Column Date 2006-09-21

Xtreme sports for bad athletes

I don’t know about you, but the thought of skiing off a precipice at 7,000 feet scares the hell out of me.

The same goes for bungee jumping from a helicopter over a mile-deep canyon, and paragliding between Himalayan mountain peaks.

But I miss that adrenaline rush I used to get from racing onto the 7:14 express to Grand Central and getting the best seat before anyone else.

So I decided to look around for an extreme sport that suited me – plucky, but not a great athlete. Perhaps I could find a sport that wasn’t dominated by prepubescent kids; a sport where I could get an adrenaline rush without being in imminent danger of decapitation at every turn.

One click of Google and I found extreme sports that I never dreamed existed in this world!

There’s Extreme Ironing, for example, a sport that started in England back in 1997. (Yes, it’s real – Google it for yourself!)

Extreme Ironing bills itself as “an outdoor activity that combines the danger and excitement of an 'extreme' sport with the satisfaction of a well pressed shirt.”

As I understand it, the sport involves taking an iron and ironing board (and a shirt, of course) to remote mountaintops and inaccessible valleys, or taking your favorite iron skiing, snowboarding or canoeing. Not my cup of tea.

Then there’s Stunt Pogo-sticking, a sport that describes a “beginner’s” stunt as follows: “The ‘body wrap’ is the most basic way to get the pogo-stick from in front of you to behind you while jumping.” I can feel the pain in my groin already.

Being an ex-fisherman, I was immediately attracted to another extreme sport called “Noodling.”

Noodling for catfish (apparently the fish of choice for noodlers), means that you catch them with your bare hands. To begin, you get into the water, which can be up to your neck, and stick your arm into a catfish hole. Your arm and your hand, to put it bluntly, are the bait. When the catfish bites onto your hand or arm, you’ve got it!

Now the fun begins: especially since some catfish weigh up to 60 pounds. Somehow, you have to pull the catfish out of the water and, at the same time, get it to stop chewing on your arm, which it thinks is dinner.

Holding a firm belief that mankind is actually on top of the food chain and not meant to be bait for giant catfish, noodling was clearly not my sport.

“Urban Kayaking” sounded interesting, until I realized that the more mouthfulls of polluted water you can tolerate, the greater your chance of success.

Next, I found Zorbing, a simple sport where you place yourself inside a giant, inflatable plastic ball and roll down a steep hill at over 25 mph. Adding to the fun, the ball is transparent, so you can see what you’re about to smash into.

Zorbians (that’s what some of them call themselves) also envision ‘Crash Zorbing,' where teams of Zorbians purposely roll into each other.

And then there’s my friend, Phil, who told me he’s very enthusiastic about all Extreme Sports and hopes that more people start playing them. You should understand that 1) Phil is an insurance agent, and 2) his idea of sport is watching the Yankees on TV.

He calls it “Extreme Barcalounging.” Maybe I’ll join him.

©2006 Peter Tannen