Thrill Seeking… An Exponential Trend?

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I once heard that the dumbest animals on the planet are human males between the ages of 18 and 25.

Since it is my 26th birthday today, I’ve been reflecting on this statement, and some of my crazier moments of the past ten years.  I’ve definitely had some situations that were way out there on the edge, and all things considered, I’m happy to be here writing this today.  I’m proud of those moments, but I’m not totally sure that I would make the same decisions now in my old age!

As I pondered this, I logged into everyone’s denied addiction, Facebook, and saw something that made me laugh.  My younger brother, Nick, has the same birthday as me; he showed up in the world when I was turning 7.  While I can feel myself somewhat leaving behind that phase of my life, Nick is just entering it.  He is a Freshman at Clemson University, a pro-level downhill mountain biker, and I feel confident saying that we share our love of speed and flight.

As I clicked through to see if the thumbnail depicted what I thought it did, I started laughing out loud.  Nick was about 30 feet in the air over Lake Hartwell, flying like superman after having just let go of a tube.  The tube had been pulled by a jet ski down the beach on a slip-n-slide, and launched off of an eight foot tall ramp into oblivion!

Let me underscore this by saying that Nick, Garth Maree, Darin Faller and the other friends that dreamed up this monster are Mechanical Engineering majors.  They applied their book smarts to reality by buying a bungee-jump grade bungee, 150 feet of tarp, and huge amounts of soap.  As you can see in the image above and in this video, their plan worked and turned into the stuff of legends!

I think that things have changed quite a bit since I was that age.  When I first started paddling hard whitewater, jumping off of cliffs, and doing things that friends and some extended family members deemed reckless, taking chances was frowned upon.  It represented living outside of the fray, and people fear what they don’t understand, including lifestyles.

Today, you can’t turn on the TV or get on the Internet without seeing some kind of superhuman stunt.  Nitro Circus, Jackass, and a myriad other shows glorify risk-taking.  The modern energy drink manufacturers understand the value of these antics, and put the powerful force of their bank accounts behind them.  One other very important enabler exists as well… consumer-grade, indestructible video equipment.  Anybody can spend a couple hundred dollars and capture their most ridiculous idea in full 1080p HD video!

I will not follow in the footsteps of my conservative elders and say that this younger generation is foolish, because I rather enjoy watching these guys fly squirrel suits through canyons, huck 400 foot cliffs on skis, and do acrobatics between buildings!  I will however say that this baton is being yanked from us by the youngsters, and I’m starting to think that I might be ok with that.

So what do you think… are kids too adrenaline-crazed these days, or is it just the natural progression of equipment and development in their respective sports?

(Author’s note: I acknowledge that slip-n-slide greased bungee tube jumping is not a sport)

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