Archive for the ‘… other extreme threads’ Category

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Weekend entertainment – bungee jumping at its best!

June 7, 2009

The Kiwis know all about extreme sport having pretty well invented it, and if not exactly ‘invented’ it – they have certainly spent a lot of time and energy perfecting it.

Here’s a great video to give you a bit of a chuckle this bright and sunny Sunday. Thanks to Woodger for posting it.

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Hiking the Haute Route traverse between Chamonix and Zermatt

June 5, 2009

Are you looking for the perfect holiday where you can combine your love of extreme sport with adventure? Well then, the Haute Route is for you. Although not exactly an ‘extreme sport’ being a hike rather than a mountain climb, the fact that it takes 12+ days and is a combination of difficult to very difficult trails, we think makes it fit neatly into our catagory.

You might remember that I did an article on the Haute Route several months ago – right in the middle of our winter and therefore a possible area of interest to any skier or snowboarder.

But now with summer upon us, this route is also available to hikers and climbers. It was, after all, first charted as a summer mountaineering route in the mid-19th century by the Alpine Club (UK). It was first successfully traversed on skies in 1911.

Since the ‘Haute Route’ has become a bit of a generic expression for high level, multi-day, hut-to-hut tours, this route is now known as the “Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route”.

If you are thinking of walking the Haute Route this summer, you will need to know that it is a 180 km (108 mi) hike and is normally done in 15 stages, or 12+ days – this is very flexible.

This is not just a route that you can stroll along admiring the magnificent scenery (although of course you will be doing plenty of that). It is a serious mountain hike involving 3 different standards of hiking:

  • gradual ascents or descents along well defined paths or tracks. Suitable for novice walkers.
  • considerable ascents and descents over moderate fell type terrain
  • and strenuous sometimes exposed routes requiring map reading and navigational skills

You start your hike at Chamonix at 1037m, at the lowest level you will descend to 717m  and the highest ascent will be to 2965m – with many  days of ups and downs inbetween!

Haute Route hut

The Haute Route has what is thought to be the greatest collection of four thousand metre peaks in the Alps, it culminates at the foot of the Matterhorn in Zermatt. Mont Blanc will remain in view for much of the hike, but you will also become familiar with other equally impressive peaks such as the Grand Combin, Mont Blanc de Cheilon, Pigne d’Arolla, Dent Blanche, and the Weisshorn.

It is a spectacular walk, but strenuous – crossing eleven passes, many over 2,700 m (9000 feet). While some days will be extremely hard work, there will also be leisurely days where you can bathe in and enjoy the beauty surrounding you. However, you must be very fit and well-prepared for this walk as there are a few very long days over difficult rugged, open terrain.

The hiking trails are generally well graded and well defined which makes for great hiking. There are, however, sections that include mud, snow, loose rock, and scree. There may be a section that includes a 70 foot ladder.

Good luck and enjoy. It will be worth it.

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The most extreme cycle race in the world – the Tour de France

June 2, 2009

I wonder how many of you are avid followers of the Tour de France? and how many of you know this year’s route? and how many of you know anything about it’s history???

Well, sit back and enjoy. I am going to fill you in on all of it… or a lot of it anyway.

This year the Tour is going to go right passed our back door which is going to be fun. It will be the second time since we’ve lived here that we will be able to watch some of it. Though the last time they passed in such a flash and a blur that I did have to wonder what all the hype was about!

carte du parcours global du Tour de France

That’s the route for this year (2009) and it includes:

  • 10 flat stages,
  • 7 mountain stages,
  • 1 medium mountain stage,
  • 2 individual time-trial stages,
  • 1 team time-trial stage.

It runs  from Saturday July 4th to Sunday July 26th 2009. It is the 96th Tour de France  and will be made up of 21 stages. It will cover a total distance of 3,500 kilometres.

The starting point is that gem of a principality – Monaco.

So what exactly is it then?

The Tour de France is a world renowned annual bicycle race that covers somewhere between 3,000 to 4,000 kms (1,800 to 2,500 miles)  throughout France and a bordering country. This year it is ducking into both Switzerland and Spain. The shortest Tour was in 1904 at 2,420 km, the longest in 1926 at 5,745 km.

The event usually lasts 23 days and attracts cyclists from around the world. The race is broken down into day-long segments, called stages. Individual times to finish each stage are totaled to determine the overall winner for the race. The three weeks usually include two rest days, sometimes used to transport riders between stages.

