What a sport!

Extreme sports aren’t a new idea. However, the number of these sports and their variety is bigger and bigger. It seems soon they will prevail on the sports scene as olympic sports are not growing in number in such a way. Read about the old ones and the new ones and choose the extreme for you!

Bungee Jumping
The idea of bungee jumping appeared in the 1950s, when David Attenborough and a BBC crew filmed “land divers” of Pentecost Island in Vanuatu. These young men jumped from tall wooden platforms. This inspired the English to repeat the jump using elastic rope. The first modern jump was made on 1 April 1979 in Bristol by four members of the Dangerous Sports Club, who were arrested shortly after the incident, but later went on jumping from bridges and balloons. Since 1980 several million successful jumps have been made. When the person jumps, the cord stretches and then goes up and down until the energy of the jump is dissipated. The highest platforms were over 200 meters (216, 220).The accidents are usually cause by a too long cord which simply stretches too much and the participant hits the ground. Also the safety harness might fail. Some accidents had their history in mass media. In the television programme “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” a character was killed while proposing to Hilary Banks during a bungee jump. In 1997 Laura Patterson, a member of a professional bungee jumping team died while practicing for an exhibition.

Hang gliding
This air sport is related to paragliding and gliding, but it uses simpler equipment. The pilot’s harness is attached to the wing and he controls the vehicle by shifting body weight. The earliest experiments with hang gliding were made in the 19th century. Modern hang gliding was inspired by Francis Rogallo in 1948. He invented a device called Flexkite which was intended to be use by astronauts for landing. Throughout the 60s and the 70s hang gliders improved and developed. In case of emergency, pilots carry a parachute with them, which is thrown by hand and helps the pilot reach the ground. It is not a very safe sport: too much depends on sudden weather changes or terrain conditions. Glides can develop speed up to 100 km/h, but the best glide is at about half of that. Distance records are really impressive: over 700 kilometres!

Street luge
It is not a very well-known sport – but an interesting one. It involves riding a street luge board (sled) down a paved road or course. Street luge has a very interesting history. It was born in Southern California – discovered by downhill skateboarders who noticed that when they lied down on their skateboards, they could reach a much greater speed. The first professional race was held in 1975. Races are nowadays most often held on mountain roads, but also on city streets.

It is a sport in which the participants use a raft to navigate a water – it is usually whitewater. The more thrilling and exciting the river, the better for the participants. Now for rafting inflatable boats are used consisting of independent inflatable chambers. They are from 3.5 to 6 metres long and between 1.8 and 2.5 metres wide and hold between 4 to 12 people. Most commonly they are steered with a paddle at the stern. The sport might be dangerous, but as many extreme sports it becames safer every year. People are better trained and the equipment is better. Also some rivers have become simply less difficult. A good example is the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. In the past it stole lives of many risk-lovers, nowadays it is as safe as a path.

This sport has a French origine. The participant of parkour (called a traceur) tries to pass obstacles in the quickest and most efficient manner. Different skills are used, including vaulting, climbing, jumping. The sport is often practice in urban areas because there are walls, buildings, fences etc. What is important in parkour is not only to win with the obstacle, but to do it in an elegant fashion, being “fluid like water”. Parkour has also connection with martial arts and free run. The discipline requires training of techniques. There is a big list of movements (with French names), for example: Saut de Chat (Cat Jump) – to dive onto an obstacle, place the hands and follow through with tucked legs, pushing off with the hands to bring the body back into a vertical angle, ready to land. Now, if you take into consideration the fact that it is only one of many movements you have to practice, you can understand that parkour is like art.

Barefoot skiing
Barefoot skiing is a kind of water skiing behind a motorboat. The difference between this sport and traditional water skiing is that participants do not use skis. It originated in Florida. The first recorded person to barefoot was Dick Pope Jr in 1947. By 1950s it has started to become popular. In 1960 the first competition was held in Australia and the first world championship in Canberra, Australia. Barefooting is famous for its falls. Since feet are small area, the margin for a mistake is minimal. The falls have even their names – like “scorpion fall”. Barefoot skiers can also perform tricks on one foot or surface turns. Not only it isn’t easy to ski barefoot: even the start is difficult.

Improve your vocabulary!

prevail – wytrwać
rope – sznur, lina
dissipate – zniszczony
harness – szelki, pas bezpieczeństwa
hang gliding – lotniarstwo
gliding – szybownictwo
paragliding – paralotniarstwo
device – urządzenie
parachute – spadochron
rafting – spływ rwącą rzeką na tratwie lub pontonie
raft – tratwa
inflatable – nadmuchiwany
paddle – wiosło
barefoot – na bosaka
obstacles – przeszkody
efficient – sprawny