<p style="margin: 0px 0px 15px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 12px; color: #666666; font-family: Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 16.796875px;">Wikipedia Page: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extreme_sports">en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extreme_sports</a> <p style="margin: 0px 0px 15px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 12px; color: #666666; font-family: Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 16.796875px;">Adrenalin is a hormone that causes all kinds of craziness in humankind. It’s a neurotransmitter that initiates the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome, and is closely associated with exciting or stressful situations. It’s a common occurrence in South Africans, especially when you consider our country’s crime, hectic roads and our people’s propensity to get angry if a bowl of biltong gets spilt. But there is a way to control the release of adrenalin, and that’s by engaging in the wide world of extreme sports.
So-called ‘extreme sports’ probably started with the invention of skateboards in the 60s. Known then as an alternative to surfing, it quickly garnered the name ‘sidewalk surfing’ and grew into a worldwide phenomenon, of which there are 85 million skateboarders today. But if you take into consideration that 85% of these people are under the age of 18, skateboarding it seems, is simply not extreme. So forget organised sport, thrill-seekers, because extreme sport is where it’s at.
Perhaps it’s our crazy existence, or our rich history amongst our many wild plains, but South Africa along, with a few other countries has pioneered several extreme sports. South Africa has even invented or perfected some extreme sports invented elsewhere. Our diverse terrain and weather conditions certifies us as the best place in the world to try certain extreme sports out, evident in the flocking of tourists to SA for ‘extreme tourism’. Just add in a good dose of our beautiful scenery…
4x4ing is an extreme sport enjoyed by millions of people all over the world. Courses usually range from timid beginner tracks to super-advanced Rubicon-type adventures that can take days at a time. It requires a 4×4 vehicle with a lockable differential and limited slip, and the application of several simple rules that depend on the task at hand. 4×4 tracks exist virtually in every country in the world, especially in 3rd world countries where infrastructure lacks. Many deaths have occurred internationally, but this can be one of the safest outings considering a typical SUV’s safety features.
Best SA location: Bontebok Ridge, Western Cape
Best Int’l location: Deua National Park, Australia
Thrill factor: 6/10
Sand yachting, or land sailing, dates back to ancient Egyptian times, where even then it served as a leisure sport. Modern day sand yachting finds a place in almost every continent in the world, with flat, windy areas providing the best proving grounds. This sport is incredibly easy to learn, and favours gusts of wind as opposed to low, consistent winds. Speeds of up to 70km/h are common, and the sport enjoys an international competitive presence. Sand yachting has a few recorded deaths, never one recorded for a rider, but rather by people getting struck by fast moving yachts.
Best SA location: Various beaches, Durban
Best Int’l location: Ninety mile beach, New Zealand
Thrill factor: 6/10
Coasteering is an extreme sport that was born in Pembrokeshire, England. It involves wearing just a wetsuit, helmet and some old trainers. The sports itself requires climbing, jumping, traversing, grappling and swimming as partakers explore a section of coastline where the sea meets land. The sport can be quite mild during quiet weather, but true daredevils prefer engage the wrath of Nature when the wind is blowing and the waves are high. The sport’s first recorded death occurred on September 08 on the coast of England, with a drowning due to unfavourable weather.
Best SA location: Rooi Els, Cape Town
Best Int’l location: Pembrokeshire, England
Thrill factor: 6/10
Modern bungee jumping was invented in the late 1970s in England, taking place from the Clifton Suspension bridge in Bristol. However, a New Zealander by the name of AJ Hackett took bungee jumping to the world, evident in his worldwide involvement in the sport. South Africa competes on a world class level in bungee jumping: the Bloukrans Bridge just outside Plettenberg Bay remains the world’s highest bungee jump at 216m. There are numerous recorded deaths in America involving bungee jumping, but have nearly always been the result of human error or defective equipment.
Best SA location: Bloukrans Bridge, Plettenberg Bay
Best Int’l location: Locarno, Switzerland
Thrill factor: 7/10
Kite surfing in SA finds it home on the coastline, stretching from Durban all the way down to windy Cape Town. However, international professionals flock down to Cape Town between October and March every year to train. Comprising a kite and board, top speeds of up to 93km/h have been attained while engaging in this dangerous extreme sport. You better be careful of Cape Town’s famous, sudden wind gusts though, because a rock face or building won’t be as soft as beach sand. In 2003 A Cape Town kite surfer broke both legs and nearly lost his life against a house wall.
Best SA location: Hakgat, Cape Town
Best Int’l location: Cape Hatteras, America
Thrill factor: 8/10
Perhaps one of the earliest inventions in the world of extreme sports, skydiving began with a man called Andre-Jacques Garnerin, who jumped from a hot air balloon in 1797, using a fabric parachute successfully. Skydiving was used extensively during times of war, and became an international extreme sport in 1951. Skydiving requires one to jump from a plane, usually from a height of 4km. The aim is land in a drop zone using toggles attached to the parachute. Many deaths have been recorded in this sport, with roughly 30 deaths recorded for every 100,000 jumps in the US alone.
Best SA location: Wonderboom Airport, Pretoria
Best Int’l location: Laka Wanaka, New Zealand
Thrill factor: 9/10
Spend any amount of time in the water between Dyer’s Island and Geyser Rock without protection, and you’ll have to forgive anyone who calls you a jackass. The local jackass penguins and fur seals especially, because they’re far better equipped to deal with the sudden presence of a Great White shark than you are. This marine haven is home to the largest concentration of these sharks on Earth, and is world-renowned as the best place to meet up with these prehistoric predators face to teeth. A death in Florida in February 08 was recorded, but purely because the diver was not in a cage.
Best SA location: Gansbaai, Cape Town
Best Int’l location: Port Lincoln, South Australia
Thrill factor: 9/10
White river rafting
Kayaking as it is also known is a popular extreme sport, and another case where South Africa shines globally. Daredevils strap helmets to heads and traverse rapid water, waterfalls, dangerous rocks and strong currents. Rapids are graded similarly to ski runs, and ‘slalom’ methods of white water rafting is even listed as an Olympic sport. With the threat of drowning or head/body trauma at every turn, this sport is not for the feint-hearted. Thousands of deaths have been recorded worldwide, because as some have learned, struggling against Nature can be a very dangerous thing indeed.
Best SA location: The Buffalo River, Kwazulu Natal