Sports

The history of extreme sports

By Matt Williamson
Info Guru, Catalogs.com

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Some sociologists say that extreme sports are similar to vision quests or other traditional rites of passage common in some cultures
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Extreme Sports are nontraditional sports and activities that require participants to combine athletic skill with pronounced risk.

It is difficult to determine exactly when the term extreme sports came to refer to certain modern sports, but many believe it can be traced to the early 1970s, when rock climbing and marathon running—then considered extreme—gained popularity. Several reasons have been cited for the growth of extreme sports since that time.

Extreme sports may have gained popularity in the late 20th century as a reaction to the increased safety of modern life. Lacking a feeling of danger in their everyday activities, people may have felt compelled to seek out danger or risk

Another reason for increased participation in extreme sports is enhanced sports technology. For example, the invention of sticky rubber-soled climbing shoes and artificial climbing walls broadened the appeal of rock climbing. And advances in ski design allowed more skiers to attempt extreme feats previously thought impossible.

Some observers credit television and movies and cult heros like Bam Margera and Tony Hawk for defining what extreme sports are as well as popularizing them. Television coverage of competitions and events has brought extreme sports and their participants more attention. The televised "X Games" and the Olympics are just two examples. As more people become aware of extreme sports, the activities gain more enthusiasts. One result of the growing interest is that those who pride themselves on participating in challenging, cutting-edge activities are constantly searching for new ways to test themselves. This ensures the continuing development of newer extreme sports.

Extreme sports allows and encourages individual creativity in the innovation of new maneuvers and in the stylish execution of existing techniques. Before enthusiasts attempt risky stunts, they must know their own physical abilities and understand how well they can block the natural instinct of fear. Extreme sports enthusiasts also must recognize the physical limitation of their equipment. Participants should have experience in whatever activity they are taking to an extreme level, and must know what to do in the event of an emergency.

Some sociologists say that extreme sports are similar to vision quests or other traditional rites of passage common in some cultures. In many traditional cultures, rites of passage are severe physical ordeals during which adolescents experience intense personal growth. Initiates often leave their families and undergo a lengthy seclusion during the event. Some modern observers believe that extreme sports enthusiasts seek the same sort of experience by undertaking risky activities in small, closely knit groups.

Some of the most popular sports that can have extreme elements are extreme skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, in-line skating, and white-water kayaking. In these activities, extreme athletes exceed traditional safety limitations to create new disciplines in the sport. For example, people who engage in extreme skiing make dangerous runs down mountains over uncharted terrain. The enhanced danger posed by cliffs, crevasses, and extremely steep slopes elevates traditional snow skiing to an extreme level. Likewise, extreme free rock climbing, or rock climbing without ropes, is generally considered more dangerous than traditional climbing methods, which typically incorporate protection in the form of a climbing partner and roping system.

The history of extreme sports is still evolving. Some extreme sports combine the techniques and physical skills of two or more sports, often mainstream sports that were once considered extreme. One of the best examples of this sort of transition is found with sky surfing, which first became popular in the 1990s. The sport combines skydiving and snowboarding. Experienced parachutists perform acrobatic stunts on boards similar to snowboards. Individually, skydiving and snowboarding were once considered extreme. And snowboarding's own development owed much to the sports of skateboarding and surfing, which were considered nontraditional when they were first popularized in the 1960s.

There is no doubt that as new techniques are tried and experimented with, the history of extreme sports will include many new and daring innovations.

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