Ever since Oxford University’s "Dangerous Sports Club" dished up a world-first bungee jump in 1979, the fashion and following for adrenaline-fueled feats has only intensified. Skydiving, BASE jumping and ordinary bungee are now yesterday’s news, folks. It seems there’s no end to the lengths that humans will go to get their rocks off.
Here’s an exposé of some of the wildest and weirdest trends currently destroying better senses.
1. Volcano boarding
For the bulk of the free world, a volcano — whether active or not — is a natural wonder best admired from afar. Yet for the extreme among us, it’s a chance to engage in one of the planet’s fastest growing pastimes: volcano boarding, aka sliding on a board at a righteous pace down the interior incline of an active volcano (presumably the larger, more active and more likely to expel red-hot magma into the atmosphere, the better). Boards tend to be like a 19th century toboggan, bolstered with a layer of metal at the front end and a rope hold. High winds in the drop zone can be a hazard, as can rock burn. Though a onesie, goggles and gloves ought to prevent any serious tearing of the flesh.
Where to do it: Nicaragua
2. Crocodile bungee
Nothing too ambiguous in the description here, crocodile bungee is a refreshingly straightforward endeavor: Simply add yesterday’s run-of-the-mill bungee setup with a potentially fatal encounter with living, breathing, snap-happy crocs. If the structural integrity of your bungee rope wasn’t already playing on your mind, there’s nothing like being launched like a yo-yo over a predator-infested pond to induce primal fear. Consider Erin Langworthy’s perilous dip into the murky Zambezi in 2012, somehow avoiding death from the jaws of our prehistoric brethren. (For those who like to rein it in a little, Biscuit Bungee is a good alternative).
Where (not) to do it: Zambezi River, Africa
3. Limbo skating
Say what you want about extreme sports, they’re great at lateral-thinking hybrids. Limbo skating is, as you’ve probably already put together in your own head, the fusion of skating and limbo, together at last in one crotch-splittingly spectacular event. The competition’s stiff: 6-year-old Indian boy Gagan Satish took the world record this year, roller skating beneath 39 SUVs just 7 inches from the ground. How low can you go?
Where to do it: Anywhere you can find roller skates and a limbo pole
4. Wing walking
Aero-phobics would do well to shy away from this one. Wing-walking involves being strapped to the roof of a biplane as it hurtles at 186 mph through the open skies, with enough dips, dives and twirls to give you that funny feeling in the pit of your stomach for life. At 3Gs, this is a roller coaster to top them all — certainly not for the faint of heart.
Where to do it: Somerset, UK
Pioneered in the early '80s by Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth (not really), Air-Kicking is the brainchild of German daredevil and stuntman Jochen Schwiezer, an activity that replaces the risk of peril associated with most other extreme sports with good old-fashioned fun. Schwiezer’s special fusion of ‘air pressure and water recoil technology’ prompts a catapult to launch your flailing body more than 25 feet into the air via a pre-calculated parabolic trajectory, collecting you in a body of water or foam pit. Say hello to this summer’s must-have poolside accessory.
Where to do it: Ettingen, Germany
6. Mountain unicycling
You thought normal unicycling was a trip — try doing it up the side of a highland massif. Mountain unicycling (aka Rough Terrain Unicycling, or "MUni") is essentially mountain biking with one half of your bike gone: an acute feat of endurance and concentration for some, a special kind of madness for others. This sort of terrain is a long way from the circus.
Where to do it: Spanish Banks, Vancouver
While in some parts of the world this has to do with turbocharging a mechanized wild goat, today’s common take on powerbocking describes the act of running, jumping and performing limber maneuvers with spring stilts strapped to your feet for maximum propulsion and heroic air-time. Not to be confused with "jumping shoes," or circa-1970s Russian "rocket boots," these elastic, spring-loaded stilts are made of aluminium with a fiberglass leaf spring, and allow the budding powerbocker to take close to 10-foot strides, leap 8 feet off the ground and run at over 20 mph.
Where to do it: Normandy, France
8. Extreme dinghy racing
There’s something delightfully trashy about extreme dinghy, like a swampy, budget-end extreme jet boating. A suitably South Australian invention, extreme dinghy began in 1981 after a wager between two Murray River locals about who owned a faster vessel. Today, the small town of Renmark, SA is home to the annual Red Bull Dinghy Derby, where over 60 teams from around the country soup up 10-foot aluminum skiffs with outboards for a 55 mph burst through the crocodile-infested waters of the Murray River Basin (bungee anyone?). Add poisonous snakes, jagged driftwood and 50 mph speeds to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a bona fide day of bush madness.
Where to do it: Renmark, South Australia
Also called slacklining, highlining involves balancing along a suspended length of flat webbing between two objects or anchors — say, two sides of a mountain gorge, or a deuce of urban skyscrapers. The ultimate test of poise, agility and sanity, pundits often go a step further in this game of high-stakes ropewalking by performing a range of tricks mid-line, including "the Buddha," Michael Jackson-esque moonwalks, throwing and/or catching frisbees and the Macarena.
Where to do it: Dolomites, Italy