Throughout history there have been those who chased extremes. Whether it be jet cars, free falling from outside of the earth’s atmosphere, to riding the biggest monsters that the surface of the ocean can throw at them. They’ve inspired movies such as Chasing Mavericks and rush. The media sensationalizes these men and women and occasionally casts a shadow of madness upon their faces
In the past, there were studies conducted looking at the behavior of these individuals. These studies provided a few different theories explaining the sociological and psychological mechanisms that are at work. One theory suggests that participation in extreme sports as an outward expression of deviant personality traits. The need for novel, varying and uncertain being the driving force. From a more psychoanalytical perspective extreme athletes are described as pathological with an unhealthy level of narcissism, in which they deny their limitations and vulnerabilities, rationalizing unacceptable behaviors and feelings.
All of these theories have one major point in common. They believe that extreme sport athletes are all sensation-seekers. They are driven by their innate need for novel experiences and intense sensations, constantly searching for the next extreme, the next challenge, the next outlet for them to resolve their boredom.
From this theoretical perspective we would describe these athletes as realizing their deviant traits through a pathological and unhealthy activity cultivating self deception through an activity playing with the limits of human ability for thrills and excitement.
Despite this perception that these studies have portrayed they had a few key flaws that limited their validity. They focused solely on the sensation-seeking aspects of these sports, completely neglecting the beneficial aspects that come with participating in any sport.When we look at the statistics involved in these sports we see a very different trend than common assumptions would expect.
Not all of these athletes are hell bent dare devils seeking to journey on to the fringes of what is humanly possible (though they often do seem to take it to the astonishing). Many are highly disciplined individuals who seek to better understand all factors relating to their sport. Investing countless hours analyzing the conditions, equipment, and all the weather systems associated with their sport of preference. Many develop positive psychological and emotional outcomes such as courage and humility and the benefits of working with and overcoming fear.
More recent studies are looking more and more at these athletes and sports as less of an outlet for deviants and hell razors and more as phenomenological events examining what it is that makes those of us who choose to face extremes whether it be surfing in hurricane driven waves (my personal preference), jumping out of airplanes, or projecting ourselves off of cliff faces into the open ocean. Whatever it is that drives us to push ourselves, transform our mentalities and develop a stronger relationship with the world around us. The force that drives us to chase extremes.