Lindy Taverner

Extreme Sports 101

2011-04-20 13:43
Sport24 columnist Lindy Taverner (File)
Lindy Taverner

Deciding whether or not to include certain activities as extreme was a steep task. There are obviously polar boundaries within each discipline, but I am alluding to the riskier edge.

The list of extreme sports is so extensive and complicated that I’ve divided it into three separate articles on land, air and water.

Firstly, in land-based action, I went to check out a SAGRA (SA Gravity Racing Association) event on the weekend. There was downhill skateboarding which involves riding speedboards that are longer than typical skateboards, and riders wearing full body suits and helmets to combat serious injury if they are unlucky enough to fall at extreme gravity-induced speeds.

Bum boards entail sitting on an even longer board going downhill on a paved road, and street luge involves lying on a long board that can have an indented mould to fit your body for more security, sometimes with steering, but most often not. Speeds range from 64 to 157km/h. I saw them whizzing by up close, seriously mind-blowing.

Aggressive inline skating, better known as rollerblading or ‘blading’ focuses on a sliding stance known as ‘grind’, new tricks, stunts and personal style. Inline boarders on the other hand use boards with two BMX style pivoting wheels. It is also known as mountain boarding or dirtsurfing, a brand name from Australia.

Sandboarding involves speeding down steep sand dunes with your feet strapped sideways onto a board. You can grab a kite for increased power and speed;  then it’s aptly named kite sandboarding.  If you’re sitting on it and it has three wheels it’s called land yachting. In the States, Europe and New Zealand it’s frequently used as cross training by ‘yachties’.

Moving on to winter conditions, snowboarding is massively trendy all over the world. Extreme skiing and ice yachting (have they nothing else to do in freezing countries?), although considered less ‘cool’ are also included in the extreme sport genre.  

Snowcross is a racing sport involving specialised high performance snowmobiles on an artificially-made tracks consisting of tight turns, banked corners, steep jumps and obstacles. In warmer South Africa we have the jet skiing alternative.

Whilst on the subject of motorised engines and moving onto the dirt bike world, the word ‘motocross’ originated from the words ‘motorcycle’ and ‘cross country’ and has gained massive worldwide publicity and popularity. In the freestyle motocross (FMX) sub-category riders are judged on their jumping and aerial, acrobatic skills. There are the Motocross Nationals being held this Saturday at the Melkbos 4x4 track in Northern Cape Town, if you want to check it out.

Supercross and arenacross are further evolved stadium-based events on artificially-made dirt tracks with steep jumps and obstacles. Supermoto bikers race on both tarmac and off road.

Motorbike rallies involve long distance courses that have a start and finish, and the competitors race to achieve the fastest time, whereas Enduro is off-road motorcycling with very specific time keeping rules between checkpoints. By the way, do not ever get motocross and enduro riders confused as they tend to get very irritated...

Auto rally racing, according to Wikipedia, ‘takes place on public or private roads with modified production or specially built road-legal cars’, for example those suped-up and pimped-out VW citi golf’s. They also state ‘drifting’ as a motorsport where the driver intentionally over steers, causing loss of traction in the rear wheels through turns, while maintaining vehicle control and a high exit speed. Drifting developed enormous ‘street cred’ from featuring in movies like ‘The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift’.

Non-motorised dirt bikes include BMX and downhill mountain biking (can be extremely physically hazardous). The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Downhill National Championships are being held at the Cascades track in Pietermaritzburg this weekend, if you’re in the area. The UCI BMX Supercross (stadium with obstacles) also took place in the area earlier this month, providing incredible opportunities for SA riders.

Mountaineering is my favourite extreme sport. The sub-disciplines include ice climbing, bouldering, canyoning, abseiling, caving and free solo climbing (no ropes), the finer points of which are another story for another day.

Skydiving nationals are being held in Robertson in the Western Cape from Friday, April 22 to Tuesday, May 1. I’ll detail the action and various other air sports next week.  

I’m also hard at work sniffing the underground to find the most hardcore extreme athlete in South Africa, and I’m only asking for recommendations from the most hectic extremists I can find. May promises to provide some extremely interesting stories...

Lindy Taverner is the editor of the RUSH magazine that was based in the Eastern Cape and recently relocated to Cape Town. Previous issues and updated extreme sport news can be found on her site

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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