Flying into the world of extreme sports

The Oracle takes a look at some popular extreme sports.

Bungee Jumping

By: Divya Shiv

Graphics by: George Hwang

For thrill seekers everywhere, there is not a better activity to experience than that of bungee jumping. This involves jumping off of tall buildings or bridges while connected to elastic cords that have been  tied to a person’s feet or to a harness to give jumpers that feeling of  weightlessness. Although bungee jumping now takes place all over the world at places such as Yosemite and Zimbabwe, the  sport began in the Pentecost Island in the South Pacific, where men would prove themselves by jumping off cliffs with only thick vines tied to their feet to prevent their deaths.

However, it was not until 1979 that bungee jumping became a mainstream sport, thanks to a few members of the Oxford University Dangerous Sports club who wanted to prank people with an April Fools’ joke. They secured themselves with nylon braided cords, dressed up in fancy clothes and jumped off of the Clifton Suspension Bridge in the middle of day. Unfortunately, all were promptly arrested.

These men chose to bungee jump in the traditional style, with one person going at a time. However, there are other variations of bungee jumping that a thrill seeker can choose from. For instance, one type is tandem bungee jumping, where two people jump at the same time. Although it is double the fun, it also means double the risk as the cords are not built to hold two people and can easily get tangled up in each other. Another type of bungee jumping that is fairly popular is catapulting, which is when a person stands on the ground and is then shot up into the air.

However, there are a few risks that are common to every type of bungee jumping, most of which involve the cords that support the jumper. For instance, if the cord is too long, it won’t recoil at the right time and the jumper may come in contact with the ground. Then there is the danger of the cord snapping or if the cord detaches from the harness or, more likely, the jumper’s feet.

Despite these dangers, bungee jumping is the ultimate extreme sport to take part in. Producing an intense adrenaline rush, bungee jumping can be extremely fun, if done correctly.

Hang Gliding

By: Misheel Enkhbat

Hang gliding isn’t for the faint of heart—i­­­t’s for those who crave an adrenaline rush. The sport allows thrill seekers to fulfill their desires to fly.

The design for the hang glide helped lead to the invention of the airplane.  In the Wright brothers’ pursuit for flight, they created models of the hang glider, but due to its lack of control, the brothers abandoned the design. It was not until 1971, when Tom Dickinson flew on a hang glider for fifteen seconds, that the public became interested in the activity.

Though it may looks effortless and relaxing on pictures,  in reality, hang gliding is not a sport that one can take up on a whim. The sport requires a lot of practice and training and there are many different things that an athlete needs learn before he can take flight. However the risks can be reduced by taking these precautionary measures.

Although one is not required to have a license for hang gliding, it is beneficial to take an introductory flight and then enroll in classes. It is normal for a beginner to take five to ten classes before he can fly independently. In order to continue hang gliding, one must follow the policies of the United States Hang Gliding Association (USHGA). The USHGA states that beginner pilots should only fly under 100 feet in mild winds with an instructor. In other words, one should not just find the highest mountain and jump off.

After taking all of the appropriate classes, one must buy a suitable hang glider. It is important to know that all hang gliders function in various ways. Because beginners will not be able to pinpoint his strengths or weaknesses themselves, it is best to purchase one with the help of an instructor as the right guide will be a great help in the athlete’s efforts to improve. However, because hang gliders are expensive, ranging from $3000 to $5000, and must be replaced every four years, an athlete should not purchase his own hang glider unless he is absolutely positive that he will carry through with the sport.

After taking the appropriate classes and buying a suitable hang glider, it is crucial to practice in safe conditions, especially in areas of high altitude and wind. The athlete must find his weaknesses and master them.

The most popular places to hang glide are   at short cliffs, hills, and beaches. But, one shouldn’t  hang glide  at beaches unless one is  prepared for the tumultuous weather. One must be experienced and capable of braving the strong winds. So if this sport sounds appealing then go out, take some classes and have fun.

