Sport: Let the Blur Spins Begin!

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, June 1995

Sport: Let the Blur Spins Begin!

The Extreme Games will be hip and on the tube for 50 in-your-face hours. Oh, boy...
By Paul Kvinta

What would you make of guys in yellow leather bodysuits schussing down your street at 70 mph on what look like cafeteria trays? "A few years ago they would have been labeled insane," reads the information kit about the first-ever Extreme Games, slated to begin on the 24th in Providence, Rhode Island. "Today we call them world-class competitors." Whatever you call them, ESPN is betting that you'll want to invite street lugers into your living room. And with them a platoon of other hardy souls whose assignment is simple: to convince you that tomorrow belongs to gimmick-sport athletes who dress (and often wiggle, jump, and jerk) like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The bottom line, we gather, is that for kids of the future, it's good-bye, autographed baseball gloves. But will it really be hello, Doug Anderson-autographed bungee cord?

History: Developed six years ago by a French sky diver who leaped from a plane wearing plywood.

Play by play: Two partners, a surfer and a "camera flyer," dive out of a plane with parachutes strapped to their backs. During a 60-second free fall, the surfer, his feet buckled onto a five-foot-long board, performs a series of loops, and other stunts, while his partner, wearing a helmet-cam, deftly maneuvers around him--thus sending a live-feed shot of the action to earthbound judges who score the tumblenauts on techical ability and artistic merit.

From the highlight reel: World champion Rob Harris's "upside-down helicopter." Harris inverts himself and then spins his body three revolutions per second, making his board resemble a rotating chopper blade.

The pros speak: "Remember that your exit from the plane is judged, too, so you don't just go ripping out of the door," says Joe Jennings, Harris's partner. "I might make the plane spin around while Rob's doing a barrel roll."

History: Invented in the Santa Monica Mountains, the sport's been around for 20 years or more, though the oft-reached 70-mph speeds are illegal in most places.

Play by play: Pilots wearing skin-tight leather suits accelerate down a curvy asphalt course on a seven-foot-long piece of aluminum equipped with skateboard wheels.

From the highlight reel: A bone-rattling double switchback in the middle of the course, where pilots will have to grind the urethane soles of their boots into the pavement, Fred Flintstone-style, to keep from careering off.

The pros speak: "They just won't let go of that name," says Bob Pererya, one of the sport's founders, referring to ESPN's insistence on calling the event "street luge" instead of "land luge," his original name for it. "It makes this sport sound twice as outlawed as it is."

History: Launched in the mideighties as an often clandestine recreational pursuit, bungee jumping has until now lacked organized competition.

Play by play: Each competitor gets six leaps from a 155-foot platform with a 27-foot bungee cord attached to his ankles. During the initial fall and subsequent recoils, the diver executes somersaults, layouts, and twists while trying not to tie himself in a knot. Judges award points for difficulty and style.

From the highlight reel: Canadian jumper Doug Anderson's "blur spin." Anderson soars off the platform and spins, head down, "like a power drill." He thinks he makes eight or nine spins.

The pros speak: "Our sport's so new that no one knows what the hell the rules are," says Anderson, who just completed a year in Taiwan performing a bungee-jumping comedy routine above a dolphin pool. "They say it's going to be judged like platform diving."

History: Originated about eight years ago when Billy Roeseler, 51, and his son Cory, 24, began experimenting with kites and water skis in Puget Sound.

Play by play: The skier lies in the ocean with a monoboard attached to his feet. Two 150-foot lines connect a hand-held bar to a crescent-shaped kite. The skier tosses the kite into the air, it fills with wind, and the competitor is yanked onto his feet. By flying the kite low, the skier accelerates; by flying it high, he can levitate and perform flips. The Games will feature duels on a slalom course in the Atlantic, with freestyle points awarded for stunts.

From the highlight reel: Cory Roeseler's backward loop. He launches 15 to 20 feet off a wave, flips his board over his head, and then looks for a place to land.

The pros speak: "The rules aren't set in stone yet, but for the back flip, the judges might subtract 20 seconds," explains Cory Roeseler. "I guess if you did a bunch of really good tricks you could actually end up with negative time. That would be extreme, wouldn't it?"

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