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From runner’s high to watching scary movies, we all get our thrills and adrenaline rush in many different ways. But some of us seek thrills far beyond the norms of everyday life.
Extreme sports take the pursuit of thrill-seeking to mind-boggling, daring, and often dangerous levels. You’ll scarcely believe some of these activities are actual sports.
Some you can try. Others are far too dangerous, requiring years of practice, dedication, and nerves of steel. But all are incredible in their own right.
So gear up for a white-knuckle ride like no other, as we take a closer look at 39 extreme sports that have to be seen to be believed.
Watching BASE jumpers can bring sweat to the palms of even the most steely-nerved of people! You can watch thousands of such jumps on YouTube.
BASE jumping sees daredevils jump and freefall from high-up fixed spots: buildings, antenna, span, and earth (such as cliffs). The only thing stopping them hit the ground at full speed? One solitary parachute!
Ironman triathlon is without a doubt one of the most brutal endurance events that both amateurs and professionals can take part in.
Ironman combines the triathlon disciplines of open-water swimming, cycling, and running, across grueling distances.
A 3.8km open-water swim, 180km cycle ride, followed by a full running marathon, sounds exhausting to read, let alone actually attempt!
On the bucket list of so many people, bungee jumping is one of the most popular extreme sports. Jumping from great heights, with an elastic cord strapped to your feet, can be an utterly exhilarating experience.
From waterfalls and canyons to abandoned industrial plants, there are spots all over the world you can bungee jump from.
Canyoning is an incredible way to get up close and personal with some of nature’s most jaw-dropping canyons and valleys.
It requires you to scramble, jump, climb, and swim through rivers and canyons with protective gear, usually with a group of people. It’s an exhilarating extreme sport, and great fun to try.
Scuba diving in vast, crystal waters is one thing: but imagine doing it in the deep waters of dark, twisting caves!
Not for the faint-hearted, cave divers commonly use scuba equipment. For insane levels of thrill, some people even free dive in the waters, with no equipment at all.
Also called Xpogo, extreme pogo takes a leaf out of skateboarding’s book, daring competitors to perform flips and tricks on specially designed pogo sticks, that can reach a height of up to three meters.
Extreme pogo is mind-blowing to watch, and it requires an incredible level of skill and technique to master.
Freeflying takes the adrenaline-fuelled sport of skydiving and throws in plenty of crazy flips, turns, and synchronized maneuvers.
In freeflying, once you’ve jumped from the plane, you use the time freefalling, before you open your parachute, to assemble into a range of different shapes and moves with others.
It’s one of the ultimate team sports, trying to coordinate moves with your teammates as you fall at 200kph!
At ski resorts, slopes are graded for their difficulty and monitored frequently. Extreme skiing throws all of those precautions out of the window.
In extreme skiing, skiers tackle slopes in dangerous mountain areas, typically with a 45-60 degree angle of slope. It’s fast, furious, and only for incredibly experienced skiers.
Yes, you read that correctly! Extreme ironing sees competitors dare to out-do each other by ironing a shirt in isolated and challenging locations.
Some of the attempts are mind-blowing. People have partaken in extreme ironing underwater, while snowboarding, and even tightrope walking over a river.
Flowriding brings many of the elements of surfing, skimboarding, snowboarding, and bodyboarding to an artificial wave, called the FlowRider.
You may have seen this cool wave machine online, or on television. Atop continuous sheet waves, you can surf, roll, skim and do tricks on a custom made board.
It’s an extreme sport that’s fun to watch, and even more fun to try.
Paintballing is an amazing activity for team bonding, birthday parties, and some people even do it competitively.
In teams, you attempt to eliminate the competition using dye-filled gelatin paintballs.
Dodging paintballs and hiding amid trees, you’ll feel like you’re in a Jason Bourne movie!
One of the most epic but dangerous extreme sports, freediving sees you dive into deep water without any breathing apparatus.
In its most extreme form, freedivers attempt to reach mind-boggling depths in the time it takes them to hold a single breath.
