A volcano makes a stunning venue for an adventure sports event. On Jan. 13, competitors in Chile’s Pucon Triathlon will strive to complete 1.2 miles of swimming in Latin American Lake District icon, Lake Villarica, 56 miles of cycling and 13.1 miles of running: all under the flinty eye of Villarica Volcano. In theory, the volcano could blow any time because it one of Chile’s most active stacks.
If the epic exercise fails to get entrants’ adrenaline pumping, that thought should. If they can handle the heat, they might want to try some other sports that revolve entirely around volcanoes.
More accurately known as “volcano wingsuiting,” volcano diving must be one of the wildest extreme sports on the map. After all, for most people, wingsuiting is already extreme. Volcano diving is insane, especially if the volcano you choose to flirt with is billowing steam, as in this 2009 clip above. If a more radical means of getting some kicks exists, we’d be curious to know. The extreme sports pioneer feeling the heat, Valery Rozov, made headlines around the world when he skydived in his wingsuit right into the crater of the Mutnovsky volcano in Kamchatka, Russia, jumping from a helicopter. It will come as no surprise to hear that Rozov was the first person ever to attempt such an exploit. The plucky Adrenalist had already won fame as an X Games gold medallist and performed well over 8,000 BASE jumps and sky dives before plummeting 700m into the record books. Then, he was 44. Now, he is still pulling off death-defying feats for Red Bull. It makes you wonder if this wingsuit warrior with a pyromaniac streak will ever mellow out, let alone quit. Stay tuned for news of anyone daring to emulate his pulse-pounding Kamchatka stunt. So far, no takers.
The jumpsuits that volcano surfers wear make them look like escaped convicts, but they are free spirits who shun the sea’s luscious curves in favor of the sharp, fast surface presented by a massive geological lump. As with volcano diving, the hardcore adventure sport is not quite mainstream yet. Apparently the only volcano that anyone surfs is Nicaragua’s 2,382ft Cerro Negro mountain – good choice though because Cerro Negro is Central America’s youngest and one of the globe’s most active volcanoes. Cerro Negro first erupted in 1850. Cerro Negro has flipped her lid 20 times since, last blowing in 1999. If Cerro Negro goes again in 2013, the goggled thrill seekers who slide down her sides will need more than boards. The sport caught on after it was dreamed up by Australian Darryn Webb back in 2005. Webb was managing the Bigfoot hostel in the town of Leon in Nicaragua’s mountainous Northwest region. Keen to deploy his snowboarding skills, Webb tested mattresses and boogie boards. Then he turned to a plywood board bolstered with metal and Formica and the sport was born.
Volcanoes make great natural running arenas, because, well, the circumference is regular and round like a conventional athletic track’s. Doubtless, adventure athletes around the world recruit their local gash in the earth’s crust for informal training. The sport is, however, semi-organized. Look no farther than VolcanoRunning.com, which has a connoisseur’s take on the budding extreme sport. The website describes Washington’s Mount St. Helens as, “a great run. Reasonable mileage (50K), running through the desolation area, sandy canyons, lava flows and a surprising array of different eco systems.” It all sounds very cultural, light years from the reckless gumption required for volcano diving. “There is something magical about ‘completing the circle’ and running around one of the Pacific Northwest’s volcanoes,” the site also says. The sport has spawned some registered events, including The Great Volcanic Mountain Challenge, which will run on Mar. 24 in New South Wales, Australia at Mount Canobolas, near Orange in the state’s Central West region. What a shame that Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano Wilderness Run dried up after a 2008 eruption. In theory, if a volcano erupts during a run, you could treat lava streams as part of the thrill of the chase.