Over this past weekend, I learned the difficulties of extreme sports the hard way. I did also, however, realize the reasons for the increasing appeal of the industry.
Pismo Beach should be marked on the map for anyone who considers himself or herself a sucker for thrill, speed and suspense. Located 232 miles north of Irvine, it is a quaint town just outside of San Luis Obispo. Driving through the town, Pismo Beach does not resemble any of the big cities California has to offer. It is a simple place with small homes, and many small mom-and-pop businesses.
Pismo Beach is also home to one of the most exciting All-Terrain Vehicle courses in the United States.
The scenery of the course is paradoxical. Look to one side and you see large sand dunes, like the ones in “The Mummy” and “Spaceballs”; remember the scene where Dark Helmet’s army literally combs the desert? And look to the adjacent side due east, and you see a clean, tranquil ocean-side. Numerous ATV rental trailers and a sea of ATV first-timers position themselves between these two lands. Welcome to ATV heaven.
My brothers, a cousin, a friend and I made the three-hour drive up, and each rented a Hondo EX 400 ATV for $78 each. The yellow, four-wheel vehicles are pesky. It took each one of us, all first-timers, a good 15 minutes to pick up the controls. I was given a semi-automatic ATV and was exceptionally inept with learning the process of turning on the ignition, reversing and accelerating. Great, I had to figure out how to switch gears, too. I waited until I was 18 to get my driver’s license, and I can only say I have been over the speed-limit a handful of times. When it comes to cars, or any vehicle for that matter, I am a sissy.
For the first two hours of riding, I picked up the acceleration of the ATV pretty well. I kept up with my motor-savvy brothers, and driving-competent cousin and friend. However, once you get to the dunes, the true beauty of the sport unfolds. One minute you’re on the beach, the next you’re on the Sahara desert. On the dunes, there is no speed limit, no designated lanes and no fear.
When looking down at the 30-foot drop in the sand dune, which from the top looks like an 83 degree slope, it is incomprehensible to think of a way of getting down safely. You just have to man up, and gravity will take you on a thrilling ride that will have your adrenaline pumping once you reach the flat sandy surface. However, unlike other mind-boggling feats, conquering one dune does not give you the guts to conquer every one thereafter, at least for me. Don’t get me wrong; I went down my fair share of steep sand dunes, but extreme sports are tougher than they look.
It is scary when you are driving up to speeds of 40 miles an hour and have no seat belt or harness to support you. I feel more comfortable on roller coasters.
After a relatively smooth first hour, my performance in the second should warrant anyone to call me Sally. I surreptitiously maneuvered around the exceptionally large sand dunes, and kept to the second or third of five gears. Unfortunately, my secretive sissyness turned into fact. I tumbled over twice over a couple of baby dunes, one of which was made eternal. It was caught on camera by my older brother of all people. Not only did I fall, but I kept the group back, stalling at the top of dunes and requiring my little brother to embarrassingly help me ride over a large dune. This assistance repeated for over six or seven times.
My excuse: I had an ATV with an especially slippery seat and stiff acceleration switch. I didn’t hear the end of it. Now, I was riding with my brothers breathing down my neck, expecting me to screw up again. And I did, over and over again. Whatever! I did much better than I thought.
In the eighth grade, I purchased my first skateboard, a Geoff Rowley Flip board. I was high off Tony Hawk Pro Skater and my new interest in the X Games. I sucked. I could barely pull an ollie, the most basic of skateboarding tricks, which one achieves by successfully elevating his or her board from a stationary position. Most sports came easy to me, but not extreme sports.
With the rise of extreme sports stars like Tony Hawk and Dave Mirra, and the proliferation of new gravity-defying tricks, a new genre of industry formed. Kids all over began skateboarding, riding their bikes, wearing clothing from extreme sports equipment lines and living the craze. The sports bring a quick-fix thrill reflective of the shorter attention span of our generation.
More and more kids have been straying from traditional sports, and kids all over the world are using their surroundings to create their own extreme sports experience.
The industry is rising from beneath us. Most of us aren’t very good at them (cough), but they are certainly fun to try and especially fun to watch.