The Adrenalist

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Extreme Aerial Sports



Kitesurfing resembles wakeboarding, windsurfing and gymnastics rolled into one extreme aerial sport. Some of kitesurfing’s biggest attractions are “jumping” and “controlled flying.” If you want to experience kitesurfing in all its glory, consider jet-setting to Mauritius’ Kiteival carnival, which runs from August 11 to 19.

During Kiteival, “neon power-kites” tow surfers across the Indian Ocean nation’s turquoise lagoons. Engaging in races, freestyle contests and tests of endurance, intentionally or otherwise, Kiteival competitors take to the skies like the gravity-busting kitesurfers in the video clip above.

Can’t make it to Mauritius? Get your adrenaline fix with some intel on these extreme aerial sports that lift you up and bring you face to face with the adrenaline.


No sport has a more intense aerial dimension than skydiving, which forces you to trust the void and the power of your parachute. Freefall speeds for skydivers descending in the standard belly-to-earth position range from 110 to 130 miles per hour (180 to 210 km per hour), but competitors in headfirst speed skydiving contests have been logged reaching velocities of over 330 mph.

Skydiving traces its roots back to the plunges made from a hot-air balloon by the French aeronaut André-Jacques Garnerin in 1797. Modern skydivers usually jump from a propeller-driven plane, but some parachutists with a devilish streak pursue the sport from helicopters or hot-air balloons a la Garnerin. As you can see in the video above, British stuntman Gary Connery had a crack from a helicopter without a parachute. The 42-year-old landed on a “safety net” giant pile of cardboard boxes. The sensation was described by Gary Connerys as, “absolutely wonderful.”  ”I am in a strange zone at the moment,” he said. It is an amazing feeling. I feel incredible, just completely elated.”

BASE Jumping

If a more extreme sport than BASE jumping exists, please tell us about it immediately…because we can’t think of one.

Base or “BASE” is an acronym for “building”, “antenna”, “span” and “earth.” In the sport, a parachutist jumps from a moderately elevated point such as a tower, bridge or cliff instead of an airplane. The lack of height means you must get your act together fast and yank the ripcord before your date with the ground becomes crunching reality. Besides quick wits, you need a whole lot of guts.

The ultra-extreme sport is largely the brainchild of filmmaker Carl Boenish. In 1978, Boenish filmed dramatic base jumps from El Capitan: a stunning vertical rock face punctuating Yosemite National Park.

Cliff Diving

No rule says that if you want to engage with altitude you must wear a parachute. Cliff diving is quite simple: first, find your cliff and then step off it, pointing downward. No fancy footwork required. That said, cliff diving has a semi-professional footing. The La Quebrada Cliff Divers, for example, are a bunch of high-altitude adventure enthusiasts based in Acapulco, Mexico. In daily shows, the La Quebrada divers jump 35 meters (125 ft) from area cliffs into the waves. The depth of the water they enter can be as low as 6 feet. So, timing is critical — especially if a performer is taking the plunge after sunset, reliant on torch light.

Cliff diving generally makes for stunning viewing, especially because venues lean toward the extreme. The Red Bull cliff diving contest in the video above takes place at Ireland’s Serpent’s Lair. The venue, Red Bull reports, is “every bit as foreboding as it sounds.” The blowhole divers enter appears capable of devouring the divers whole.

Bungee Jumping

Like cliff diving, bungee jumping is very no-frills. You just waltz into the void, attached to a long elastic cord hooked up to a high  fixed structure such as a building, bridge or crane.

That said, in 1989 extreme sport enthusiast John Kockleman supposedly notched up an amazing 2,200-foot bungee jump from a hot air balloon in California. Two years later, rival daredevil Andrew Salisbury bungee-jumped an incredible 9,000 feet from a helicopter over Cancun, Mexico. Whatever you leap from, the glorious head rush that bungee jumping gives stems from the initial freefall just as much as the rebound, enthusiasts say.

Bungee jumping has its roots in a legend stemming from the Pacific island archipelago of Vanuatu. There, the story goes, a local man squabbled with his wife and she ran off, climbed a Banyan tree and bound her ankles with liana vines. When her husband chased her up the trunk, she jumped and got more fun than she bargained for. The rest is history.


Slacklining is much like another aerial sport, tightrope walking — only less predictable. A slackliner ventures across a nylon cord strung between two anchor points. Instead of being rigidly taut as in tightrope walking, the cord is “dynamic” — flexing like a rubber band. In their efforts to outshine each other, slackliners perform acrobatic stunts and tricks. In 2006, extreme sports enthusiast Christian Schou nailed the Guinness World Record title for the highest slackline after crossing a Norwegian fjord at an altitude of 3,280 feet (1000 meters). That is the equivalent of three Eiffel Towers stacked on top of each other.

Rope walking of various tensions has been around for thousands of years. Modern slacklining stems from the antics of two rock climbers with a weakness for circus stunts: Adam Grosowsky and Jeff Ellington. In 1979, while Grosowsky and Ellington were attending Washington’s Evergreen State College, they started strolling across loose chains and cables strung across the institution. Soon, at Evergreen’s central campus square, the budding showmen were luring crowds of spectators — and originating the adrenaline-fueled sport we know today.

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