Meet 7 Humans Dedicated to Ridiculous Speeds

By sail, kite or the sole of the shoe, these seven humans are clocking the limits of speed.
By Evan David

The need for speed is seated somewhere deep within the human psyche — maybe it's those millenia we spent chasing down our meals — and as such, it should be no surprise that we can make a race out of, well, anything. Someone always wants to be fastest, whether it's by foot or flight.

As such, we've rounded up seven of the world's fastest human beings in endeavors that don't necessitate fuel, wheels or wings (OK, one has fuel — and wings — but it's worth it, trust us).

1. Antoine Albeau, windsurfer


Antoine Albeau, windsurf speedster on Namibia's Skeleton Coast
Antoine Albeau, windsurf speedster © Luderitz Speed

Sport: Windsurfing
Speed: 52.05 knots
Why it's tough: Gale-force winds required

How fast is 52 knots? Approaching 62 mph. That's the speed Antoine Albeau hits on his windsurfer, powered only by the nuclear offshore winds of Namibia's Skeleton Coast. His custom-built board and rig is tuned specifically for speed in one direction. The biggest challenge in hitting that speed? Controlling the board in chop — that's why they seek offshore winds, where chop has little chance to build.

2. Kilian Jornet, mountain runner


27-year-old Catalan Kilian Jornet is a world-class ski-tourer
Kilian Jornet, high-altitude speedster © Markus Berger/Suunto

Sport: Mountain running
Speed: Faster than everyone else
Why it's tough: Training, training, training

To call Kilian Jornet super-human is somewhat misleading — he's a human, he just trains harder (and higher) than anyone else. The Spanish mountain goat (he was raised in a hut at 6,500 feet) is the world's best trail runner, regularly racking up wins in offroad ultras when he's not bagging peaks in his Summits of My Life project — which has him seeking to set ascent and descent records on the seven summits.

3. Danyil Boldyrev, speed climbing


Sport: Speed climbing
Speed: 7 seconds/49.2 feet 
Unique challenge: Slip? Fall...

Speed climbing is a slightly obscure subset of competitive climbing that focuses more on power and pace than technique. Harnessed into an autobelay, competitors literally leap, side by side, up two identical routes. First one to the slap the buzzer wins. Danyil Boldyrev is currently the fastest guy in the world.

Check out these crazy places to climb

4. Alex Caizergues, kiteboarding

Sport: Kiteboarding
Speed: 56.65 knots
Unique challenge: Crash potential very high

Alex Caizergues has long been the king of speed when it comes to kiteboarding. The fearless Frenchman regularly travels the world in search of the perfect combination of wind and water to push the barriers of speed. In November 2013, he set the world record at 56.65 knots, over 62 mph. This coming November, he'll try to go even faster.

5. Jamie Barrow, snowboarding (behind a plane)

Sport: Tow-snowboarding?
Speed: 77.6 mph
Risk: Losing an edge, eating pavement

While almost all of these speedsters take significant risks, going this fast, this close to the pavement might be the most dangerous of all. Pro snowboarder Jamie Barrow from Britain grabbed a tow handle that happened to be attached to a jet plane, and told the pilot to hit the gas. The result? A world record for speed on a snowboard. Check out the full-length video here.

6. Paul Larsen, speed sailing


This boat hauls butt
Paul Larsen, pilot of Sailrocket © Jonathan Torgovnik

Sport: Sailing
Speed: 65.45 knots
Risk: Cartwheels

One might question whether the unwieldy-looking Sailrocket is actually a sailboat, but one thing there is no question about: It's fast. Pilot and project manager Paul Larsen steered Sailrocket to a stunning 65.45 knots in Walvis Bay, Namibia. He and his team are currently working on the third version of the boat, which they hope will go even faster.

7. Felix Baumgartner, skydiving

Sport: Skydiving
Speed: 833.9 mph
Challenge: Getting to 127,852 feet above the planet

Felix Baumgartner's jump from space broke a number of records and seriously advanced scientific knowledge, but for this purpose, we're purely focused on speed. Top speed was 833.9 mph as Baumgartner hurtled toward the Earth. (Free flight duration? Four minutes and 22 seconds.)

Hear what Felix has to say

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