victims were well trained, very experienced–some even being international lifeguards–who seemed more than adequate in navigating the dangerous conditions. 

Although events like this are quite rare, they do not fail to stun the world. Instances like these make people question whether or not it is worth taking such high risks, as no source of entertainment can ever outweigh the loss of lives. Whether it was pressure from other surfers, themselves, or windsurfing culture that wound up in five deaths and heartbreak within families and surfing communities, there is no reason for why people should be ignoring clear safety measures in extreme situations.

Along with the present risky culture in extreme sports, pressures to attempt life threatening stunts or tricks come from social media as well. Across youtube and instagram are videos of athletes completing things unimaginable to the average person. This can be both inspiring but also frightening as it can again drive untrained individuals to take part in dangerous actions out of their comfort zone.

“There is definitely pressure from the other bikers, as well as through media platforms. When I see my friends do an impressive trick or line I definitely take unnecessary risks to match them,” Junior Niccolo Defendi-Cho said.

Internal forces can be coercive as well. The rush of adrenaline that accompanies extreme sports is unmatched compared to traditional sports around the world. When thrill seekers quite literally push themselves to the edge while competing, it can only be explained by the feeling of adrenaline and freedom of competition, sometimes as far as addiction.

“There’s definitely just that moment of elation, a moment where you just feel a big sense of growth,” Defendi-Cho said. “It’s a pretty indescribable feeling. I don’t think many people understand it.”

Defendi-Cho has been mountain biking for years, and has always dealt with the risks involved in the sport. He competes in downhill races across the country, racing against the same adrenaline seeking riders who find joy in sending themselves to the limit, or “living on the edge.”

Whenever Defendi-Cho is out racing he is constantly evaluating risk, whether it’s memorizing lines though the course or the split second tweak to his riding stance. Regardless, there are still provocations that can overshadow a rider’s cognitive ability to make decisions, which can put them in dangerous situations without them even realizing.

“I know friends have gotten hurt biking because a friend told them to hit a jump,” Defendi-Cho said. “I think if people were more aware of the risks involved there would be less injuries.”

An extreme sport that  normally wouldn’t come to mind when asked about extreme sports is Formula 1, one of the most intense and dangerous sports out there. Contrary to other extreme sports, F1 is unique as it does not entail the same lifestyle that appears in . To those who are unfamiliar with F1, it is the track race but for cars: cars that move at top speeds of almost 400 kilometers per hour. 

It’s a pretty indescribable feeling. I don’t think many people understand it

— Niccolo Defendi-Cho

Unlike other extreme sports, F1 is both exclusive and prestigious. But don’t let the glamor fool you, as it is up there with the most rigorous sports to exist. Years and years of training are required to reach the top level of racing, and although safety measures are extensive it does not hide the fact that these drivers are constantly risking their lives. 

Spectators in F1 watch in awe as acts done by the drivers on the grid take place that would be unthinkable and utterly hazardous if it weren’t for the great minds of the racers. Again, this is what makes F1 so engaging: the fact that 20 of the best drivers are battling it out on the track at incredible speeds. 

Their cars go through rounds of manufacturing and testing to ensure the fastest and safest car is out on the grid when it is time to race. F1 is also extremely brutal as it can be nonstop high-speed racing for over an hour, and with such high speeds each race usually consists of one driver having to retire their car after a crash or car malfunction. 

Although devastation for the driver, crashes or conflicts during the race is what makes them all the more exciting. Of course nobody ever wishes for a driver to get injured, but the underlying risk in F1 is what draws so much global attention to the sport. 

In recent years F1 has been reasonably safe as there have been no severe injuries, but in previous F1 history injuries and even death was almost common. 

“I always knew about the risks I was taking. Every year, someone you knew was killed racing. You had to ask yourself, ‘Do you enjoy driving these cars so much that you’re prepared to take that risk?” Nikolaus “Niki” Lauda, a three time F1 world champion in the years 1975, 1977, and 1984 said.

Lauda was a notorious F1 driver for being the first and only driver to be a champion with both Ferrari and McLaren. But these championships were not lived without the terrors of his Nürburgring crash, where he suffered from scarring burns over his body, as well as toxic fumes in his lungs and blood caused by a crash on the grid leading to his car to burst into flames.

This poses the question, are these risks really worth it? Looking at the new state of F1 it seems as though the sport is still thriving without any hesitation towards whether or not the risks are willing to be taken. 

Across all extreme sports, including F1, mountain biking, and a massive variety of other sports there is a common theme to the lack of attention to risk. Embedded in extreme sport culture is the lack of fear, which is both beneficial and harmful. 

Despite the future of extreme sports being unclear, it is certain that there will always be a hype around these sports due to their daring and competitive nature. People will always enjoy watching their favorite rider complete quadruple backflips, or seeing daring surfers send it down 80 foot waves.

Extreme sports spark inspiration and push minds past barriers that only dreams could realize, as well as provide entertainment for millions of people worldwide. There seems to be no stop to the emergence of these sports, and due to its uniqueness and interest, the extreme sporting world will keep pushing boundaries, which will only escalate the amount of risks involved.

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