Kite surfing madness in Worthing?

Monday, November 30th, 20097 Comments

The sleepy West Sussex town of Worthing found itself the setting for an extreme sports challenge this month. Two local kite surfers received widespread media coverage when they achieved their ambition to jump over the town’s pier. Jake Scrace, 25, and Lewis Crathern, 24, used 40mph-plus winds to carry them over the Victorian pier. The Grade II listed pier – the home to the famous International Birdman competition, where people use various odd mechanical devices in an attempt to fly – did at last witness human flight although the two kite boarders narrowly missed crashing into it.

Jack Scrace, a carpenter, who makes kite boards, and Lewis Crathern, a professional kite surfer, say they’d been preparing for the death-defying event for four years. Many who witnessed the daredevil duo jump 40ft into the air, were heard to ask ‘why?’. And by the pair’s own admission, if the pier-jumping effort didn’t go 100 per cent to plan, they’d have been feeding the seagulls.

So why do people choose to test themselves like this?  There’s a frequently used quote by the US novelist and intrepid journalist, Ernest Hemingway, ‘There are only three real sports: bull-fighting, car racing and mountain climbing. All the others are mere games’. For Hemingway, like many people, the adrenalin only pumped when it mattered.

Many people have attributed the rise in extreme sports to our increasingly comfortable lives. In evolutionary terms, the ‘fight or flight’ adrenalin rush that we used to get on a daily basis when hunting for food with our spears has disappeared.  To feel alive, they argue, we need to reproduce the fight or flight adrenalin rush in other ways.

Former US President George Bush Snr, celebrated his 85th birthday this year by sky-diving out of an aircraft. Was he being any more sensible than the two kite surfers jumping over Worthing pier? Probably not. But, like the Worthing duo, George Bush Snr said he felt more alive afterwards.

Risk, it seems, is part of our make-up; too little risk can make Jack a dull boy, too much daredevil adrenalin and we could end up in looking our local pier in the face. In the end the choice has to be yours.

If you want to try an adrenalin-racing activity that meets your risk profile, click here

Quad bikers and hippos glory in the mud

Friday, November 27th, 20092 Comments

Quad bikers and hippos have one thing in common. Mud. They love it. While ordinary folk like clear blue skies and firm green grass under foot, quad bikers are rarely happier than when wallowing in the mud. Rob Sawyer, who runs a 400-acre wood in Leicestershire, where quad bikers regularly splatter themselves in the brown stuff, says: ‘We are as busy in the winter as the summer.’

He adds: ‘People in the UK have a more outdoor mentality these days, so take a different attitude to the winter. Mud is seen as a liberating experience.’ Rob points out that quad biking is, in fact, safer in the mud. ‘You can do what we call power slides, where you let the bike drift,’ he explains. For the novice quad biker, the mud also represents the perfect playing field. ‘Riding in the mud can be less demanding on your arms, so it’s a good time to start riding,’ he says. ‘It’s a bit like playing rugby in the mud – it can be more fun.’

If you want the chance to wallow in the mud, click here

Beginners guide to: Archery

Thursday, November 26th, 20091 Comment

Archery is as quintessentially British as tea-drinking. However, although both can be gentle leisure pursuits on a lawn, only one can be used to fight wars, hunt wild boar or terrorise the Sheriff of Nottingham. There’s no doubt, whether it’s in Sherwood Forest, the mountains of Wales or the fields of Agincourt, we Brits have a long attachment to the bow. So perhaps we shouldn’t be all that surprised that Sport England have identified a latent demand for the sport with 44,000 UK adults saying they’d like a shot at it.  Well, if you’re an eager bow-person, here’s a 10-point beginners’ guide.

  1. Target archery is the most popular form of the sport, and good news if you want to escape the winter weather: you can fire your arrows inside and out. Indoor distances are 18 m and 25 m. Outdoor distances range from 30 m to 90m.
  2. Targets have a number of coloured rings, each with a points value. Like rifle shooting, nearest the middle gets the highest score. However, the scoring system can change after each round.
  3. The basic design of bows hasn’t changed since King Harold failed to duck at the Battle of Hastings. However, a number of modern bows have a mechanism that helps the archer pull back the string.
  4. The video is a basic introduction to the equipment.  The compound bow, which is widely shot, uses cams or wheels, to take the pressure of the string, so the archer can focus more on aiming the arrow at the target.
  5. Archers using a compound bow use a release device, which helps the archer achieve a slow, smooth release of the arrow.
  6. Field archery is a challenge against the terrain as well as the target. A course is set up with 24 targets which are marked with the distance to the shooting line. The distances to another 24 targets remain unmarked. Three arrows are shot on each target for a total of 144. Many of the shots are made uphill or downhill and require consideration for obstacles.
  7. Most archers will wear a bracer. This medieval-looking garb is worn to stop the string of the bow rubbing against the arm.
  8. ‘Archer’s paradox’ is a phrase attributed to Dr Robert Elmer, which refers to the fact that an arrow from a right-handed bow appears to go left, yet hits the target (if you’re a good shot).
  9. Right-handed archers point their left side to the target, and place the arrow with their right hand.
  10. Target divisions include the recurve (Olympic) bow, compound bow and bare bow. Events at the Olympic Games are in the outdoor target discipline, using the recurve (Olympic) bow only.

If you’re interested in trying archery, click here.

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