As Tour de France racers sped across the island of Corsica this summer, men on what appeared to be jet powered hovercrafts performed barrel rolls and flips above the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The acrobatics were powered by Flyboards, which use a personal watercraft’s propulsion system to rocket users 30 feet into the air or plunge them below the water’s surface. The device was unveiled in 2011 by a champion jet ski racer from France, Franky Zapata, and those who’ve ridden a Flyboard say it makes them feel like a superhero, defying the limitations of humanity.
Here, we have a cinder track, 90 meters long (or, less than one-quarter the length of a running track.) We have four competitors riding modified cruiser bikes—equipped with freewheels, but no brakes. We have a full contact event, with racers skidding through turns, shouldering and swerving to prohibit passing, and frequently crashing in mass pile-ups. We have a winner, when one of them crosses the line after just four breathtaking laps. Here, we have the nearly 100-year-old officially sanctioned British discipline of cycle speedway racing. It’s no wonder the nation that thought up this wild sport now dominates the Tour de France.
It’s simple, right? Bike, plus speed, plus ramp, plus water equals mad air, sick tricks, and a refreshing dip. All true, expect for all those epic BMX lake jumping fails. The prospect of a soft(ish) landing tends to entice those people who’re ill-equipped to take flight onto the seats of flotation aided BMX bikes. While pedaling up to speed, their arms shake and their legs go weak. Often, they eat shit before even reaching the ramp. Other rookies risk getting body slammed by thirty-plus pounds of spikey bike parts. But for the true BMX pros, a bike propelled leap without fear of landing is one of the pure joys of summer.
The bird of prey circles high above the water’s surface, waiting for fish before casting with its claws and beak. The same notion applies to SUP fisherman, who often perch atop a cooler or stool to gain a greater vantage of the species lurking below. As SUP anglers have gained confidence casting from their boards, they’ve begun baiting the monsters that lurk beyond the coastline.
In 2008, Carl Schroderer hooked a Marlin from his SUP board, briefly allowing the giant fish to tow him around before cutting it free. And in 2012, Captain Lance Moss captured a 65.8-pound sailfish in route to winning a Destin, Florida, fishing tournament. The feisty sailfish dragged Moss six-miles out toward the deep, requiring a two-plus hour paddle home. The irony to Moss’s impressive catch? He was initially trying to hook a shark.
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.