Remember back in the day when we were completely fearless as kids? We rode bikes without helmets, we jumped off of our roof onto a trampoline, or we skied down a hill with pieces of wood strapped to our feet that were somewhat shaped like skis. On outdoor trips we’d climb whatever looked climbable, got all muddy and became one with nature, and loved the fact that we were sleeping in tents and not a cushy bed. Many of those that experienced all of these fantastic things and the feeling of freedom in the outdoors have continued on with certain fearlessness, continuing to push their limits and encourage others to do so. With Thanksgiving already upon us this week, and as everyone gives thanks to the numerous things in their life, for the action sports world, we give thanks to the existence of extreme sports and to those that dared to delve into something out of the ordinary that have made several lives extraordinary. Here are three extreme sports that continue to evolve and have brought forth incredible individuals that have pushed their boundaries.
With the risk of extreme sports, we also have the reality of the lives that have been lost. But as difficult as it is to those of us left behind, there is also recognition of how each of these individuals lived their lives to the fullest. They shared their talents with others, were thankful for the abilities they had and those that supported them, and they helped pave the way to opening up possibilities that may’ve never been explored had it not been for their strength of character and unfailing dedication to a sport they loved. Thank you to all of you that have passed on and to those who continue to shred and conquer while sharing your knowledge and talents with newbies and hopefuls.
Freeskiing has come a long way over the years. Back in the 1990s, freestyle skiers began trying their tricks in snowboard-only terrain parks. FIS freestyle skiing events were governed by restrictive rules that weren’t popular in the growing skiing community and slowed down the progression of the sport. But then came the New Canadian Air Force that included the ‘godfather of freesking’, Mike Douglas, and others such as JF Cusson, Vincent Dorion, JP Auclair, and Shane Szocs. Other contributors to the ‘newschool movement’ included Julien Regnier, Glen Plake, Doug Coombs, Phil Larose, Phil Belanger and Phil Dion (the Three Phils). Fast forward to the present day and freeskiing has made its mark. In 2007 the Association of Freeskiing Professionals (AFP) was formed which created a unified global tour of competitions and ranking system for freeskiing athletes. And at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the men’s and women’s ski halfpipe and slopestyle events were added to the games. Just watch a Matchstick Productions film such as Superheroes of Stoke or a Teton Gravity Research Film such as Almost Ablaze to see how far freeskiing has come.
Freeride Mountain Biking
Freeride mountain biking, a discipline of mountain biking, is now recognized as one of the most popular disciplines within mountain biking. Freeriding is a broad realm of riding that includes features such as narrow wooden planks raised as high as 25+ feet above ground, cliff drop-offs, raised platforms, and other natural or man-made objects onto a landing. Freeride mountain bikes feature slightly less suspension than a downhill mountain bike and are lighter which enables the rider to not only ride downhill but also through more technical sections. Most freeride bikes have slightly steeper head angles and shorter wheelbases than pure downhill mountain bikes to facilitate maneuverability on slower, technical sections of terrain. The Red Bull Rampage freeride mountain biking event has brought some of the most phenomenal freeride mountain bike talent all in one place which is Virgin, Utah. With a mixture of man-made and natural terrain, riders pull unbelievably jaw-dropping tricks that have you holding your breath until you see the rider either safely land or take a nasty fall. And the tricks just keep getting bigger. Watch freeride athletes Darren Berrecloth, Cam Zink, Cam McCaul, Kurt Sorge, James Doerfling, Andreu Lacondeguy and others ride terrain never ridden before in Where the Trail Ends.
Climbing has been around for quite some time and, like freeride skiing and mountain biking, has evolved with climbers exploring uncharted territory to test their skills, push beyond their limits, and climb the hardest lines to see what they’re capable of. With many different types of climbing, amazing feats have been accomplished throughout the years. Big wall, trad and sport, bouldering, mountaineering, speed, ice/mixed, free/free solo and deep water solo climbing are just a few different types of climbing that are out there. There are historical benchmarks that date back to 400 B.C. of climbing. From John Muir making the first ascent of Cathedral Peak in Tolumne Meadows as an on-sight, free-solo in 1869, to Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay becoming the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest in May 1953, or Ueli Steck’s speed climb on the North Face of the Eiger in 2 hours and 47 minutes, the capabilities of climbers are outstanding. There are so many notable climbers that are too many to mention, but a few more to read up on would be Conrad Anker, Dean Potter, Alex Honnold, Ashima Shiraishi, Chris Sharma, the late Sean ‘Stanley’ Leary, Royal Robbins, Peter Croft and Yuji Hirayama. Any one of the Reel Rock films will have you watching in amazement at the finesse, technique and sheer determination of the climbers featured.