Chasing the Elements: a look at the world of extreme sports enthusiasts

Chasing the Elements: a look at the world of extreme sports enthusiasts

Adil Sait looks at how extreme sports are becoming increasingly popular

The next Olympic games are four years away, but Tokyo 2020 is already set to send shockwaves through the sporting world. Among the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommendations over the summer were the addition of surfing, sports climbing and skateboarding- all extreme sports, as Olympic sports.

‘Extreme sports’ (also known as action sports) are perceived as being high risk and based on the determination of individual enthusiasts. Yet opinions are changing significantly as they are becoming increasingly popular. So what’s next for extreme sports?

Though once only the choice of dedicated enthusiasts, extreme sports are becoming increasingly more accepted by university students. Liv Williams, a Welsh documentary film-maker, blogger, humanitarian and now author of a new book on extreme sports, ‘Chasing the Elements’, described how difficult it once was for students to get involved in extreme sports:

“I did triathlon for a good few years […] and I remember I had a good support network in Aberystwyth in west Wales. When I went to Swansea University I remember hunting around for another coach and a team that I could join […] it was such hard work to get any interest in someone taking over my training.”

Twice junior National Triathlon Champion she pursued this passion for extreme sports even after university with her blog on extreme sports over the past seven years. Williams’s career has taken many different routes: through the BBC’s Money Programme, documentaries such as the ‘Last Days of the Lehman Brothers’, as well as humanitarian work in Nepal, Malawi, Iraq, Turkey and on the Syrian border working with NGOs to help raise both awareness and funding for disaster relief. Yet she maintains that extreme sports are a continuing passion.

Among those featured in Williams’s book is UCL’s skateboarding society president Alex Rademaker. From Switzerland, Rademaker is in his third year at UCL and has balanced his profile as a Youtube skateboarder with his UCL degree in Biosciences. What influenced his journey into skateboarding were friends, Tony Hawk’s Pro skater games and Rodney Mullen (a professional skateboarder).

Talking to Pi about getting into skateboarding, Rademaker is clear that skateboarding as a sport is about passion, resilience, and developing an individual interest.

“Skateboarding is quite difficult at first, there’s a really big learning curve […] You need a bit more time investment, a bit more perseverance […] You need to be solid, grounded and motivated.”

A major question hanging over extreme sports in recent years has been the lack of funding to develop talent. Both Rademaker and Williams cite America as a major player in the extreme sports world and it is where a lot of British talent, including athletes from London, end up simply because of the many funding opportunities and celebrity status that extreme sports enthusiasts enjoy there.

However, the interest of London’s students in skateboarding is becoming an increasingly crucial factor. As Rademaker explained cities are the lifeblood of extreme sports.

“A lot of skateboarding happens in the city, or using objects that are found in urban areas, but the cool thing about skating is that it is not restricted to any area or zone, so you can literally do it anywhere.”

The challenge is finding the right space: while in the age of the Internet finding skate-parks in London is no challenge, finding good street space can be tricky. As Rademaker testifies it requires determination and an ability to explore London in constantly changing ways.

So what advice do Liv Williams and Alex Rademaker give to UCL students either starting out as extreme sports enthusiasts, or trying to build their interest into a career?

According to Rademaker: “Keep doing what your doing, be organised  and continue to improve yourself”

According to Williams: “If you have a passion for something that is definitely where you should be led first […] your passion should be finding out about it…and remember to shout about yourself from the rooftops.”

‘Chasing The Elements – The Heart and Soul of Action Sports’ (Meyer & Meyer Sport) by Liv Williams is available to pre-order on  Liv Williams’ extreme sports blog is:

Featured image: Wikimedia Commons 

Adil Sait