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10 most popular extreme sports in the world

Rohit Menon
ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
89.70K   //    22 Aug 2015, 02:09 IST

Extreme Sports is a term used for sports that require participants to show considerable skill and physical ability whilst under the considerable risk of physical harm. Also called action sports, aggro sports or adventurous sports, they involve a high level of physical exertion and specialised gear and usually also involve speed and/or height as factors.The people who compete in these activities do it for the adrenaline rush that arises due to the many dangers that are present. They are not satisfied with normal sports and the joys they provide, indulging in games that set their heartbeats running and their blood pumping furiously. One mistake could lead to a life-threatening injury or in most cases death, but these athletes are unfazed in their march to glory in an unconventional sporting world. They endure these dangers on a regular basis to satisfy their own fix, while enthralling and providing solid entertainment to spectators who are paying good money to watch it.Here are the 10 most popular extreme sports listed out in no particular order:

#1 BMX Racing

BMX Cycling semi-finals at the 2012 Olympic Games in London

BMX Racing is one of the most popular cycling sports in the world. It originated in the 1970s and derives its roots from the already existing motocross racing, with which it still shares many similarities.

BMX made its debut as medal sport at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics when it was sanctioned by the sanctioning body of the Union Cycliste Internationale. It is widely popular among both women and men between the ages of 19 and 40, with professional ranks existing for both genders.

The uneven and different terrain of the purpose-built off-road tracks makes it a dangerous sport for racers, and there have been many incidents that have led to career-ending injuries. Despite concerns, however, it is an incredibly popular sport in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Netherlands, Japan and the United States.

#2 Highlining

The dangers of highlining are clearly depicted in this picture

Highlining is basically rope walking, but at a much higher altitude. In this extreme sport the highliner has to walk from one point to the other on an inch-wide rope, and has no support besides a safety harness that is tethered to the rope. The rope extends for a distance of about 30 metres, with the event taking place at a cliff thousands of feet above the ground.

Tubular nylon webbing material makes the rope stretchier than a steel cable but also makes it more flexibile, which causes it to swing a lot more. This makes it difficult for the highliner to get across without falling. 

The lack of a safety net and the chance of injuring oneself despite the presence of a safety harness makes this activity a ridiculous and hazardous one to pursue, although its extreme nature does attract plenty of enthusiasts looking for a rush of adrenaline.

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#3 Running of the Bulls

A red scarf is usually worn with a white outfit, although some people use blue as well

The Running of the Bulls is a famous sport that has its origins in 14th century Spain. In the Northeastern part of the country, men would try to speed up the cattle transportation process by trying to agitate or scare their cattle. This eventually turned into a competition and its popularity ever since has established it as a tradition.

The event takes place in a cordoned-off section of the streets of Spain, where runners have to run away from a herd of bulls that have been released after them. The most famous running of the bulls compeitition is the Sanfermines festival, which runs for 8 days and takes place in Pamplona. The sport is also very popular in Portugal, Mexico and Southern France.

The dangers of the sport are plenty as one can get injured quite easily when participating in it. 50 to 100 people get injured during the Sanfermines festival every year, although not all injuries need hospital treatment.

#4 Tow-in Surfing

Helicopters helped make the sport more convenient despite being expensive

The main desire for surfers is to scale some of the biggest waves known to man and with tow-in surfing, that became a reality. The sport involves the usage of an artifical element to allow the surfer to catch the biggest waves possible, and break the 30-foot barrier that has evaded everyone so far.

A tow-rope is used to pull surfers into a big wave, and this is done with the usage of a personal water craft (PWC). The rope is dropped once the surfers are in the wave, after which no further assistance is offered. There were initially a few difficulties with the PWC, which were solved when helicopters were introduced to the sport in the mid 2000’s.

Helicopters packed more distinct advantages than a PWC as they could go faster and were not affected by the ocean as much. Surfers can be positioned a lot more easily by the pilot as he can spot large waves from a far distance, which lead to more accurate town-ins. But they are expensive to purchase and maintain, and hence have not completely replaced the watercraft just yet.

The dangers of this sport include the getting injured by sharp reefs and the possibility of being wiped out.

#5 Volcano Surfing

Surfers can sit or stand on the board while volcano surfing

This relatively new sport really does exist despite its frightening name. Invented in 2005 by Darryn Webb, volcano surfing entails the surfer to climb up a volcano and then surf it down using only plywood boards. The board will be pretty resistant to the volcano though, as it has been reinforced by steel, metal and formica. 

The surfer has the option to sit down on the board or stay upright, although veteran volcano surfers often do the latter. Surfers must wear protective gear, which includes googles and a jumpsuit due to the risk of hitting volcano rocks during the slide.

