Is Skydiving an Extreme Sport?

Is Skydiving an Extreme Sport?

Published: May 15, 2017

Is Skydiving an Extreme Sport?

Sure, it's a contentious beast--but the term "extreme sports" has managed to survive constant abuse as a marketing catchphrase and catchall expression for stupidity ("extreme ironing," anybody?). Per the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, "extreme sport" is subdefined beneath the general term "extreme," and it goes a little something like this:

a : of, relating to, or being an outdoor activity or a form of a sport (such as skiing) that involves an unusually high degree of physical risk extreme mountain biking down steep slopes

b : involved in an extreme sport an extreme snowboarder

The Oxford English Dictionary pulls a similar trick with its definition, tucking it under "extreme" and illustrating it thusly:

1.4 Denoting or relating to a sport performed in a hazardous environment and involving great risk.

'extreme sports like snowboarding'

Helpfully, Oxford gives a list of example sentences, among them:

'Some 20 extreme sport enthusiasts took part in the action, all keen to make their name on the budding kitesurfing scene.'

'His free time, Joro saves for extreme sports: snowboarding in the winter and kiteboarding in the summer.'

'The last decade has seen a surge in popularity in extreme sports from rock climbing to snowboarding to mountain biking.'

Maybe you find it as interesting as we do that most of the "extreme sports" specifically called out in these definitions are by no means, like, wingsuit BASE jumping. Snowboarding makes a fairly regular appearance in these definitions, for example--a sport that a very large segment of the population has at least tried--but not the split-board, off-piste, jump-heavy backcountry snowboarding you might check out in a Matchstick video. Rock climbing is called out, but free climbing isn't. Mountain biking comes up, too, but not mountain unicycling. Kitesurfing makes an appearance, but big-wave surfing doesn't make the dictionary list.

What Really Is an Extreme Sport?

The dictionary definitions seem to define an "extreme sport" solely by the nature of it not being practiced by children on a schoolyard. (for example: as the classic football/soccer/basketball/volleyball/baseball stuff you'd see on an ordinary elementary school P.E. curriculum). Those sports might send a crying kid to the urgent care clinic with an injury or two, but on the whole, they're slow-moving ground-based sports.

Is Skydiving an Extreme Sport and Considered Extreme Skydiving?

Of course, given the dictionary definitions, skydiving is most certainly an "extreme sport", and some consider it to be extreme skydiving. Skydivers fall an average of 120mph (but can slow that downward speed to something approaching 60mph on wingsuit flights, or as fast as 225mph on a 'speed skydive'). Danger and risk are there, too, but--very importantly--skydivers regularly square up to and mitigate these risks by understanding the equipment, continuing our education, keeping current and proceeding mindfully through our skill progression. On the whole, skydiving IS a dangerous and--oftentimes--unforgiving sport, because of its high-speed element. Skydiving requires quick thinking and cognitive strength--especially when you're taking part in spectacular events like World Record skydives, flag jumps, jumps over exotic locations and the many other hijinks we get up to as sport skydivers.

At the end of the day, though, we're tempted to say that the dictionary definitions are missing a trick. First of all, using the word "extreme" is a little knuckle-bitey for our taste. Secondly, think about it: What's the central element of all the sports that tend to get mentioned when this term is thrown around? Reliance on the self, not the team or the division or the coach or the home stadium. In that regard, skydiving is one of the world's "extremest" sports, because when you're up there, you are doing self-reliance sprints on the track of self-improvement, and you're reaping truly extreme rewards.


Want to see what we're talking about? Come and do a tandem skydive with us at Skydive OC!

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