Guest Post: The Concise History of Extreme Sports


What exactly is an extreme sport? It’s a notion that is hard to define and you will find a lot of adrenaline junkies who will offer different parameters of the definition. Still, if we are to look for something that is common to all types of activities pegged as “extreme” sports, that factor is almost definitely the risk factor. Physical excretion and the threat of injury (or worse) are the hallmarks of extreme sports. So, let’s take a look at the concise history of these thrilling activities.

How deep into the past does it go?

The general consensus about the history of extreme sports is that they began somewhere in the middle of the twentieth century, yet the origins of some beloved blood-pumping activities can even be traced back to the post-renaissance period. As a matter of fact, one can easily find the information about one of the first recorded parachute jumping events which was performed by Fausto Veranzio and which occurred circa 1515. Apparently, his parachute design was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches. Even skating, in the modern sense of that word, can be traced back to the 1700s and the first known sketch designs of roller skates.


Still, those old roller skate designs, and the subsequent derivative, have not only led to the development of skating but to the development of biking as well. Motor biking has been invented in Germany near the beginning of the twentieth century and as it has proliferated throughout the world, so did the variety of bike types as well as the plethora of neat dirt bike partsthat are used to modulate and tweak motorbikes to one’s own preference. Biking saw a particularly noticeable boom during the 1970s, when the youngsters from around the world began practicing the motocross and extreme biking across the steep and dangerous mountainsides and national parks. It was a “man and his invention against nature” sort of a deal, which became quite an enticing prospect.


Of course, one cannot mention enticing extreme sports without discussing surfing. When compared to all other extreme sports, it is fairly easy to specify its origins but it’s practically impossible to discern the precise timeline of its beginnings. It definitely has its roots in a favorite Polynesian leisure activity which was first introduced to the westerners in the late eighteenth century in Hawaii, where they witnessed indigenous people riding the waveson boards. Since then, it has spread all the way across the Pacific, from the shores of California to the coastline of Australia. In the 1970s surfing became the integral part of the Los Angeles culture and the epitome of lifestyle on the sands of Venice and Santa Monica.


A rush of air

While many extreme sports, such as deep diving and surfing, have usually been part of the human history and lifestyle, conquering the air has been much harder feat because it relies on technological advancement and inventiveness to a much greater extent. Wing suit “flying”, which originated in 1930s and was invented by Franz Reichelt, is a much more spectacular adrenaline pumping endeavor when you jump out of the plane. In its current standardized form, the wing suit was designed in 1990s in France by Patrick de Gayardon.

Skydiving is also the “brethren” extreme sport of wing suit flying, and the first recorded free fall with a parachute happened in 1797, by Andre-Jacques Garnerin, who actually jumped out of a hot-air balloon. When it comes to sports that are all about rushing through the air, bungee jumping remains one of the most ubiquitous and accessible extreme sports around the world. The origins of this particular sport can be traced back to the Vanuatu, where the high-risk ritual, known as land diving, is performed by the island tribesmen.

It is not that hard to discern why extreme sports have become so popular today. We all live in fairly protected and protective environments. The modern society, especially the western world, is going out of its way to offer protection and comfort to its citizens, and yet it is in the very nature of many humans to seek out thrills.  Therefore, the boom of extreme sports, as a psychological phenomenon, is by no means peculiar and it is only at the beginning of the most exciting chapter in its surprisingly deep history.

About the Author:

Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in topics related to home improvement, DIY and interior design. In her free time she enjoys reading and preparing healthy meals for her family.

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