Extreme sports can be described as any sport that provides a thrill. It also includes those offbeat activities that test the limits of what someone is capable of. Some people don’t see extreme sports in the same light as they do the traditional sports of football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer and swimming, but those activities that go beyond what we are accustomed to — have been raised on — are sports nonetheless.
To be included in the definition of extreme sport, there has to be a high degree of risk involved. What immediately come to mind are activities such as skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing, mountain biking, motocross and combat sports. Even TED Talks has sponsored a number of speakers who have given detailed reports on extreme sports, including wing suit walking, ice-cold water surfing and deep sea diving in a wheelchair.
So, are extreme sports in the same arena as traditional sports? Many would argue that extreme sports are too individual in nature and include too much risk to be considered a sport. Others say that extreme sports aren’t competitive enough. But extreme sports are becoming more organized since most now have regularly scheduled competitions and professional organizations supporting them.
The X-Games is the most notable annual event in the extreme sports community, but there are other competitions like the AMA Monster Super Cross Championship and the World Surf League.
Red Bull is a major sponsor of rock climbing, cliff diving and mountain biking. And these competitions have evolved over the years. The world’s best extreme athletes are invited to events to compete against one another, with big payouts going to the winners along with bragging rights.
Skateboarders Nyjah Huston and Paul Rodriguez, motocross racers Cooper Webb and Chad Reed, and surfboarders Kelly Slater and Jordy Smith are all big names in their sports and have trained for years to be the best. They compete internationally, and make their livings doing these dangerous but adrenaline-pumping sports.
While income has increased in recent years for some extreme athletes, it is still lagging far behind what a traditional athlete makes. Team owners have deep pockets and advertisers are willing to pay lots of money for product endorsements.
This is true for the very best extreme athletes, but not compared to what Lebron James ($400 million), Roger Federer ($400 million) and Cristiano Ronaldo ($375 million) have made over the years. And while Michael Phelps is worth $55 million, Shaun White, the two-time Olympic snowboarding gold medalist, who also holds the record for most X-Games gold medals, is only worth about $20 million.
Yes, that’s a lot of money. Even Slater is worth about $20 million. But most extreme athletes don’t make anywhere near as much as traditional sports pros.
These athletes also have to be in the best physical condition. They have to train and care for their bodies just like any other high performance athlete. While most put their bodies through grueling training schedules, extreme athletes do the same; their bodies go through the same levels of punishment.
The ancient Hawaiians called surfing the “Sport of Kings,” and the modern day king is Slater, who even at age 45, continues to out-surf those half his age. In a sport where flexibility, balance and explosive power are all needed to perform the most killer maneuvers, the 11-time WSL champion manages to astonish those who can’t quite figure how a man and his board can ride monster waves.
Slater has kept his body in shape through the years by focusing on muscle imbalances and multi-compound movements that have helped him keep his competitive edge. He keeps the routine simple, but commitment and dedication drive his physicality. And his many near-death experiences have not deterred him.
Being a pro athlete in any sport is a great accomplishment. Being seen as one of the best is any young athlete’s dream. A sense of accomplishment, along with recognition by fans, is every athlete’s aspiration. Regardless of the sport people devote their talent, time and soul to, those who respect athletes need to accept that extreme sports are sports in every possible way. Those athletes are just as dedicated and worthy as any playing a traditional sport.