Extreme ways to sink to a watery grave

Probably the final image of this pair. ©Lars Plougmann

I have been thinking about extreme sports a lot lately. Although these days, any sport for me arguably qualifies as extreme, I'm not quite sure why images of people throwing themselves off this or into that keep cropping up as I circulate Morrison's.

If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say it could be put down to two things. The first is witnessing the Roses women's rugby star player (the ambulance) in action. The second is a recent Courtyard-fuelled conversation a friend and I had about current exercise endeavours and the horrors of Polish drinking games. In order to vent my musings (and hopefully keep you reading until the end), I've chosen to dedicate this article to providing a very quick outline of two very extreme watery type sports that you probably didn't know much about and that truly fascinate me:

1) GOING OVER NIAGARA FALLS IN A BARREL

Height of falls: 167 ft (51 meters)

Method: Usually in a sealed barrel that has been pre-tested on a cat

Scariness Rating: Brushing your teeth and in the mirror seeing leatherface behind you with a copy of your exam results....x10.

I do recall that in the 1970s or 80s, Louis Lane jumped into the Niagara waters to try and provoke Clark Kent into revealing his true identity, but even she, with the safety of knowing Superman was close at hand, wasn't brave enough to attempt the Horseshoe falls (the big one you are thinking of). In fact, much to the disgruntlement of Canadian and American authorities, this has been some what of a daredevil sport for quite some years. One notable Niagara faller was 63 year old Michigan school teacher Annie Edson Taylor (yes that's right, sixty three years old!) who attempted the fall in 1901. Annie's vessel of choice was a sealed barrel, from which she emerged, bleeding but apparently otherwise virtually unharmed. Her thoughts as the barrel was prized open:

No one ought ever to do that again

(Annie since became a professional understater)

2) FREE-DIVING (holding your breath and going down deep underwater)

Depth dived to: Divers regularly hit depths of over 100 metres (since the divers have to come back up this is over 8 swimming pool lengths underwater).

Method: Training to increase the body's tolerance to CO2 build up in the circulation; hyperventilation before competition.

Scariness Rating: Hard to measure, but being 150 metres down and running out of breath doesn't sound too fun.

The strains on the body in this sport are ectoplasmic. Not only do divers have to hold their breath for several minutes, but they have to use up energy diving, endure their lungs being crushed like a crisp packet and, due to the dreaded bends, resist the urge to rocket up for air when the diving's done. Try YouTubing free-diving or Dean's Blue Hole in the Bahamas to see the divers risk life and lung in pursuit of...well, whatever the financial or spiritual gains are. Historically, before James Cameron conquered the deep seas, this was the only way to grab that special pearl for your special gal. One such diver was Nakamura, a young Okinawan who features in Ted Egan's song of the same name. Listen to Nakamura's quest here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0aYNILHW-o



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