The most popular slope for volcano surfing is that of Cerro Negro in Western Nicaragua, which is still used despite it being an active volcano after its previous eruption in 1999. There have been many volcano surfing related accidents since the sport’s inception, but its simplicity has seen genuine excitement from many extreme sports enthusiasts.

#6 Ice Climbing

Ice Climbing is popular in places with fierce winters

Ice climbing is pretty similar to rock climbing in many aspects, but involves the climbing of icefalls, frozen waterfalls, cliffs and ice-covered rock slabs. It is very popular with people who live in places which have extreme winter conditions. Alpha ice and water ice are the two different kinds of climbing ice. These are found on mountains and cliffs respectively, and require different tools to scale each type. 

Before the 20th century, ice climbers had to deal with a lot of issues like creating their own foothold. They would chipp out ice with an icepick to create their foothold in a method called step cutting, although that would soon change with the British later on. They reinvented the sport by creating a new device to allow the fastening of a toothed claw to the climbing boots. This ‘cramp-on’ replaced the conventional method of ‘step cutting’ that was employed in the past, and has since led to much progress in the development of ice climbing.

The sport has become much safer with time, but it still harbours many risks for first-timers. It takes a lot of fitness and concentration to deal with the icey cold conditions, and a small lapse means an accident is just waiting to happen.

#7 Wingsuit Flying

The special jumpsuit helps the jumper to glide in the air more easily

Wingsuit flying is a sport that involves flying through the air with a wingsuit. It has been ever-present since the beginning of the 20th century, although its popularity soared in the modern era with the introduction of the current wingsuit.

The ‘birdman’ suit increases the surface area of the jumper by using the fabric between the legs and the arms, allowing him/her to experience a significant lift while flying. It has a glide ratio of 2.5 meters per descent, which allows the jumper to glide down towards the ground after jumping off a high point. The flight ends with the deployment of a parachute, so the wingsuit can be guided to the end destination safely. 

The sport’s extreme nature makes access to it hard for any normal person. A minimum of 200 skydives is required to be able to participate in wingsuit flying, justifying it as one of the most dangerous and extreme sports in the world.

#8 Free Soloing

Alex Honnold is one of the best free solo climbers in the world

Free soloing or Free solo climbing is an extreme sport that is similar to rock climbing, but without safety ropes, harnesses, protective gears or any supportive devices. It is a freestyle way of climbing that has a lot to do with the climber’s strength and ability.

In this sport, climbers need to be able to maintain intense concentration to prevent themselves from falling. They must also be able to support their body weight using just fingers and toes, making the whole experience a physically demanding one.

There are plenty of risks associated with the sport, including loose terrain and erratic weather. One small slip could mean death for a climber and despite its obvious risks, free soloing has seen many enthusiasts adopt it due to the speed and simplicity of the sport. 

#9 BASE Jumping

103 jumpers from 20 countries participated in the 2013 International Tower Jump in Kuala Lumpur

BASE Jumping is rated by many as one of the most dangerous recreational sports in the world. It has been around for a long time but was made popular by film-maker Carl Boenish in 1978, who coining the term after filming the first jumps to use ram-air parachutes and the freefall tracking technique. BASE is actually a set of initials, that stand for Building, Antenna, Span and Earth.

The sport shares many similarities with skydiving but differs in the context of height of the jump. When the jumpers fall off a fixed structure, they are not left with much time to pull the parachute and ensure a safe landing as compared to when they jump off a plane for a sky dive. 

It has an alarming death-rate of a death per 2,317 jumps, which has made it a banned sport in many countries. Despite this its popularity has seen a steady increase, due to more depictions of the sport in the entertainment space.

#10 Creeking

Creeking is dangerous but very popular

Creeking is one of the most popular extreme sports in the world. It is also known as steep creeking, and is a branch of canoeing and kayaking where the kayaker goes down very steep, low-volume water. 

Its rise to popularity is linked to the invention of more durable kayaks in the 1980’s, which withstood the extreme whitewater environments of the activity. It allowed the kayakers to plunge off high waterfalls, which gave them an andrenaline rush like never before. 

The main dangers faced by kayakers indulging in creeking are the risks of getting smashing against jagged rocks or getting trapped underwater after being sucked down below it. Since it’s more dangerous than regular canoeing and kayaking, extra gear is required and this equiment includes throw bags, elbow pads, float bags, pin kits, first aid, repair kits and the presence of face mask on the helmet if required.

Rohit Menon
ANALYST
Gooner. Football enthusiast. Dreamer.
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