Archive for August, 2008

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Extreme challenge of mountain and ocean

August 31, 2008
Five years after Charlie Wittmack trudged to the 29,035 foot summit of Mt. Everest, he’ll soon attempt a 21-mile-swim across the English Channel.

MIf he’s successful, the 31-year-old trial lawyer from Des Moines will be the first American to achieve both feats. Only three others have done it, an accomplishment known as the peak and the pond.

“It’s a challenge that’s been floating around in adventure circles for a while now,” Wittmack said in a telephone interview from England while waiting for seas to calm enough for his attempt.

If the weather cooperates, Wittmack plans to dive into the waters of the English Channel about 10 a.m. Friday at Shakespeare Beach in Dover. He hopes to climb out of the channel on the French coast about 12 hours later. For Wittmack, it’s his latest venture into the world of extreme sports.

On May 22, 2003, he reached the summit of Mt. Everest. He trained seven years for the climb and once there, he found himself in what he said were the worst conditions ever recorded on the mountain.

“I spent three days without food or water and a day without oxygen above 20,000 feet,” Wittmack said.

The conditions in the English Channel should be considerably better, but not without risk.

“We expect the water to be up to 67 degrees this week — at that level hypothermia is still a major concern,” said Wittmack.

Wittmack, who swam for Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, began training for the channel swim about three years ago. For the past six months, he’s been training four hours a day, most of it swimming. He has been swimming every other weekend in either Lake Michigan or Lake Superior, and he’s competed in a 12{-mile race in Key West, Fla.

He said his experience on Everest inspired him to attempt the channel crossing.

“I realized after that that my body was predisposed for climbing at higher elevations,” he said. “After Everest I wanted to try something that would be as great a challenge and I decided on the English Channel.”

Michael Reed, president of the Channel Swimming Association, confirmed Wittmack would be the first American to accomplish both feats. The other swimmers were from Britain, Greece and Mexico.

Wittmack said plenty of people in adventure circles consider the dual challenge, but few have attempted both.

“The reason it’s difficult is because of the body’s physiology,” he said.

Wittmack said climbers, such as himself, tend to be shorter with less body fat and a high weight-to-strength ratio. By comparison, long distance swimmers tend to have higher body fat, which makes them more buoyant, and taller with longer limbs to help propel themselves through the water faster.

Randy Clark, the manager of the exercise science laboratory at the University of Wisconsin Hospital Sports Medicine Center in Madison, Wis., said that while mountain climbers and distance swimmers tend to have different physical characteristics, there is an underlying similarity.

“There is some cross over in physiological and psychological makeup,” he said. “Anybody that is able to climb Mt. Everest or do anything that is highly physically demanding over a long period of time, it takes incredible cardiovascular fitness, and I would say the same about swimming the English Channel.

“You can’t underestimate the need for incredible cardiovascular fitness to pull off either of those events, let alone both,” Clark said.”

Wittmack arrived in England nearly two weeks ago and in his first practice swim in the colder water his legs “seized up.”

Oh, Oh, that doesn’t sound too good……….but less us hope he is better acclimatised when he sets out and to give you an idea of the challenge that Charlie has set himself I have included this YouTube video of Edward Williams’ Channel crossing in August 2006 – great commentary and love the opening line to the video – PAIN IS TEMPORARY – GLORY IS FOREVER.

Good luck Charlie.

Thanks to Michael J. Crumb of the Chicago Tribune.com for the article and to edward5930 for the video.

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“It’s Bungee Jumping for Rich People” – Extreme Vacations

August 30, 2008

“It’s bungee jumping for rich people” says John Logsdon of the Space Policy Instute, whilst talking about space tourism.

This is our slightly off-the-wall article for the week!

In Mojave, California the space tourism race marked a milestone as British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and American aerospace designer Burt Rutan waved to a crowd from inside the cabin of an exotic jet that will carry a passenger spaceship to launch altitude.

The photo-op was the public unveiling of the White Knight Two mothership before a crowd of engineers, dignitaries and space enthusiasts at the Mojave Air & Space Port in the high desert north of Los Angeles.

White Knight Two, billed as the world’s largest all-carbon-composite airplane, is “one of the most beautiful and extraordinary aviation vehicles ever developed,” Branson proclaimed.

Space buffs are scoffing that suborbital flights are really just a ‘sideshow to the large-scale exploration of space’. Now that tourism down here on terra firma has been conquered (or nearly) some people are looking ahead to the ‘space race’, and … colonization.

Imagine floating out there in space, at zero gravity, and gazing back at the small brightly coloured ball that is our planet.

