With his vision completely blurred around the edges, Jackson Bell, an exercise science major from Moraga, Calif., could only see the slack line and anchor that kept him from plummeting to the ground below as he highlined between two cliffs.
The adrenaline rush of this and other extreme sports has proven to be intoxicating to its many enthusiasts.
Baseball, football and other traditional sports are becoming a fad of the past as people are turning to extreme sports for an adrenaline rush. These thrill seekers, or adventure purists, look for new ways to experience a combination of recreation, nature and adventure — leading to the rise of extreme sports.
“Extreme sports require intense preparation and effort, and they break the cycle of the mundane tasks that normally fill our everyday lives,” Bell said.
Drawn to adrenaline and the thrill-seeker mentality, these adventure purists are changing the way they see outdoor recreation.
The national scene
ESPN puts on the Winter and Summer X Games each year, focusing on extreme sports. Events range from motocross to BMX to snowboarding. One of the first Winter X Games in 1997 had 8,000 spectators, but that number grew substantially to 35.4 million viewers in the U.S. in 2012.
Travis Pastrana is “the youngest rider to ever represent the United States at the Motocross of Nations,” according to his website, and a champion of several different Motorcross and Supercross competitions. He is also known as the most successful competitor in the history of X Games Freestyle Motocross.
A pioneer of extreme sports, Pastrana helped make the craze for adrenaline famous by creating a show to highlight extreme sport athletes and their stunts.
Nitro Circus, created by Pastrana, Gregg Godfrey, Jeremy Rawle, Jeff Termaine, Johnny Knoxville and Trip Taylor, debuted on MTV in 2009. The show grew extremely popular and generated more than $30 million in ticket revenue from live tours, sold over one million DVDs and was ranked the number 1 selling action sports franchise of all time.
“Nitro Circus The Movie 3D” is set to release Friday August 10.
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Moab, Utah, has become a Mecca to explore the natural wonders of Southern Utah. Various companies in Moab offer tours by dirt bikes, ATVs, white water rafting, mountain bikes, skydiving, canyoneering and climbing. In 2011 more than 1.5 million people visited Canyonlands and Arches National Parks near Moab.
Abraham Kim, 22, a biology major from Sandy, Utah, has been an avid rock climber for the past three years. The physical and mental challenge of the sport drew him in and he has enjoyed it ever since.
“It’s the trend,” Kim said. “I think people have been stuck within the traditional era, but now they are starting to realize that there is so much more that the world has. With the increase of technology, we can just go out and explore and try new things.”
Erik Westesen, a public relations major from Olathe, Colo., finds a balance of adventure and nature through canyoneering.
“When I’m canyoneering, I’m pushing myself and my own limits, rather than competing against others and trying to beat them,” Westesen said. “I can challenge myself and I can find beauty at the same time.”
The increase in technology has helped people explore different parts of the world and participate in extreme sports. The equipment has become more accessible, allowing more participation.
Brandon Beck, 22, a business strategy major from Bountiful, Utah, is currently interning at Gordon & Smith, an action sports brand that specializes in longboards and surfboards.
“The industry has grown so fast and so big over the past decade,” Beck said. “There are a lot more opportunities for companies to sponsor tournaments, athletes and events.”
Through the internet, companies are able to interact more closely with their consumers, positing videos and techniques of how to improve their skills in certain sports.
“This shows that the brands are committed to the sport and not just selling their products,” Beck said.
At a recent conference at BYU, Jonathan Munk, director of interactive at Skull Candy, spoke about Skull Candy’s tactic of using interactive marketing to help build relationships with their consumers.
“Skull Candy has focuses on creating a lifestyle and culture through the brand,” Munk said.
Skull Candy partners up with athletes, puts on events and uses interactive channels. Skull Candy sponsors extreme athletes such as professional surfer Pat Gudauskas, professional motocross racer Robbie Maddison and professional BMX rider Rob Wise.
With this increase of media entertainment featuring extreme sports, people are trying them out themselves. The national media isn’t the only entity experiencing exponential growth in numbers, but local tourism is as well.
Extreme sports enable participants to focus less on competing against others, and more on the competition with themselves.
“Extreme sports are different from competitive sports because the opponent isn’t a team or a player, it is fear and danger,” Bell said. “Even when climbing or highlining in the safest possible way, the perceived danger moves the mind and the body to a different level of performance.”