As one of the top extreme-sports athletes in the world, fearless outdoorsman and renowned wild man WILL GADD knows the true value of challenging yourself--body, mind, and soul. Here, in his own words and exclusively for MF, he breaks down the methods behind his madness and offers some suggestions on how you can experience a few thrills of your own with six of the most extreme sports known to man.
Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "Auto racing, bullfighting, and mountian climbing are the only real sports... all others are games" And while games are great fun -- I played on my high school basketball team with enthusiasm if not great distinction -- today I'm less interested in them. My work calendar is packed with more important events: climbing frozen waterfalls in Norway, paragliding the skies of Europe, scaling icebergs and huge mountains of rock, kayaking crazy rivers. And between all that, I'm making films, teaching clinics, and just having fun. It's a stellar job description made possible by a lifetime spent chasing dreams around the globe.
The only drawback is the danger. But even with the hazards, these extreme sports provide the most enjoyment I've found in life. And I think Hemingway would agree that these are real sports. There are no judges or referees to stop the action when it gets too aggressive. Many of my friends have paid the ultimate price, and when I'm introduced at a function as "The Extreme-Sports Guy" outsiders often ask, "Why?"
The answer is that real sports offer real rewards. And, as we all know, the bigger the risk, the better the payoff. I take big risks every time I climb into my paraglider or scale an iceberg bobbing in the Atlantic, but the reward of seeing dawn's red light sear across a high mountain range is not only worth the challenge it takes to get there, it's also the time I feel most undeniably whole and alive.
The public often calls what I do "extreme." But, really, these sports are all about the possibility of living completely in the moment. The usual debris of life such as mortgage payments and workplace stress becomes almost irrelevant when you're perched on an iceberg or gliding over the Grand Canyon at nearly 18,000 feet.
The following is a list of my favorite possibilities--activities in which the question isn't "Why?" but something more along the lines of "How can I make this feeling last forever?" They're sports Hemingway would approve of that take place in some of the most special places I've found around North America--places where the only thing that really matters is just how far you can push your own limits.