The race alternates between clockwise and counter-clockwise circuits of France. The rider with the least elapsed time each day wears a yellow jersey. The course changes every year but it has always finished in Paris. Since 1975 the finish has been on the Champs Elysées.

The 2004 Tour rides the Champs Élysées.

The combination of endurance and strength needed led the New York Times in 2006, to say that the “Tour de France is arguably the most physiologically demanding of athletic events.” The effort was compared to “running a marathon several days a week for nearly three weeks”, while the total elevation of the climbs was compared to “climbing three Everests.”

The History:

The first daily sports newspaper in France at the end of the 19th century was Le Vélo. It sold 80,000 copies a day.

At this time in France the country was split over the story of a soldier, Alfred Dreyfus, who had been found guilty of selling secrets to the Germans. Le Vélo stood for Dreyfus’s innocence while some of its biggest advertisers, notably Albert de Dion, owner of the De Dion-Bouton car works, believed him guilty. Angry scenes followed between the advertisers and the editor, Pierre Giffard, and so the advertisers started a rival paper – called L’Auto.

Giffard, of Le Vélo, had organised and promoted the ‘Paris-Brest et Retour’ race, and so L’Auto, in its turn, came up with the idea of the  ‘Le Tour de France’ race and promoted that.


The idea for a round-France race actually came from L’Auto’s chief cycling journalist, 26-year-old Géo Lefèvre. He and the editor, Henri Desgrange discussed it after lunch on 20th November 1902. Desgrange was bold enough to believe in the project and threw his backing behind it. Le Tour was finally  announced in L’Auto on 19th January 1903. The plan was a five-week race from 31st May to 5th July. However, this proved too be far too daunting and only 15 riders entered.

Not prepared to be defeated in his new project, Desgrange cut the length to 19 days, changed the race dates to 1st July to 19th July, and offered a daily allowance. He attracted 60 entrants, not just professionals but amateurs, some unemployed, some simply adventurous. Only 21 cyclists acompleted this first gruelling race.

Le Tour soon won over the sporting public and the roadside crowds swelled. The French people took to their hearts this unusual event which placed their towns, their countryside and, since 1910, even their mountains, in the spotlight.

What is the story behind the YELLOW jersey and others?

The aim of riders is to win overall but there are three further competitions: points, mountains and for the best young rider. The leaders of the competitions wear a distinctive jersey, awarded after each stage. When a single rider is entitled to more than one jersey, he wears the most prestigious and the second rider in the other classification wears the jersey. The overall and points competitions may be led by the same rider: the fastest on time will wear the yellow jersey and the rider second in the points competition will wear the green jersey.

The first rider to wear the yellow jersey from start to finish was Ottavio Bottecchia of Italy in 1924. The greatest number of riders to wear the yellow jersey in a day is three: Nicolas Frantz, André Leducq and Victor Fontan who shared equal time for one day in 1929 and there was no rule to split them.

The green jersey is awarded for sprint points and the polka-dot jersey (white jersey with red spots) is given for the ‘King of the Mountains’.

The white jersey is awarded to the best best rider under 25 on January 1 that year and the ‘prix de la combativité’ goes to the rider who most animates the day, usually by trying to break clear of the field. The most combative rider wears a number printed white-on-red instead of black-on-white next day.

The Tour as an entertainment sport:

The Tour is important for fans in Europe. Millions line the route, some having camped a week to get the best view. A carnival atmosphere prevails before the riders pass. Any cyclist is free to attempt the course in the morning, after which a cavalcade of advertising vehicles passes, blaring music and tossing hats, souvenirs, sweets and samples. As word passes that the riders are approaching, fans sometimes encroach on the road until they are an arm’s length from riders.

The clever thing about the Tour de France is how it has always modernised itself, moving with the times, and allowing social changes to impact on the race.

Like France as a whole, it benefited from the introduction of paid holidays from 1936; it survived the 2nd World War, and then savoured the “trente glorieuses” period of economic prosperity; it has opened itself up to foreign countries with the onset of globalisation, and now finds itself at the forefront of the debate on the malaise afflicting world sport in general – doping…

Le Tour has had its fair share of doping scandels. As far back as its inception (1903) early riders used alcohol and ether to dull the pain.

Spectators’ banner during the Tour de France 2006.
In 1924, Henri Pélissier and his brother Charles told the journalist Albert Londres they used strychnine, cocaine, chloroform, aspirin, “horse ointment” and other drugs.

In 1967, British cyclist Tom Simpson died climbing Mont Ventoux after taking amphetamine. Mont Ventoux, you might be interested to know, is often claimed to be the hardest in the Tour because of the harsh conditions.

