Extreme sports are about exhilaration, skill and an element of danger — so they are almost a total antidote to our safety-first world! However, all too often the risk of doing an extreme sport is overplayed — even though almost anyone can compete in them in relative safety.
We have selected a few of the most accessible extreme sports out there that may be well worth giving a go — no matter who you are! — and found out who they are suitable for and what risk factors there are. So, why not check out our extreme sport suggestions and take up an extreme challenge?
Caving is the sport of exploring caves — which is sometimes referred to as ‘spelunking’. It often requires climbing or crawling through narrow gaps and the use of ropes to negotiate drops. Exploring vertical caves is often referred to as ‘potholing’.
Who is caving suitable for?
Some caves can be explored quite easily on foot with a guide, and so they can be suitable for children — but deeper caves are best left to over-16s. A fair degree of fitness is required, as some of the routes can be physically challenging and involve climbing.
Risk factors of caving
Caves can be dangerous places and should not be entered without a guide or extensive experience. Risks include falling, flooding, physical exhaustion and hypothermia. Helmets should be worn along with suitable clothing and ropes are used for descending or ascending difficult parts.
Kite surfing is a fantastic extreme sport whereby you use a small surfboard with foot straps and bindings which are attached to a large power kite. This controllable kite propels you across the water — and at times over it — while you control both the kite and the board at the same time.
Who is kite surfing suitable for?
Kite surfing is considered to be a family sport, and can be done by children as young as 12. Those participating need to be strong swimmers with a fair degree of upper-body strength — and it also helps if you are proficient at other water sports such as windsurfing.
Risk factors of kite surfing
Kite surfing is a relatively low-risk extreme sport, since most kite surfers wear helmets, and each kite has a quick-release mechanism which allows you to release the kite with one tug or push, leaving only one line attached to a kite leash. This will cause the kite to lose its shape, preventing you from being dragged along by an out-of-control kite.
Mountainboarding — or all-terrain-boarding — is a new extreme sport derived from snowboarding. It can be done on any surface, including grass, tracks, dirt and rocks, and involves riding on a large board with mounted wheels — which is very much like an over-sized skateboard. The wheels are designed to withstand larger obstacles than normal skateboards, as well as make sharper turns.
Who is mountainboarding suitable for?
Mountainboarding is suitable for just about anyone with a sense of adventure. The good thing is that it can be done whatever the weather — plus there’s generally no age limit involved. Mountainboarding will particularly suit snowboarders during warm months when there is no snow available.
Risk factors of mountainboarding
There is a small element of risk with mountainboarding, but that is very much dependent on the type of terrain you’re tackling. If you’re a beginner then there are centres popping up with beginner friendly courses laid out — and of course there’s plenty of outdoor places for you to discover yourself! The risk factor in mountainboarding is very much down to yourself and your own bravery.
Mountaineering — as its name suggests — is the sport of walking, hiking and climbing up mountains. The degree of difficulty with mountaineering depends on the terrain, with the more daring mountaineers venturing up high, craggy, and often snow-covered peaks.
Who is mountaineering suitable for?
Mountaineering is not for the casual participant! You will need to have substantial rock climbing and hiking experience, and many mountaineering clubs limit membership to over-18s. Considerable physical fitness as well as mental skills are required.
Risk factors of mountaineering
This sport can be extremely dangerous and should not be attempted without the necessary experience or a guide. Mountaineering requires significant safety gear, as there are the dangers of falling, things falling on you, or adverse weather — all of which you must be prepared for.
Scuba diving is a hugely popular sport which sees you exploring the underwater depths in order to see the interesting marine life, reefs, shipwrecks and whatever else takes your fancy. It will take you a few scuba diving sessions to get used to wearing the cylinder and breathing apparatus, but after that a whole new world will open up to you!
Who is scuba diving suitable for?
Anyone over 12 can learn to scuba dive. The usual place to start would be in a swimming pool where you can get familiar with the apparatus and work towards a basic diving qualification. You can also learn by taking a course when you’re somewhere far more exotic, perhaps while on your travels.
Risk factors of scuba diving
Scuba diving is not a particularly dangerous sport. Modern diving equipment is easy to use and very reliable, and with the proper training and a responsible attitude, scuba diving can be enjoyed safely. Pretty much all scuba diving injuries and casualties are the result of recklessness or bad judgment.
Skydiving involves throwing yourself out of an aircraft or other airborne craft at a typical height of around 12,000ft (approximately 3,658m) and then free-falling for a period of time before activating a parachute and steering it safely towards a landing site. Some people take skydiving to further extremes by doing things such as sky surfing.
Who is skydiving suitable for?
There is usually an age limit of 16, and it is considered best to consult a doctor if you are over 40. However, skydiving is a possibility for most reasonably fit people, provided that they are not prone to panic! Most skydivers make their first jump with an experienced instructor in the form of a tandem skydive.
Risk factors of skydiving
Despite seeming to be fraught with danger, fatalities in skydiving are rare. You have to complete a thorough course of training, and skydivers are required to carry a reserve parachute — plus some parachute packs now use an automatic activation device which activates the reserve parachute if the skydiver has failed to do so.
Well we all know what surfing is, but probably don’t realise how difficult it can be to actually surf. Surfing requires a combination of strength, stamina, balance, agility and of course bravery! But you don’t have to tackle the big surf from the off, of course; just getting up on the surfboard can be a major achievement in itself.
Who is surfing suitable for?
Surfing is suitable for anyone of reasonable fitness — and the ability to swim at least a couple of lengths of your local pool is a must. People who have taken to the likes of skateboarding or snowboarding will probably take to surfing a lot easier — while the rest of us will just have to stick at it!
Risk factors of surfing
Provided you start out with a qualified instructor, there is minimal risk as qualified lifeguards will usually be keeping watch. If you opt to do it the hard way, then make sure you start out with an experienced friend, watch out for the rip currents, and don’t get too adventurous initially.
Simply put, wakeboarding is like water skiing, but on one plank rather than two. A powerboat creates a tail in the water, and the idea is that you use this as a ramp to perform airborne tricks. Initially, though, you’ll probably settle for being able to stand up when starting out in wakeboarding!
Who is wakeboarding suitable for?
Wakeboarding is pretty exhausting and requires good stamina — both when trying to stand and also when having to swim when you’ve come unstuck! There is generally no age limit to participation — the only limit being your own degree of fitness. Surfers, snowboarders and water skiers will probably take to it easily.
Risk factors of wakeboarding
Seriously aching muscles plus the odd strain and bump will be the main risk to you, although you may have to look out for other people on the water so as to avoid a nasty collision when wakeboarding.
White water rafting
It’s not called ‘white water rafting’ without good reason (it refers to the color of the water when it is particularly turbulent) — and your knuckles will probably be white too as you a make your way with your team (usually up to eight people) along the raging rapids with nothing more than an inflatable craft between you and a cold dip!
Who is white water rafting suitable for?
It’s suitable for most with a brave heart and strong arms for all that paddling — although many companies will only allow over-18s to participate. Thankfully, rapids are normally graded from one to six (one being the easiest and six the hardest) — so you will have an idea what you are letting yourself in for beforehand.
Risk factors of white water rafting
There is some element of risk and you’ll need to be a reasonable swimmer. Beginners will obviously start on the easy rapids and will be accompanied by a raft guide, but the more accustomed you get, the greater the thrill you’ll be seeking. Inflatable rafts have several chambers — so even if one bursts, you’ll remain afloat. You should also stay afloat if you go overboard, thanks to your life jacket!