By their very nature, extreme sports athletes are the bomb. The death-defying courage and skill exhibited by these athletes is arguably unmatched across the sporting world. While every event is packed with action, some are so jaw-dropping and dope, they’re straight up unforgettable. Join us for a trip down memory lane as we look at six athletes’ contribution to the history of extreme sports.
1) Felix Baumgartner’s World Record Skydive
There’s a reason he’s been called “the Neil Armstrong of skydiving.” In October 2012, the Austrian daredevil set the world record for skydiving with a supersonic dive from an altitude of over 24 miles above New Mexico. As if that weren’t badass enough, he also became the first person to shatter the sound barrier without the aid of a jet or space shuttle. Baumgartner’s skydive was so legit, he drew YouTube’s biggest livestream audience for to date–more than eight million people raced to watch him speed through the air at 833.9 mph. Now that’s what’s up.
Some athletes require a lot of equipment and time to leave their mark on the world. If you’re Tyler Bradt, all you need is water, a kayak, and 3.7 seconds to set a world record. In April 2009, the extreme kayaker navigated Palouse Falls’ rushing water (just 2,000 cubic feet per second, no biggie) and successfully dropped 18 stories. Bradt not only broke the previous world record set just a month prior, but he did it at a location that’s a full 17 feet taller than world-famous Niagara Falls.
Though he’s now retired, Tony Hawk (also known as “The Birdman”) is arguably the most famous and influential skateboarder in the world. Sure, he has his own popular video game series, but he really cemented his position as skateboarding royalty in July 1999 when, at age 31, he became the first skater to successfully land a 900 after 11 previous attempts. One of the sport’s hardest moves–and one that was seemingly impossible in the world of professional skateboarding–it requires the skater to complete a 900 degree aerial spin performed on a skateboard ramp. With his 900, Hawk influenced countless skaters and showed the world that the 900 ain’t no thing but a chicken (hawk) wing.
Snowboarder Shaun White is well known for getting some of the sickest air in the game. He made extreme sports history at the 2012 Winter X Games in the Men’s Snowboard SuperPipe event when he nabbed a 100-point, full-run, perfect score–the first in the Games’ history. He did all this after he’d already won the contest AND on a bum ankle, which he’d injured earlier in the week. It doesn’t get better than that.
It’s not only been called the greatest moment of his career, but one of the all-time best in X Games history: Travis Pastrana’s double backflip on a motorcycle. Pastrano gained international notoriety when he successfully performed the first double backflip ever seen in motocross competition in the Moto X Best Trick event at the 2006 X Games. Awesome in every conceivable way, Pastrana made it look effortless. No wonder it still captivates fans to this day.
At an age when most of us were still watching cartoons and complaining about chores, professional skateboarder Tom Schaar was setting world records. In 2012, at just 12 years old, Tom Scharr landed the Holy Grail of skateboarding moves: the 1080. An aerial stunt performed on a vertical ramp where the skateboarder makes three full revolutions, it’s a hardcore move that, at the time, even legend Shaun White couldn’t pull off. With that, Schaar proved himself to be the illest tween pretty much ever.
With incredible moments like this, you can’t help but wonder what the future of extreme sports holds. It’s a safe bet that whatever they are, they will be absolutely awe-inspiring.