Diver Blake Aldridge has swapped the pool for the adrenaline fuelled sport of cliff diving, but watching world class divers like Tom Daley in the pool hurl themselves from atop a diving board, it’s no wonder Daley says high diving is a sport is for “crazy people”. Why are we so intent on doing death defying sports?
Starting life as competitive cliff diving, we now eagerly anticipate the diving rounds at each Olympic Games, gasping in awe at the confident divers leaping just inches away from the board. It goes against every instinct – why on earth would anyone leap from that height? Yet we still participate – or watch it for fun. But cliff diving takes it to another level completely.
One thing’s for sure, you need nerves of reinforced steel to tackle this sport – but why would anyone want to put their body through that kind of fear?
The science is that when we become scared, our bodies release endorphins and the chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine, are performance enhancers. The more of this chemical is release the more you get addiction-like symptoms.
The most common endorphin produced by our bodies is 100 times more powerful than morphine.
Risk - for those who take on dangerous sports and death-defying pastimes - is needed to experience reward. The body gets used to the risk, so the person needs more and more to get a similar level of satisfaction.
Blake Aldridge says of high diving: "It's absolutely amazing, it's death-defying.You're jumping off something you shouldn't jump off and fighting against every instinct in your body that says don't do it.”
Cliff diving sees competitors leaping from an astonishing 27metres. Something which Tom Daley says you just wouldn’t catch him doing.
“High diving is for crazy people,” he says. “You will never see me up there. I might go and have a look but literally if you land flat on there you die, that’s it.”
Of course high diving isn’t the only high octane sport out there guaranteed to make you sweat. Here are some of the top adrenaline fuelled sports:
BASE Jumping – An acronym for buildings, antennas, spans and earth, nothing is off limits when it comes to BASE jumping. Often illegal, as it can involve climbing up private property, addicts hunt for the highest point to hurl themselves from, often videoing it on their way.
Parkour – Parkour is a term used for “free running” which can see the most athletic of participants leaping over chasms and jumping over high fences, across the tops of buildings and up walls. The philosophy behind is to get from point A to point B as quickly as efficiently as possible. This may be through jumping, climbing or leaping, often in an urban landscape. The sport started in France and has since become a worldwide phenomenon with classes even on offer.
Skydiving – Often a must-do activity for anyone travelling across New Zealand or Australia, a sky-dive is the ultimate in adrenaline rushes. If you’ve never done one before, you’ll be strapped to the front of an instructor before he tumbles out of a plane at around 1,500 feet. Alternatively if you’re a seasoned jumper, you’ll do it all by yourself for the ultimate experience. Safer that BASE jumping, Skydiving is an organised sport with stringent safety rules in place.
White Water Rafting – Battling against ferocious rapids sees humans take on the mighty force of nature, resulting in some high-octane thrills. Many organised white water rafting adventures are manned by experienced guides and instructors making sure you stay in your raft, rather than floating off down the river.
Bungee jumping – not necessarily a sport – more just a way of hurling yourself off a bridge and surviving. Bungee jumping goes against every instinct in your body, giving you a real buzz. When the elastic tightens and you bounce back up, you can finally breathe a sigh of relief!
SCUBA diving – Leaving you open to a number of scary encounters, SCUBA diving can be a real adrenaline filled experience. Perhaps coming face to face with a shark or a whale is what you enjoy, but for most, just the experience of being underwater and still breathing is an experience not to miss. This is an incredibly popular sport for those who enjoy underwater life and travelling to far flung destinations, and there are plenty of courses out there including PADI, to help you reach a level where you are safe to dive by yourself.
Rock climbing – Using ropes and carabiners is one thing, but there are rock climbers out there who push themselves to the limit, using only their bodies to reach some of the tallest peaks imaginable. The danger is immense, meaning the adrenaline rush is too. But for those who prefer to stay a little safer, maybe just sign up for some classes on the indoor climbing wall at the local gym.
by Kath Webb
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