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Last Updated: Monday, 2 May, 2005, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
Extremely Sporty
By Rebecca Sandles

It's a bank holiday and summer's just around the corner, encouraging some to dust off the tennis racket or rummage round the cupboard for the cricket bat. But traditional outdoor pursuits are not enough for some, so how do extreme sports devotees get their kicks?

Doing sports the extreme way is all about taking an activity and adding a new dimension, an extra challenge. This means taking an ironing board with you when you go mountaineering, or perhaps leaving the ropes at home, or strapping wings to your back when you go skiing.

No list of extreme sports can be all-inclusive as this weekend someone may have been attaching a kite to a wheelbarrow and trying to navigate a rushing river somewhere. Barrowboardkitekayaking anyone? But here are 10 of the most popular.


Attach a kite to anything and you're probably entering the realm of extreme sports. A growing band of enthusiasts have been discovering the thrilling combination of kite, board and waves. And these kites are not the sort you'd mess around with at your local park. They can be up to 17 metres long. Catch a gust and you're motoring - up, down and across the surf.

British Ladies Kitesurfing champion Jo Wilson says: "It's always an adrenalin rush. It's unpredictable. You could jump 5ft or 35ft. You never know if you're going to go up in the air, and your heart is just going boom, boom, boom all the time."

Remember she's the British Champion - makes you think about how just how unpredictable kitesurfing is for a beginner.

Risk Rating: Your judgement is at the mercy of the wind and waves. A gusty 8/10


This is exploring the coastline without worrying about a coastal path or finding a rocky cliffy cove blocking your route. You climb, dive, swim and clamber from A to B.

There are about 15 operators in the UK offering coasteering. Pembrokeshire based TYF Adventure defines coasteering as, "playing in the impact zone where sea water, waves and land come together to create the world's highest energy natural playground. To go coasteering means to put yourself, in the most exhilarating positions, between a rock and a salty place".

Operations Manager Phil Sadler says: "TYF Adventure customers have been known to describe it as 'everything my mum told me not to do down at the seaside', but we think that our definition is best."

Risk rating: Has the tide just gone out? Are those rocks nice and slippery? From 2/10 to a wave crashing 9/10.


The new sport on the block. It's like surfing or snowboarding but can be done anywhere, anytime, any weather. All you need is a giant skateboard and a hill.

A new mountain board centre in Halifax advertises one of it's downhill tracks as "over 600ft (200m) of pure adrenaline (leave your brains in the box provided at the top)."

Risk rating: You may well leave your brains behind, but don't forget the helmet. 7/10


Recent years have seen a boom in multi-sport challenges. They're races which combine several sports in events that last days not hours. Even Paula Radcliffe might concede that Hebridean Challenge is extreme.

The Challenge, from July 4 to 8 this year, sees different combinations of team members involved in hill running, mountain biking, road biking, swimming and sea kayaking.

Participant Dean Dunbar of extremedreams.com believes mass participation in marathons has lead to many to search out a greater challenge.

"Some people run a marathon and that's enough for them, others come away from it and think 'I want to do more'," he says.

Risk rating: Highest risk is of all is your friends thinking you're mad. 6/10


Very, very popular. So much so it's almost an obligatory part of a student gap year or corporate bonding weekend. So can it really be that extreme?

Those in the know add a twist. Forget jumping from a crane and attach your over-sized elastic band to a cable car or a helicopter. Then jump.

Risk Rating: Sits in same insurance group as hill walking, (if you haven't mentioned the helicopter part). 4/10


Surfing the snow

Californian surfers looking for a winter sport invented snowboarding in the 70's. Technique on the slope is closer to surfing and skating than skiing. It's young, hip and happening, according to Stephen Northcott, Founder of Extreme Sports Café.

"Even people that will never go snow-boarding love the look of it. And it is not priced out of the market like skiing (which is now the golf of the extreme sports line-up)."

Risk rating: Don't underestimate the power of nature. Two experienced British snowboarders died in April - hit by an avalanche. 7/10


Parachuting just doesn't sound risky enough does it? So now skydiving is the name for jumping from a plane and listening to your heart pounding as you hurtle towards earth.

Once you've got a few jumps under your parachute you can throw in some extra risks. Try a 'hook turn' - a fast turn close to the ground used to land at high speed. And yes, of course it's dangerous.

Dean Dunbar's first sky dive was in 1998. Since then he's been hooked on the buzz of the extreme, saying: "Every so often I have to go out and do something scary."

Risk Rating: Dare you exit the plane? Can you land without twisting an ankle? 7/10


Just what it says on the label. Find a cliff jump and off it - into water. You start at just 3-4 ft above the water, and then progress to 10ft jump, 25 ft and finally 50ft jump. Kit includes helmet, wet suit and buoyancy aid.

Usually from April to October in UK as even extreme sports enthusiasts' bodies can struggle with a sudden dip in wintery Scottish seawater.

Risk Rating: Goes up as you do. 6/10


It's been around so long that bikers are no longer satisfied with just going up and down a mountain. Nowadays thrill seeking mountain bikers want a big slope to go down very, very fast.

"It's pure mad, downhill," according to Dean Dunbar. "People go to old ski resorts, take the chair lift to the top then bomb down - amazingly not killing themselves."

Some of the best rides are in Nepal. Far from being stunned at elite mountain bikers of the world descending on them the Nepalese take it all in their stride.

It's not unknown for a muscular adrenaline junky on an expensive, designer bike to be overtaken by a bunch of waving Nepalese school kids riding second-hand rusty machines. I'd guess there are no child obesity problems in Nepal just yet. Goodness knows what the Nepalese idea of an extreme sport is.

Risk Rating: Avoid ruts and rocks and you may get away without breaking your neck. Depends on your speed. 3/10 rising to 8/10


Base jumping
Illegal but still a fix for some

The BASE in BASE jumping stands for Building, Antenna, Span (bridge), Earth (cliff). Illegal in many countries, and usually done without the security of a reserve parachute.

Stephen Northcott describes BASE jumping as "the ultimate risk".

"You are actually risking your life, much as you try to limit the risk, every time you do it," he says.

Northcott adds that "there is no sure way to guarantee the out come of the opening of the parachute, you do not have a spare, and invisible factors such as thermals and air movement can cause critical situations to occur".

Risk Rating: Anyone arguing with 10/10?


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