Think of them as the ultimate X Games. Some of the competitions are just fun on an extreme level, others require specific skills. There is also a whole different category of downright scary events that will get your heart racing just by looking at what the human body is possible of doing.
Most of the time the event is organized for charity and other times it is a religious ritual. Whatever the reason, thousands of people all over the world take on the challenge. Judging by the numbers, swimming in icy waters is more popular in Europe than in North America. The largest polar bear swim in the U.S. is in Sandy Point State Park in Maryland – the Plungapalooza. Its aim is to raise funds for the Special Olympics. The biggest swim was in 2008 when 12,000 showed up.
They call it “The Original BASE Race.” [See: The World’s Most Insane BASE Jumping Destinations] Daredevils jump head-first off the top of steep cliffs that are more than 4,000 feet high. To make it even more exciting, they have only a delicate parachute to separate life and death. www.worldbaserace.com
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This uniquely sounding name is held every year in the second week of August in Omak, Washington. This year was the 83rd Annual Omak Stampede. Riders race their horses down a steep 62 degree, 225-foot hill. As you can imagine, some horses have been killed during the race. The idea for the event came in 1935 when the Omak Stampede Publicity Chairman searched for an exciting event to add to the young rodeo. He had heard about a wild and dangerous mountain race that the local Indians (Colvilles) had been running. www.omakstampede.org
They are usually held in an icy river in Finland. [See: World's Best Rivers for Cruises] The last one took place in Siberia for the first time. More than 1,200 people from 40 countries participated; the youngest was 8 years old and the oldest was 92. Swimmers competed in events ranging from 25’s of all strokes to the 200 freestyle in pool filled with water from the river in Siberia.
If big wave surfing is a passion of yours, but it’s winter, consider participating in the Freeride World Tour. It was originally called the Verbier Extreme. Organizers describe the competitions a “vertical free-verse poem.” The events feature some of the most epic runs from Europe to Alaska. There are going to be five races in 2017 with the world’s top riders competing on legendary competition faces.
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The Kinetic Grand Championship is an annual event held in May in California. People have to race human-powered amphibious all-terrain works of art. They call it the “triathlon of the world of art” and it has been around since 1969. There's 50 miles to go, over land, sand, water, and mud.
Cliff diving is one of those extreme sports that inspire foolhardy confidence in spectators. Divers take the plunge from their perch of between 85 and 92 feet high. Then they display their most difficult acrobatic twists, turns, and flips on the way down, reaching speeds of up to 53 mph. Since 2009 the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series has provided a platform for aesthetic action and dives of incredible complexity.
Red Bull Baylines is called the world's most innovative slacklining competition. The format combines two slacklining disciplines – highlining and tricklining – taking the sport to new heights. The world’s best “slackers” deliver trickline-style combinations on a highline course, hanging 30 feet above the ground.
Cheongsong Eoreumgol Valley (Ice Valley) is considered to be one of the best ice climbing venues in Asia, which is where the competition takes place. The race site includes a spectacular artificial ice climbing wall. Nearly 180 athletes from 22 countries took part in the last competition, confirming ice climbing's growing reputation and showcasing the rising popularity of the sport, according to UIAA. The sport may even become part of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
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This is where modern-day soccer gets tempers flaring. The no-holds-barred calcio fiorentino (or the Florentine kick game) is a brutally sport which was first played during the 16th century and was later reintroduced in the 1930s by the Fascists. Taking place on a sand pit in the Piazza Santa Croce each June with teams representing the city’s four historic districts, the game is an update of the Roman sport of harpastum and a precursor to modern rugby and soccer. The rules are easy: Using your hands and feet, to simply get a ball across a goal line. Players can punch, elbow, head-butt, or even choke each other.
This interesting sport originated in Finland. It must be one of the most unusual sporting events in the world. Eukonkanto, or “wife-carrying,” involves running through a quarter-kilometer obstacle course while holding a full-grown woman. Despite the name, she doesn’t have to be your wife, but she does have to be over 17 and weigh at least 108 pounds. “Wives” can be carried in any position: piggyback, slung over the shoulders, or the ever-popular Estonian-style, which involves wrapping the woman’s legs around the racer’s neck with her body dangling down his back. The couple that completes the course in the shortest time wins the wife’s weight in beer.
Competitive skysurfing, a crazy adventure you should try, is a team sport that unofficially started in 1980 when skydivers in California experimented with boogie boards, lying flat on the boards as they fell from a jump plane, according to the College Foundation of North Carolina. Each team has two people. One is a skysurfer who stands atop a specially designed board as he or she twists, flips and free falls. The other person is a cameraperson, or cameraflyer, who skydives alongside the surfer to record the surfer's moves on a helmet-mounted camera.
This controversial event is held every year from the 6th to the 14th of July in Pamplona, one of the most dangerous places to take selfies. The bulls are lead through the streets of the old quarter as far as the bull ring by runners. It started as a religious tradition, but now the fiestas are seen as a mass gathering of people from all over the world who like to party and have fun. For security reasons, a double fence marks out the route of the bull run through the streets. www.bullrunpamplona.com
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The Green Race is possibly the most famous and most competitive creek race in the world. [See: The Most Dangerous Rapids in the World] It is held every year in the fall on the steepest section of western North Carolina’s Green River Narrows. Local boaters train here for much of the year due to the reliable flows, and people come from around the world to compete.
You might say the heat is on at the Badwater Ultramarathon, which takes place in the dead of summer each year in the hottest spot on Earth – Death Valley, which also happens to be the lowest and the driest place in North America. Average July highs aren’t much cooler at 115°F, with nighttime temperatures rarely dipping below 85°F. The 135-mile route is no less extreme than the weather. Participants start in Death Valley at 280 feet below sea level, the lowest elevation in the Western Hemisphere, and continue on a 135-mile route that ends at nearly 8,300 feet above sea level at the Mt. Whitney Portals.