1998 was known as ‘The Tour of Shame’. Willy Voet, an assistant for the Festina team, was arrested with erythropoietin (EPO), growth hormones, testosterone and amphetamine.The team was at the center of the doping scandal which became known as the ‘Festina Affair’. In reaction to this, the cycling team reorganized itself and Festina set up the Fondation d’Entreprise Festina whose mission was to promote the fight against doping. However, chaos reigned during this Tour. There were police raids and the riders went on strike. Eventually after mediation, police limited their tactics and riders continued, but some riders had already abandoned the race and only 96 finished.

The 2002 and 2004 Tours had their fare share of controversy and even Lance Armstrong, that famous winner of 7 jerseys has been accused of using EPO, but he has never been penalised.

In 2008, 5 riders tested positive for various performance enhancing drugs.

There have been 4 fatal accidents to cyclists in the history of the race.

One of the amazing and most enduring things about this great race is the code of conduct that the cyclists adhere to. Rider number 13 is allowed to wear one of his numbers upside down.  It is considered unsporting to attack a leading rider delayed by misfortune. Attacking in the feed zone is also seen as unsporting. Not sticking to customs can lead to animosity. Unless the gap between the top two is close, riders generally do not attack on the final stage, leaving the leader to his glory.

It is nice to see that even in the heat of competition, riders temper their competitiveness to this unwritten code of conduct.

However and in despite of everything, over a hundred years after its inception, le Tour continues to gain strength from its experience. It is the supreme  endurance race and brings bicycle racing up into the extreme sports catagory. Thank you to Kraftwerk and fascistbaby for this introductory video to Le Tour de France.

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Diving with sharks – an extreme pastime

June 1, 2009

This is something we do not recommend to all and sundry, but Michael Rutzen from South Africa, otherwise known as ‘Sharkman’, seems to get away with it. He has turned the art of scuba diving and snorkeling into a seriously extreme sport.

Rutzen eats, sleeps, breathes and dreams of sharks and is on a one-man crusade to prove that rather than being the crazed man-eater from “Jaws”, they are in fact sociable and approachable creatures – to anyone who understands their body language. brettlock screened this video for us.

He loves sharks. He has an empathy with them, an appreciation of the magnificent beast that they are, and he is keen to show everyone the other side to one of the world’s most fearsome creatures.

Michael Rutzen at Work.

He started out as a fisherman, but as tourism grew in his coastal region he became a boat skipper taking tourists out into the ocean to see Great White’s. It was at this point that he learned to love the fish.

He learned how to freedive with sharks from Andre Hartman and then learned how to adopt his posture and interpret the sharks behaviour to avoid being attacked.

Mike eventually opened up his own shark boat for cage diving. His company Shark Diving Unlimited has since become the world’s first to offer a PADI specialisation qualification on white sharks.

When asked exactly what it was he was trying to prove with his research and his shark cage diving business, Mike said: “I would like to get people out there and teach them a little bit about this animal if possible. Try to let them go away with a little bit of positive knowledge and respect for the sharks. If we can achieve that little thing, these animals will be here for a long time. Because all the animals on earth that died out, nobody knew about until they got into a book that says ‘extinct’, and these Sharks that have survived all these millions of years, they deserve to be here.”

He has appeared in his own television show for the Discovery Channel – called Sharkman. In the program he toured the world diving with different species of sharks and demonstrated their tonic immobility reflex (DiscoveryNetworks ).

He has dedicated his life to the study of sharks and the Great White in particular. The Great White is unanimously considered the most dangerous and fierce shark on the planet. Although there is proof that the Great White is dangerous and capable of deadly attacks on humans there isn’t a lot of evidence that they are man eaters as shown in the movie “Jaws”.

Michael has been working to dispel this ideology about the Great White.

He is, however, under no illusions that it is a dangerous and unpredictable creature and he takes no unneccessary risks. “There is only one proven fact about White Sharks, most probably all sharks but White Sharks in particular, and that is that they are highly unpredictable. You can get methods of doing something that usually works one way and then you get Sharks that prove you totally wrong, and that’s in every interaction you do with the animals. That’s the odds you take. Sometimes it works to your advantage and sometimes it’s very much to your disadvantage, like I have found out a few times when I was cut,” he says.

He is quick to caution anyone who thinks they can hop into the ocean to have a closer look at this great fish. He is a highly trained professional and doesn’t want anyone to get hurt trying to do what he does unless they have been trained and educated for years and know how to free dive properly with sharks. He does NOT recommend freediving with sharks for tourists or thrill seekers as “we cannot train our tourists fast enough to learn all there is to know.”

