How We Judged Them
Audacity: The sheer boldness of their accomplishments.
Sea Change: Their achievements permanently altered the landscape of adventure.
Lived to Tell: They survived their most significant feats (even if they perished in later, lesser efforts).
No Rules: Organized sports are out.
10. Loïc Jean-Albert
WHAT HE DID: In 2003, the Réunion Island native donned a wingsuit, leapt from a heli, and made like a super squirrel, skimming 15 feet above the rock and snow of Verbier, clocking 100 miles per hour. He covered half a mile before pulling the rip cord on his chute.
LEGACY: Jean-Albert didn't invent the wingsuit, but he works it like no one else. Sure, it's mostly a stunt—but it's also the closest humans have come to Superman-style flight.
CLOSING ARGUMENT: The Wright brothers, Chuck Yeager, John Glenn—they all had good stuff. But watch their old flight reels, then punch up Loïc on YouTube. You'll see.
9. Robyn Davidson
WHAT SHE DID: In 1977, at age 27, the Australian set out from Alice Springs with her mutt, Diggity, and four wild camels she'd trained herself. Six months and 1,700 miles later, she reached the Indian Ocean, becoming the first woman to cross the punishing outback.
LEGACY: Alice Springs was just a big boys' club when Davidson arrived. Her 1980 book Tracks sent a generation of young women in search of their own fresh tracks.
CLOSING ARGUMENT: In the 1920s, Alexandra David-Néel crossed the Himalayas in winter and snuck into Tibet. But her yak was pre-trained, and she had a guide.
8. Greg Noll
WHAT HE DID: Cajoled his haole buddies into making the first drops at then-taboo Waimea Bay in November 1957. His career culminated with the biggest wave ever ridden at the time (30 feet), in 1969 at Oahu's Makaha Point. Noll wiped, survived, and retired.
LEGACY: The Makaha wave got big play in Stacy Peralta's Riding Giants, but opening Waimea ignited the modern surf era.
CLOSING ARGUMENT: Laird Hamilton has gone bigger and scarier, but Noll was the first to make us realize that there's no upper limit to what you can surf—only what you dare to try.