Ice climbing takes outdoor rock climbing to a whole new level. In this extreme sport, competitors attempt to climb ice structures, like frozen waterfalls.
The freezing weather and unsteady structures make this a very dangerous extreme sport. For many, the reward of conquering some of nature’s most vicious, icy structures is worth the risk.
Ice diving is not for the faint-hearted. Imagine diving into freezing cold water, looking up, and seeing a vast sheet of frozen ice above your heard!
Ice diving requires a great deal of skill and specialist equipment. Due to the ice sheet, often people can only dive in and out from a singular entry point.
Take the flips and tricks from BMX or skateboarding, and instead attempt them on a specially designed scooter, and you have freestyle scootering.
This extreme sport hosts contests and championships all over the world. It’s definitely worth trying if you love the thrill and technical challenge of skateboarding or BMX biking.
If rollerblading through your neighborhood as a kid brings back warm memories, you should definitely give inline skating a try.
Inline skates use wheels arranged in a singular line. They’re designed to reach much faster speeds than conventional skates.
From team racing to slalom courses, there are many ways to try competitive inline skating.
Kite ice skating is an extreme sport that looks so much fun. On frozen rivers and lakes, you use a large kite to propel yourself along, skating as you go.
It’s a challenging extreme sport, but exhilarating fun once you get it right and glide along frozen surfaces with speed and grace.
Along coastlines with plenty of wind, kitesurfing is very popular. This extreme sport combines the skill of surfing with the power of the wind.
Catch the wind right, and you can propel along at great speeds. Some kitesurfers even perform flips and tricks while riding the waves.
Replace your surfboard with a four-wheeled board, the water with dirt or land, and you have the fun extreme sport of land windsurfing.
Due to the speed of the wind, land windsurfers can reach speeds way beyond conventional skateboarding. It’s an extreme sport that’s difficult to master, but so much fun to try.
If you love your motorsport supercharged and furious, you’ll no doubt fall in love with rallying.
Rally car drivers drive specialist built cars along public roads and off-beat tracks at insane speeds. Spectators even put their lives at risk, by watching on the roadside!
No extreme sports list is complete without at least a handful of motorsports. Motocross takes motorcycle racing to a whole new and daring level.
In motocross, riders skid and jump their way through challenging off-road dirt circuits. It’s an incredibly demanding extreme sport and one that’s pulsating to watch.
Imagine the rush and thrill of tearing down slopes and ridges on wheels, instead of a snowboard.
Mountainboarding uses a special type of board, with durable wheels you can steer, to ride down a wide range of slopes, mountains, and natural structures.
Imagine running and jumping off a cliff, then sailing through the air as you glide your ultralight paraglider gently toward the ground by hand.
Paragliding is a breathtaking extreme sport that’s done all over the world. It’s also one you can definitely try in many countries.
No doubt you’ve seen videos online of daring athletes climbing, jumping, and springing their way over walls, across rooftops, and between buildings.
Parkour requires a great deal of skill and body control at an advanced level, but beginner classes are commonly held in parks and playgrounds.
It’s an ultimate test of control, strength, and fast-paced problem solving, as you attempt to get from point A to B in the most efficient way, with no equipment.
Here’s an extreme sport if you’re looking for a perfect Instagrammable shot. In powerbocking, you use specially designed spring-loaded stilts to jump, bounce, and perform tricks.
Fun to try but difficult to master, lovers of urban-centric extreme sports, like skateboarding and rollerblading, should give this a try.
In humankind’s quest to conquer mountains, canyons, and heights, why not add wild, lashing rivers to the list!
Whitewater rafting sees you and a team paddle your way through treacherous whitewater rivers on a large inflatable raft.
Physically demanding, but utterly breathtaking, whitewater rafting is the ultimate test of strength, endurance, and teamwork.
You’ve likely seen ski jumping at the Winter Olympics. This incredible sport sees skiers fly off-ramps at high speeds, in an effort to jump as far as they can.
Imagine flying through the air, slowly descending like an eagle. This is an extreme sport like no other.
While indoor rock climbing is very popular, for true thrill-seekers nothing matches the physical challenge of tackling cliffs and rocks in nature.
