In countries like Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan, flying kites extends far beyond the fascination of children and whimsical adults. In these nations, kite flyers use strings coated with glue and crushed glass to wage battle against those who dare invade their air space. Cut strings send vanquished kites falling back to earth, the victor remaining aloft.
But the razor sharp kite strings sometimes miss their target, and instead slice the throats of rickshaw drivers, bicyclists, and other kite flyers. Fighters stumble off rooftops or catch their kites in power lines, and succumb to electrocution. In 2007, during Pakistan’s Basant festival, 11 such deaths occurred after the temporary lifting of a kite-flying ban. Kite bans now extend across Asia, but in many places the deadly sport persists.
Amongst the many perils of non-motorized human flight: failure to deploy parachute, cord break, power line entanglement, drowning, and proximity flying (the shooting of narrow cliff gaps that makes for incredible GoPro footage, and has contributed to as many as five deaths by wingsuit).
Those seeking their own R. Kelly moment (I can fly!) should first consult the fatality statistics of BlincMagazine, an online BASE jumping resource. Because while floating free fall is undoubtedly an unnerving endeavor, so is reading about all the ways it can end—badly.
Within the blackness of a cave lies the essence of exploration. Geological seams and torso-width holes lead to vast underground rooms lined with rock formations that make them appear otherworldly. As these crevices extend deeper, inevitably, they lead to water. To continue, a caver must dive. But only the bravest amongst the caving community dare don the rebreathers that circulate gas-laden air back into the user’s lungs. Underwater and far underground, cave divers have unearthed such treasures as the fossils of long extinct animals, as well as the bodies of fellow cave diving discoverers, who never returned.
In his Outside profile of Alex Honnold, the world’s best free solo climber, David Robert’s wrote that free soloing’s, “fundamental rule is stern and simple: If you slip, you die.” With that thought constantly in mind, top free solo climbers move with methodical precision up seemingly sheer rock walls. A poorly placed handhold is likely the last a free solo climber makes.
The sport requirers climbers to go against human nature, quashing the anxiety that comes with the prospect of immenent death, because there’s no place for quivering thighs a hundrend plus feet above the ground. Contemplate what falling from that height would do to your body, feel your heartbeat rise, then imagine clinging to the wall yourself.
There are many places in the world and a variety of ways to go downhill, fast. Powder packed ski runs, alpine road bike descents, rocky downhill mountain bike runs–even sand dune surfing—all rank within our perceptions of normal thrill seeking.
But in Nicaragua, on the 41-degree slope of an active volcano that last erupted in 1999, a handful of brave adventurers have taken downhilling to a new extreme. Guide company Green Pathways Tours shuttles prospective volcano surfers to top of 2,288-foot Cerro Negro, provides a protective suit (to ward of sharp rocks), goggles, a rudimentary sled, and a complimentary push. On the way down the volcano face, speeds can approach 50-miles-per hour. The experience: remotely familiar, but entirely unique.