The Allure of Extreme Sports – Part 1: A Sense of Identity, By Aziza Kendrick

A skier, surfer, rock climber, and racquetball player, Aziza Kendrick is familiar with the draw of adrenaline-filled sports. Here she explores the reasons why people push themselves in difficult, dangerous activities.

What motivates people to pursue hobbies, such as backcountry skiing, that are physically taxing, technically difficult, and potentially life threatening? Researchers have found that people who participate in extreme sports are very goal oriented. Whether that goal is riding a huge wave or reaching the top of a tricky, technical route on a rock face, these athletes usually have clearly defined goals and a sense of self-competition that inspires them.

Other characteristics uniting extreme athletes is a desire for respect and a personal identity related to these activities. Though there are very few base jumpers, people who run off high cliffs and soar near the ground before pulling a parachute, the community of those who love the sport is very close-knit.

When an athlete perceives herself as a surfer, it motivates her to surf more. The more she surfs, the better she becomes, and the more respect she receives from the surfing community. This respect and acceptance is self-validating and satisfying, something all humans yearn for, and is in abundance in extreme-sport communities.

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