It is hard to pinpoint the reason athletes decide to specialize in extreme adventures. The amount of training, honing of skill, and disappointments along the way can be swept aside with one incredible win. The excitement and thrill certainly add to the enticement. Regardless of the reason, those who participate in this level of challenge are worthy of our recognition.
Lewis Pugh, Extreme Swimmer
Today, CNN reported on Lewis Pugh, an environmentalist who several years ago decided to take a 1-kilometer swim. The fact that it was in the Arctic Ocean, with chunks of ice in the nearly freezing saltwater, made this particular swim memorable.
The cost? Pugh lost feeling in his hands for four months.
Pugh uses his extreme adventures to draw the attention of the world. His purpose is to make everyone aware of the environmental threats Earth is facing. Eyes might glaze as scientists explain causes and changes. They notice when someone is daring to swim a frigid ocean.
Wolfgang Gullich, Extreme Climber
Although Wolfgang Gullich’s life was short (Oct. 24, 1960 – Aug. 31, 1992), he is still widely considered as one of the best sport climbers in history. He began his climbing quest by climbing on the sandstone rocks of the Palatinate, a region of southwestern Germany. Traveling to sites around the world, including Yosemite Valley in the US, he was able to climb most of the top routes, including a second ascent of Grand Illusion. Gullich moved to Little Switzerland, a part of northern Bavaria, for more climbing challenges. He created quite a few hard climbing routes, including Kanal im Rucken X (1984), Wallstreet XI (1987), and Action Directe XI (1991), still considered one of the hardest routes in the world.
Several grades were added to the grading system due to Gullich’s remarkable skill and attitude. He invented the modern training technique of campus boarding to climb Action Directe. Gullich achieved first ascents of routes like “Eternal Flame” in the Karakoram, and ‘Riders on the Storm” in Patagonia. Other climbers still attempt those routes, including ones inspired by Gullich years ago.
A broken back from a fall off Master’s Edge at Millstone Quarry in Derbyshire, England, did little to deter Gullich. Once recovered, he headed to Yosemite National Park to climb Separate Reality (1986). A 20-foot horizontal crack in an overhanging roof was conquered, though he was climbing without a rope.
Gullich was a climbing double for Sylvester Stallone in the action film Cliffhanger.
On Aug. 29, 1992, Gullich, whose attitude toward life was to take care to last as long as possible, was involved in an accident when his car veered across the autobahn. He died two days later, leaving a legacy that continues to be challenged.
Steve Allen, Extreme Windsurfer
Steve Allen is an eight-time Professional World Windsurfing Champion, and Australian champion in the racing disciplines of Slalom and Formula windsurfing.
In 2006, Gangnueng, Korea, hosted the 2006 Formula Windsurfing World Championships. The competition was tough, and the water caused some difficulty, but the news broke that Aussies Steve Allen and Allison Shreeve took the men’s and women’s titles, respectively, making it the first time Aussies have won both titles.
Allen invented a combi wave move; the tabletop forward loop; and, by May 2009, had a successful 17-year career under his belt. Although he is an Australian, he lives in Poland, where he participated in a television dancing show, “Polish Dancing Stars.”
In an interview with Continent Seven.com, Allen stated he and his previous sponsors had many disagreements, leading him to start the 2009 Windsurfing tour without sponsors.
Fans were able to keep updated on Allen’s website during 2009, when he joyfully reported in August that he had won all three windsurfing events in Poland: Euro Challenger in Rewal, Allegro Cup in Leba, and Gran Prix in Sopot. Variables extreme athletes have no control over, such as waves, water temperature, wind, glare, and required equipment, did not keep Allen from taking the FW World Championship in September 2009.
Allen has joined Starboard for the 2010 season, and intends to retain his world title.
Three athletes, three different stories, three different skills: All have made a difference in their sport and the world.
Richard Galant, Diving into Coldest Water on Earth
Climb and More. Com, Wolfgang Gullich
Matt Heason, Millstone: Quarried Grit
Tilmann Hepp, Wolfgang Gullrich, A Life in the Vertical Signed
FreakClimbing.com, Trango Expedition 2008: Gaz Perry & friends on the steps of Wolfgang Gullich
Sail-World Media Services, Double Gold for Aussies at Formula Windsurfing Worlds
Continent Seven .com, Interview with Steve Allen, A season without sponsors
Steve Allen Website
Continentseven.com, Steve Allen Joins Starboard for 2010-08-29