Rock climbing challenges you on so many levels. Whether you’re a total beginner or seasoned climber, it’s a fun and exciting extreme sport to do.
Sandboarding takes snowboarding to hot climates, doing away with all the cold-weather gear and replacing alpine slopes with vast sand dunes.
It’s a great extreme sport to try, no matter what level you are, but very difficult to master. Some of the tricks the professionals pull are out of this world.
One of the most awesome ways to see the colorful worlds underwater, you can scuba dive in so many countries across the world.
As you carry your own oxygen tank, you can stay underwater for much longer than conventional diving. It’s an epic way to see beautiful wildlife, coral reefs, and shipwrecks.
Skydiving is one of the most well-known and beloved extreme sports. People from all over the world tick this off their bucket list every year.
From thousands of feet up, launching yourself in the vast sky and freefalling until your parachute releases is an adrenaline rush few activities can match.
If the thrill of skydiving wasn’t enough, imagine having a board strapped to your feet, doing flips and tricks in the air as you hurtle toward the ground!
Skysurfing is a true adrenaline junkie sport, and the most talented skysurfers are incredible to watch.
If you have a steady balance and nerves of steel, slacklining is an extreme sport you should definitely try.
Slacklines are suspended looser than tightropes or tightwalks, meaning they stretch and bounce as you slowly walk across them.
As with tightropes, professional walkers push themselves to the limit by slacklining from dizzying heights.
Zorbing is an extreme sport that’s fun for the whole family. Powerless, you get to roll downhill or across water, strapped inside a giant transparent bouncy ball.
The beauty of zorbing is that you have absolutely no control over the ball. Strap in and prepare for white knuckles as you roll over and over again.
Snowmobiles are some of the coolest automobiles you can ride, so it comes as no surprise that people started to race them!
Snocross takes snowmobile racing to a new level, introducing winding tracks and obstacles to navigate. Some professionals even perform tricks while racing.
Humans have ridden boards over waves, down mountains, and over dunes. But the side of a volcano takes the heat and intensity up tenfold!
You can try volcano boarding all over the world. The volcanic ash slopes of many volcanoes are perfect for sliding down. Some people even volcano board down the sides of active volcanoes.
So much fun to try and very difficult to master, water skiing sees a speedboat pull you across waves or rivers on skis at high speeds.
Seasoned professionals will even attempt jumps and flips as they hurtle along at breathtaking speed. It’s an extreme sport with a global appeal and the subject of thousands of online videos.
Wingsuit flying takes freefalling to an entirely new dimension. Wingsuits are designed to increase lift as you fall, meaning you can fly for longer, with more control.
Some of the freefalls and paths wingsuit flyers attempt are truly insane. Many daredevils like to wear a wingsuit when doing other extreme sports, like BASE jumping.
Skeleton bob is an extreme form of bobsledding that’s not for the faint-hearted. In skeleton bob, the sledder tackles a winding, twisting course at incredible speeds.
Lying head-down, face-first, with nothing but a tiny sled between you and the ice, one wrong move can send you crashing into the sides at nauseating speed. Crazy stuff!
My brows and palms are sweaty just looking at some of the photos! It’s fair to say that some people will go to incredible lengths to achieve thrills and highs like no other.
Some of the extreme sports on this list most people can try, while others require years of practice and dedication, with grave consequences if you make even the smallest mistake.
Extreme sports are so unique, and despite the risks, they can open doors for many people to a world of thrill-seeking, community, and purpose.
During my time in South Africa, for example, I learned so much about kitesurfing. It has a huge global community, and it is a passion and love for thousands of people all over the world.
Enjoy the YouTube videos. Marvel at the professionals. And maybe even try some of these extreme sports (at your own risk).
Who knows, you could discover a brand new talent or passion you may have never known existed.
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Author: Dale Johnson is a content creator, strategist, and full-time digital nomad as of 2016. As a lover of many sports, he tried a handful of these adrenaline-fuelled activities, including whitewater rafting, sandboarding, and zorbing.
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