Even the most hardcore gym workouts occur in a predictable setting. The weights may get heavy, and your elbows might clatter, but the floor won't move, and the roof won't go flying skyward. Over the course of your workout, the biggest variable might be Annoying Gym Dude yakking on the bench next to yours. It may be an extreme annoyance, but you'll live.
The extreme athlete is a different breed. An addict in search of an adrenaline fix, he or she wants the ground to shake. So they pit their flesh and blood against extreme heights, depths, speeds and other conditions, forcing their human shells to defy physics. The opponent isn't just laws of physics; it's the human survival instinct.
Extreme sports have been multiplying in recent years, which begs the question: Which are the most extreme? It's a subjective question, and the answers depend on our own array of deep-seeded fears. If you don't like the water or darkness, free diving may seem like the craziest thing any human would even contemplate doing. Others might view it as a refreshing (but deep) dip.
The sports we included use and abuse gravity. Most of them involve water (Mother Nature's club, whip, and wall). We disqualified extreme sports that require participants to start an engine; sorry motos, sleds, cars, trucks, rockets, planes, etc. Some of the sports did use motorized vehicles to get them there (snow and ocean sports). Every one of our sports uses some sort of implement (a board, a rope, a rocket into space).
Top 9 Extreme Sports
Disagree with our selections? Post a comment below; try to change our minds. Submit any sport of your liking, but you better make it extreme, or it will never make this list.
When Felix Baumgartner leapt from 127,000 feet, he took extreme to incredible heights. This sets the bar for crazy stuff humans will do. Yes, he used a balloon to get there, but he jumped from space and survived.
Two-thirds of the world is covered in water and we may never reach its depths, but still, crazy divers will try! This recent expedition went deeper (636 feet) into this lost river in New Zealand. If you panic, you drown. That is extreme.
Harsh conditions test human determination, but this sport is ridiculous. We don't trust ice. Any sport that may cause you to lose an extremity, or risk exposure or hypothermia, had to make our list.
No, tying two ends of a rope to the trees in your yard doesn't count. Suspension over gorges in windy terrain, often without safety ropes? F that. But hey, it's extreme!
Sure river shallows are fun to put your feet in, but strap into a kayak and slug through earth's twisted Category-5 rapids and see if you can still paddle with water in your lungs. Many wild rivers still have unconquered stretches, for now.
The X-Games have the golden ticket to some of the world's most extreme sports (big air anyone?) but ice cross mixes solid surfaces, gravity, speed and a few of your closest rivals. All the cross sports get props, but ice cross is extremely inadvisable.
There are many variations like this (see bobsled, luge, etc.) but the downhill speed and the facial dangers in skeleton qualify it. Can you go that far downhill, that fast and not make a single error in judgment? If not, "skeleton" may describe your physique in a few weeks.
Both of these sports go to great lengths to discover untouched powder. As much as they hate each other, they have a lot in common, and we think they belong together. These sports are so low on the list because they use machines (lifts, helos) to find the extreme.
We purposely left this one a bit vague, because extreme surfers use so many different boards, we couldn't compare them all. Long, short, sand, paddle, flow, wind, and even body surfers make our extreme list. Thank the moon folks, for the tidal surges that guide you. Riptides = Extreme.