Please bear that in mind!

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How’s about this as a variation on extreme sport: basketball, football and gym rolled into one

May 30, 2009

Here’s one to think about this weekend – good luck!!! I think it might take quite a lot of weekends to get as skilled as these guys. Thanks  CairoWithLove for showing us this video.

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Segway polo…..a new challenge and definitely extreme

May 29, 2009

The final instalment on the rather more extreme variations of polo is about Segway polo. Now here we have to admit we had a Homer Simpson moment – ‘what on earth could Segway polo be’ – well – duh – its polo played on a Segway……….OK……….but what we really meant was ‘what is a Segway?’

Duh, you don’t know – well let us explain.

The Segway PT only has two wheels, yet it manages to stay upright by itself.

To move forward or backward on the Segway PT, the rider just leans slightly forward or backward. To turn left or right, the rider simply moves the LeanSteer frame left or right. You get the sense of power and speed, yet you also feel a sense of safety and absolute control.

The machine was invented by someone called Dean Kamen and is produced in New Hampshire USA – and today it is used around the world by individuals, companies and organisations such as the police force.

 

Segway PT

Segway PT

So there it is and now you know too – to date the company has sold over 25,000 of these personal transporters which as we have intimated do have their practical and serious side to them. The lady above sure looks to be having a lot of fun and although we have never tried to ride on one we have to admit it does look entertaining and it is of course an eco friendly mode of transport.

Of course there were those who decided to take the fun element to another extreme – enter Segway polo – and as this video from liburd demonstrates it does look to be a laugh and we dare say there is quite a bit of skill involved – but at a price tag of around £5,000, or 6,500 euros, or $7,500, as with the more traditional horse polo, it is not a cheap pastime.

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Richard Branson shows the world how to kitesurf

May 27, 2009

The other day we had one of our regular rants about the environment, global warming and the awful destruction of the rainforests, amongst other things, and we showed you the video made by The Prince’s Rainforest Project.

This video has now been viewed more than 500,000 times over various sites and their next initiative is to launch their Supporter of the Week.

This week it is Richard Branson, entrepreneur, adventurer and founder of the Virgin group, who was filmed with the frog‘ to demonstrate that there is a global determination for change on this issue.

Although he had little success on the video in changing the frog into a beautiful woman, there was obviously, from the following photo, a delayed but successful result to his efforts:

Richard Branson and Denni Parkinson. ‘I only wish I had eyes in the
back of                               my head’ he told the Daily Mail.
(Photo credit: Stephane Gautronneau)

In fact, so successful was his kite surfing weekend on Necker Island, that the Alinghi (defender of the America’s Cup) coach and and performance analysts, Pierre Yves Jorand (SUI) and Peter Evans (NZL)  spent a lot of time studying and analyzing the photographs from Mr Bransons kitesurfing weekend and were able to give this exclusive report for World Sailing News.

¨From what we can tell it looks like it was blowing on shore at the time, suggesting an afternoon seabreeze, as the wind would have been sucked onto the land – probably in the region of 13 knots to begin with the pressure rising steadily throughout the afternoon, maybe up to 17 or 18 knots. The technique is good, his feet are in the correct position and he seems to have good control. When wet, the board shorts and long hair will be adding to the drag a little –  the added weight will not help his performance therefore but nevertheless, judging by the smile on his face he is clearly enjoying himself. This has the effect of helping him to relax and at least feel phsycologically that he is giving the best performance possible. This is the key thing  – and it´s therefore something we will be recommending as part of their training regime to both Brad Butterworth and Ed Baird before they compete at their next D 35 regatta¨

Responding to the recommendations from the Alinghi performace analysts, Ed Baird, said, ´One of the great things about working for a team like Alinghi is that all the people around you are constantly searching for that little bit of something special to help make the boat go faster. Pierre Yves and Peter Evans seem to have nailed it again, and I for one look forward to joining in the process, learning from it, sharing that experience and getting in amongst it¨

Brad Butterworth said, ´Yes, lets go´!

But to end on a serious note, let us quickly remind you that:

  • the destruction of tropical rainforests accounts for 17% of CO2 emissions…
  • that the Amazon alone circulates 20 billion tonnes of water every day which helps water the crops that feed the global population…
  • that an area of tropical rainforest the size of a football pitch is destroyed every 4 seconds…

Note that Branson has chosen a very eco-friendly sport!