7 Ultra-Green Extreme Sports

Person balancing sideways on a wall
Photo: THOR/Flickr [CC by 2.0]

Extreme sports run the gamut when you consider environmental impact. Some, like motocross, snowmobiling and Red Bull air racing come with a heavy environmental footprint while others, such as skateboarding and BMX, are more benign. Some are even more green, often requiring nothing more than the shoes on your feet, the calluses on your hands, or the wife on your back. If you're going to risk life and limb in pursuit of a good adrenaline rush, here's how to do it without wrecking the environment.

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Horse surfing

David Spurden.

Horse surfing was developed in 2005 by British trick riders who strapped on kiteboards and towed themselves up and down beaches behind their horses. Since then it's been adopted by riders around the world and is particularly popular in Australia. A horse's top speed maxes out around 35 miles per hour. Knock off about 10 mph for running in the shallow surf and you get a heart-pounding, CO2-free experience.

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Wife carrying

@Home Artist/Flickr.

Wife carrying is another sport with minimal equipment requirements — all you need is a wife ... to carry. The racers heft their significant others on their backs and fight to be the first to complete a race course filled with obstacles and impediments. The sport of wife carrying was introduced in Finland and has since spread all over the world. It is overseen by the International Wife Carrying Competition Rules Committee, which sets the official guidelines for all races. The winner of the world championships held in Sonkajärvi, Finland, win the weight of his wife in beer.

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Bog snorkeling

Bog snorkeling is all about getting back to nature — or better said, getting face deep into nature. Bog snorkelists swim two 60-yard laps using only flippers to power their way. The water is thick, brown, weedy and filled with all sorts of peat boggy things. Wales, where the the world championships take place every August, is not an especially warm country — racers are lucky if it breaks out of the 50s for the race.

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Chasing Cooper's Hill Cheese

Mike Warren/Flickr.

People have been chasing wheels of cheese down Cooper's Hill near Gloucester, England, for more than 200 years. Racers line up at the top of a steep hill and run, trip, stumble, fall and plummet 200 yards to the bottom. The first to cross the finish line wins the cheese, which gets a 1 second head start on the racers and is rarely, if ever, actually caught. Every year scores of people are hauled off to the hospital, having suffered broken bones, sprained limbs and cracked heads.

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Shin kicking

Smellbridge/Wiki Commons.

Shin kicking is the most brutal green sport we researched. It is exactly what it sounds like — two guys (and it's almost always guys; 2009 was the first year a woman competed) stand toe to toe, grab each other's lapels, and start kicking at each other's shins. It's simple, requires no equipment, and can be practiced just about anywhere. Shin kicking is part of the Cotswold Olimpick Games, a celebration of traditional games and sport held in Cotswold, England, since the early 1600s. The modern-day version of the games was started in 1963 and besides shin kicking, features other green sports like championship of the hill, tug of war, and a 5-mile cross-country race.

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Simon Lesley Photography/Flickr.

Parkour, aka free running or l'art du déplacement (the art of movement), is beautiful in its simplicity. Traceurs, or those who practice parkour, try to get from point A to point B as quickly, creatively and fluidly as possible. Beyond a good pair of shoes, the sport requires nothing more than an urban environment in which to practice. Modern parkour draws heavily from gymnastics and was founded by David Belle, an ex-firefighter and military officer who starred in the 2004 movie, District 13, a French film featuring a foot chase scene that has a parkour-running Belle escaping from a large band of thugs. Parkour is now popular in cities around the world, and up-and-coming traceurs have taken the sport in some exciting directions.

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Free solo climbing


Free solo climbing is easily the most dangerous of the greener extreme sports — one slip, one mistake and you're dead or maimed. Free solo climbers ascend without ropes, harnesses or other protective gear to protect them. The only equipment needed to free solo is a pair of climbing shoes — and the mental bravado to risk it all in the pursuit of a fantastic view.