Always a Worry Where Extreme Sports Are Concerned

May 28, 2008

The following article was printed in The Independent:

Family blames daughter’s death on the pursuit of most extreme sports

By Terri Judd

“The parents of a British backpacker killed while river-boarding in New Zealand have accused extreme sports companies of trying to outdo one another.

Emily Jordan, 21, became trapped between rocks while riding a body-board down a raging river near the resort of Queenstown on South Island. After 20 minutes guides managed to free her but were unable to resuscitate her. The death on Tuesday came just a day after Sridhar Shekar, a doctor from Leeds, was killed while jet-skiing in Australia.

Ms Jordan had been on a six-month backpacking trip with her boyfriend, Armour, 23, when she decided to try river-boarding down the Kawarau river gorge with the Mad Dog River Boarding Company. The firm advertises the sport as “the most personally challenging and action-packed water activity in New Zealand”.

Ms Jordan’s mother, Sarah, said yesterday she would not have let her daughter try river-boarding because she believed it was too dangerous. “We were upset when she left for six months but I thought at least she would be coming back and I would see her again – it has been a very traumatic day,” she said. Ms Jordan’s father, Christopher, added: “Are these companies right to try and outdo each other [to] attract kids to do these sports? Are they trying to push this too far?”

… The problem with this is… where does personal choice come in? Personal decisions? Personal desires? The thing is, if you do an extreme sport you are of course taking a risk. It’s there in the name “extreme”. The chances of there being danger involved is there too. The consequences are yours. If the consequences worry you then you mustn’t do it.

The tragedy of the thing is when something goes wrong – as it did for 21 year old Emily Jordan.

But – and here is the brunt of the matter – can one blame anyone else for the tragedy? No-one expects a death but if you are participating in something dangerous of your own free will – and having signed an alarming piece of paper which says “that if I died it wasn’t Mad Dog’s fault” can you really blame anyone else? Accidents happen. We cannot protect ourselves against them all the time. No-one wants this tragedy to happen to them. Of course they don’t. But you can’t always prevent it.

An accident, by definition, means “an undesirable or unfortunate happening that occurs unintentionally and usually results in harm, injury, damage, or loss; casualty; mishap” (dictionary.com).

The guide taking a canoe trip down the Zambezi, and one of his party is attacked and killed by a crocodile. Is this his fault? Or the company’s fault? Of course it isn’t. It’s a tragic tragic accident. But people canoe down the Zambezi every day quite safely. Just someone, every now and then, encounters a problem. Does this stop the industry? I don’t think so.

It’s a matter of choices. Freedom of choice. If you are an adult you have the right to choose. If you choose to do something dangerous, you will be aware, when making that choice, that the danger is there.

This world is so protected now. We are protected from everything. Governments put rules and regulations in place everywhere to protect someone from something.

This is probably a reason why extreme sport is becoming more and more popular. People feel a need to challenge themselves. You want to do something that pushes you to the edge as nothing else does any more. And so you take a challenge. And maybe you take another…

I don’t think you can stop it. It’s human nature to challenge yourself. Some more than others. Can you blame others when an accident happens? I wholeheartedly sympathise with the Jordan family (god I’d hate this to happen to any member of my family), but I’m not sure you can…



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  2. […] Always a Worry Where Extreme Sports Are ConcernedFamily blames daughter’s death on the pursuit of most extreme sports. By Terri Judd. “The parents of a British backpacker killed while river-boarding in New Zealand have accused extreme sports companies of trying to outdo one another. … […]

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