The curvature of Earth seen from orbit provides one of the main attractions for tourists paying to go into space

According to the Space Tourism Society, millions of people would love to have this experience and they intend to “make space tourism possible, to as many people as possible, as soon as possible”.

On 28th April, 2001, Dennis Tito, a Californian based multi-millionaire, became the first ever space tourist. Launched into space in a Russian Soyuz capsule, Tito proved that travelling beyound earth’s gravity was not just the province of a select few, but that anyone with drive, determination and, at this point in history, a LOT of money, could become an astronaut! 

As of 2008, orbital space tourism opportunities are limited and expensive, with only the Russian Space Agency providing transport. The price for a flight brokered by Space Adventures to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft is now $20 million. Flights are fully booked until 2009.

Space tourism will rank as THE ultimate status symbol.

Once travel to orbit becomes a commercial service, the question of how to get to space will be mainly one of saving up for a ticket – or looking for work in one of the many space hotels that will be built. Space offers unique pleasures including the view, and zero gravity activities that provide a whole range of things to do on an orbital holiday – including space sports.

Space tourism, still a fledgling industry, born out of necessity, yet driven by the same curiosity and ambition that took us to the Moon – appears to be here to stay. In Russia, Europe and the United States, private companies are already vying to become space tourism leaders.

I think a trip to space would most certainly classify as an extreme vacation – perhaps THE extreme vacation.

 

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Snowboarding Burton Global challenge at Perisher Blue

August 28, 2008

Rachel Oakes-Ask of OnTheSnow.com brings news of the upcoming Burton Global event being held at Perisher Blue in New South Wales Australia.

The Burton Global Open Series comes down under from September 2 to 5 when the world’s elite snowboarding names will descend upon Perisher Blue ski resort for this annual competition that is also a 5Star event on the Swatch TTR World Tour.

The Australian Open is the second destination after New Zealand on the six country Burton global tour. Perisher Blue resort in New South Wales is known for it’s world class terrain parks and halfpipes and makes the perfect host resort for this exclusive event.

The competitor lineup is just as impressive with Kevin Pearce, the men’s current Swatch TTR World Snowboard Tour Champion joining Chas Guldemond, the current TTR World number one from the USA as well as New Zealand Open slopestyle winner Mikkel Bang from Norway on Perisher’s Front Valley. Joining them will be Charles Reid from Canada and Markus Malin from Finland.

Hot from her win in the halfpipe and slopestyle in the New Zealand Open is Jamie Anderson, the current TTR World Snowboard Tour Champion and X Games slopestyle gold medalist. She will be battling it out in the women’s competition with Olympic gold medalist Hanna Teter from the USA to create a star studded line up for snowboarding fans in Australia.

Those able to make it to Perisher Blue can watch the halfpipe qualifiers kick off on September 2 followed by the slopestyle on September 3 and the halfpipe on September 4 semi finals and finals. The total prize money for the event is AU$50 000 with the slopestyle finals completing the event on September 5. For those unable to be there, Go211.com will be broadcasting the semi finals and the finals live on the web.

Below is a taste of the scenery and some of the action that can be expected next month and a shot of the current leader of the women’s Global Open series – thanks to EVOTV for the video.

American Jamie Anderson (South Lake Tahoe, CA, USA) currently leads the Burton Global Open Series among female snowboarders.

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Some tips on what kite surfing kit to buy

August 28, 2008

Here are some suggestions on what kit to purchase if you are getting into kite surfing. We would like to emphasize that you should rent or hire the kit for as long as possible before launching into what can soon add up to significant expenditure. Make sure that you are committed to the sport and the initial enthusiasm does not wane. Further you will find that as your competency increases so does your appetite for newer and better equipment. It is therefore better to learn using someone else’s kit – until you have a proper understanding of the exact kite and board that will suit your level of skill.

I’ve also included a video by genocide696 of world champion Aaron Hadlow strutting his stuff on a Flexifoil – which just goes to show that even world champions take a few tumbles in getting to be a world champion. Thanks also go to Dan Doubleday of 2Atricles.com for the article on what kit to buy.

You have done a kite surfing course or two and understand the danger. You have been out on a few day trip by yourself and rented the equipment. Now it’s time to sort yourself out with your own gear but with the initial high cost you want to break it down into affordable chunks, so how should you buy your kite surfing gear?

Any purchase you make should first be selected on safety and quality. Failure of any kite surfing gear while racing across the sea at high speeds is never what you want. The order of gear listed here is only a suggestion in which you should purchase the stuff you need. Obviously getting the lot at one time could save you money, by asking for a discount in the store, but you should also consider looking at used gear. Sometimes you could save a large amount of cash on an item and the saving opens up your choice on another item.