Windsurfing

By: Eileen Qian

For those who enjoy spending time in the water, windsurfing is a thrilling sport that is perfect for a day at the beach or lake. It is an activity that utilizes elements of sailing and surfing by using a sailboard to glide on the water’s surface and the wind to navigate. Its origin dates back to 1948 in Pennsylvania, where Newman Darby created the first sailboard that allowed sailing without a rudder. His invention was originally intended to be used to control a catamaran, but two Southern Californians, Jim Drake and Hoyle Schweizer, used Darby’s invention to give rise to windsurfing.

Though it may seem like windsurfing requires a high level of expertise in surfing and sailing, anyone can participate, as the sport is dependent on practice and patience. Surprisingly, there are training courses available for interested learners in the Bay Area, such as the  Shoreline Lake’s Aquatic Center and with only a few hours of practice on the lake, one can develop the fundamentals of windsurfing and eventually achieve enough balance and stability to face the ultimate challenge: sailing in the ocean. Because the strong winds and high tides in the ocean are unpredictable and there are many more obstacles in the ocean than in a lake, a cautious learner will need lots of practice before he can consider the sport to be fun. However, the diligence pays off when he feels the rush of successfully cruising amongst the crushing ocean waves.

Regardless of an athlete’s level of expertise in the sport, there is a wide variety of windsurfing styles that can be enjoyed by any type of windsurfer. For instance, light wind cruising is designed for beginners who prefer to gently cruise or to practice controlling their boards as it is easier to recover  from mistakes. Intermediate windsurfers generally participate in speed sailing, where the goal is to go as fast as they can go by manipulating the wind conditions and skimming across the surface of the water. Finally, freestyle and wave sailing are two types of windsurfing that are popular amongst more daring and advanced athletes. In freestyle windsurfing, athletes use light sailing boards and attempt to perform tricks, such as jumping and turning 360 degrees in mid-air. Lastly, wave sailing is physically demanding, as one relies solely on the power of the wind and waves to maneuver. Without much practice, one can easily crash and be dragged off the intended course.

As with any sport, windsurfing can be dangerous. Without proper clothing, many athletes suffer from hypothermia after being in the water for too long. In addition, for beginners, an attempt to stay on par with the unpredictable wind and large waves may result in a painful clash with sharp obstacles in the water, such as rocks or reefs. However, with careful planning and proper training, one will not have to worry about any of these safety precautions.
Even though there are great beaches in California where one can windsurf, some other great places  to windsurf are Maui, Spain, Costa Rica, South Africa, Greece and the Philippines.

Street Luging

By: Jean Wang

To most people, lying down on a skateboard only a few inches from the ground and traveling at speeds of up to 90 mph wearing nothing but a protective leather suit, a helmet, leather gloves, and a pair of shoes sounds insane. Yet, to experienced street lugers, this is just another typical race.

Street luging is an extreme sport that originated in the 1970s from “buttboarding,” a technique skateboarders used to increase their speeds by lying down with their butts on their skateboards. Throughout the 1980s, underground and professional races were held throughout Southern California, but it was not until the 1990s when street luging experienced a huge surge in popularity after being featured in ESPN’s 1995 X Games. The sport was also featured in NBC’s Gravity Games as an Extreme Downhill International (EDI) category. Since then, street luging has remained popular, with over 1,000 professional street lugers worldwide.
Street luging is a completely gravity powered sport, and street luge boards are banned from having any mechanical brakes.  Braking is managed by using the racer’s shoes, and it is not unusual to see smoke coming from their soles. Steering is managed by leaning from side to side, leading to frequent contact with the pavement and other racers. When traveling at high speeds, this can translate to severe bruises, broken elbows and dislocated shoulders. These conditions make street luging an extremely dangerous sport, and athletes are especially susceptible to frequent crashes and wipeouts that often result in serious injuries. Even professionals admit to the high danger involved in the sport, a factor that is important to take into account when considering the sport. Furthermore, street luge boards can be quite expensive, costing between $1000 to $2000, although many street lugers make their own boards to reduce the costs.

Ultimately, street luging offers an exhilarating, but dangerous alternative for adrenaline junkies looking to challenge their limits.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: