And a sport known as BASE jumping (for Buildings, Antennas, Spans, and Earth), officially established in 1980, now lures hundreds. Huge crowds will line city streets to check out leather-clad street lugers lying supine on their souped-up skateboards, flashing along at 80 mph while hovering a mere 5/16 of an inch off the asphalt. Spectators will clog the beach to witness snowboarders launching themselves heavenward off a 300-foot ramp covered with man-made powder. Is it the chance of a catastrophe that makes extreme/action sports so enticing?. A century ago, in The Will to Believe, the philosopher William James wrote, "It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all." But contemporary societies seem bent on expunging risk from every aspect of life. It's gotten to the point where there are no more swings on playgrounds. At the same time, people are saying, `Where's Tony Hawk?'(check The End video).People need adventure in their lives." Frank Farley, a Temple University psychologist, believes this thirst for adventure is a fundamental aspect of the American character that refuses to wilt despite the trend toward risk elimination. Farley's research into thrill seeking has allowed him to construct a composite sketch of the typical extreme/action sports athlete, a personality model he labels "Type T-positive physical." Type T's, Farley says, tend to be extraordinarily extroverted and creative. They crave novelty and excitement. Some manifest these characteristics in the intellectual domain; Farley classifies innovative thinkers such as Albert Einstein and Francis Crick, for example, as "Type T-positive mental." Other people gravitate toward the sinister, "Type T-negative" end of the personality spectrum, abusing drugs or engaging in violent crime to indulge their appetite for thrills. Still others fit the profile of Ulmer or Lavin, satisfying their drive for excitement by participating in sports where the consequence of failure is more than just a bruised ego. "There are some people who hold on to the handrails of life-the rules, the traditions," says Farley. "The Type T let go of the handrails. They create their own life." America, with its roots in revolution, its prosperity grounded in the high-risk ventures of capitalism, and its mythology filled with fearless frontiersmen, is fundamentally a Type T nation-for better and for worse. Yet the circumstances of our culture have teetered toward the timid-he bland environs of suburbia, the drab rows of Dilbert-style cubicles, the numbing boredom of 28-hour-a-week TV-watching habits. Extreme/action sports provide a socially acceptable outlet for those Type T-positive yearnings (see Crusty). "George Will has said that if you want to understand America, you must understand baseball," says Farley. "No, if you want to understand America, you must know extreme/action sports." Extreme/action sports not only satisfy the need for excitement in an increasingly boring world. They also provide an outlet for the kind of creativity and individual expression often squashed in a homogenized culture of chain stores and minimalls. While baseball and football remain virtually unchanged from generation to generation, extreme/action sports athletes are constantly fiddling with the formulas to create new disciplines. A few years ago, a California sky diver named Jerry Loftis decided to try something new by jumping out of an airplane with a skateboard Velcroed to his feet. Ta-da! Sky surfing was born. In 1993, a trio of young Colorado Springs, Colo., residents decided they wanted to enjoy the thrills of snowboarding in the summer. Presto! They invented the MountainBoard, an all-terrain skateboardlike contraption that allows snowboarders to carve turns year round. When it really comes down to it, extreme/action sports are good clean fun and a lot safer than driving on your friendly neighborhood freeway or autobahn.

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