The first item you should look for is a Wet suit. You can spend long periods of time in the water sorting out your lines or you may lose your kite and have to either swim to shore or to the kite both of which may be a long way off. A wetsuit not only provides add thermal protection in can also provide extra buoyancy. When looking for your wetsuit also look about for some water shoes for added comfort on cold days.

Most kite surfers now wear crash helmets when trying out new locations or stunts. If you are unsure of what is exactly below the water surface this piece of equipment could save your life. If you are surfing close to rocks, same thing and if you are trying out something you have never done before there is always a possibility your board will attack you.

Depending of your level of skill or even the location your are kite surfing you may want a life jacket to keep you afloat and help while swimming for your kite, or to the shore.

You will want a board-leash very early in your purchasing list as this is the only thing that keeps your board on your feet should you fall off it. This will save you watching your board sail off into the sunset while you sit on the beach!

All kites should have a safety release system attached, never buy a kite with a working safety release system. This is a strap that’s attached around your wrist and to the control bar. A safety release can be 2 or 4 line and will disable the kite when you stop holding the control bar. The systems have a safety leash attaching to your left wrist (or harness) to allow you to retrieve the control bar.

Once you have all the safety gear you can focus on the big stuff: a kite and board.

Your choice in what kite to buy will not be an easy one and you should research it well. You will want a kite that you can launch, or re-launch, from the water. A kite that can provide enough lift to allow you to perform jumps and stunts and also good power control. Inflatable kites, single skin framed kites and ram air foil kites can all be launched from within the water, but offer different performance and power controls. There will be kites more suitable for the beginner and offer more safety and control features than others and their will be kites for the professional competition kite surfers that know how to get every last ounce of energy of them. Your choice in kite is not one you should rush into. Talk with your instructor and some other Kite surfers before choosing yours.

Your final piece of kite surfing gear is the board. Similar to the kite you should do some research about the best board for you, but unlike the kites most boards have similar features. They should be rigid and have a harness for your feet to keep the board under you! The board leash will has been recommended above.

Kite surfing is an extreme sport that requires professional training and good equipment for your safety. Never rush into a purchase and always research the various makes and models available to you. The longer you leave buying kite surfing gear the more chance you may have of trying out different systems before you buy them.

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Another extreme Olympian

August 25, 2008

The fastest man in the world who on his own set two world records at 100m and 200m and with the help of his team mates in the 4 x 100m set a third world record – so respect indeed – a truly awesome example and what struck me in the many interviews since was that he talked about this achievement was the result of hard work. It may sound obvious, its just two words – hard work – but take them on board and apply them to your chosen field of expertise and then become your own world record holder.

Well done and congratulations Usain – respect man – you ran like a leopard.

Thanks to clickJamaicadotcom and Imranpirishah for the YouTube videos – enjoy!

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Kite surfers extreme stupidity

August 25, 2008

Although we are deeply sorry for what happened to Kevin we and a number of other reporters of this incident believe that Kevin had totally failed to switch on his brain when he decided to go kite surfing at Fort Lauderdale last week on the day that tropical storm Fay came on shore.

Come on guys – it upsets us that we have to write too often about a fatal accident or near fatal accident but really the notion of kite surfing in a tropical storm should be a no brainer – but I’m afraid there are some people like Kevin for whom even a ‘no brainer’ is not sufficient – and why should the ‘state’ nanny us more than they do already.

I have not been able to find any news on Kevin’s current condition, but will report if there is any development – as can be seen on the YouTube video from fatimajamil5 below, Kevin, not surprisingly is in a critical condition – we do wish him a full and speedy recovery.

And so we have posted this blog to show you just what can happen when you try and play with the forces of mother nature – wind speed after all is one of the golden rules of kite surfing – know it and respect it.

Check out the vid – poor bloke.

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An Olympic extreme

August 24, 2008

As the wonderful games draw to a close I know that there will be continuing debate for many years to come on who was the greatest Olympian of 2008 – how do you quantify and qualify for such honour – is it the number of gold medals an individual has won, is it the number of world records broken or could it be awarded to an individual who has played to the best of his or her ability and at the same time demonstrated a degree of honour and sportsmanship never before seen. We do not profess to know the answer – yes the debate will go on and we can for now savour what has been a fantastic Olympic games – so goodbye Beijing and congratulations China.

I am pleased to show you below a great compilation of one contender for the greatest Olympian ever – yes Michael Phelps certainly has every right to be considered for that title – I can only congratulate him and say I have so much respect for this truly great Olympian – thanks IMRANPIRISHAH for this great YouTube video.