List of extreme sports


April 2, 2024

Palms getting sweaty. Adrenaline coursing through your veins. You can feel your heartbeat echoing in your ears. Your pulse accelerating with every passing second. But you’ve never been so ready for anything before. You’re seconds away. Take the leap, and the euphoria will kick in.

Nothing beats the feeling of outdoor adventures. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at – with extreme sports, it’s all about whatever challenge lies in front of you.

If you’re searching for an adventure or want to push your abilities to their limits, check out this list of some of the world’s most thrilling extreme sports on land, snow, water and in the air. Feeling brave enough to try them out? Then dig deep, find your focus and dive in.

Land, water, snow and air

Wherever you are in the world, there are tons of adrenaline-fueled extreme sports to get your heart racing. Extreme sports cover all continents, terrain types and ability levels. Whether on water, land, snow or in the air, here’s a list of extreme sports for you to choose from. Ready for an adventure? See how many you can tick off.

Extreme sports on land 

 1. Skateboarding

With 85 million riders around the globe, skateboarding is one of the world’s most popular action sports. Skateboarders cruise around on four-wheeled decks performing tricks off curbs, rails, ramps and pretty much any other obstacle they can find.

Pioneered sometime in the late 1940s by Californian surfers looking to practice their moves when there weren’t any waves, it’s now a sport with huge cultural influence and, more recently, an Olympic discipline.

Male skateboarder skateboarding at the ramp while people watch

2. Mountain boarding

Influenced by BMX and other extreme mountain sports, mountain boarding is a cross between snowboarding and skateboarding. Founded in 1993 by Patrick McConnell and Jason Lee to allow snowboarders to ride during the summer, it’s now a fully fledged all-terrain sport with a cultlike following.

There are tons of ways to mountain board. Some people like to ride quickly down mountain trails, while others perform tricks over jumps. It’s not a sport for the faint of heart, but beginners can master the basics quite quickly.

3. Canyoning

Canyoning – or river trekking – combines several extreme sports, including rock climbing, abseiling, jumping, swimming and hiking. Canyoners scramble across rocks, abseil down waterfalls and hike through rugged terrain to traverse scenic canyons – taking in the spectacular views along the way. 

Canyoning usually happens in remote locations and requires an element of navigational skill to help participants find their way.

4. Free climbing

Free climbing is a type of rock climbing where you only use your hands, your feet, chalk and the rock’s natural features to scale the wall. The rope and harness are only there to catch you if you fall – they don’t help pull you up. There are many different types of free climbing, including:

  •   Top roping
  •   Sport climbing
  •   Trad climbing
  •   Iced, mixed and alpine

Free climbing isn’t any more dangerous than other climbing styles, but you do need a steely mind (and an even steelier grip!). 

Take a look at our list of rock climbing terms and lingo for beginners to sound like a pro the next time you hit the crag.

Female free climber wearing a vest and shorts scaling a rock face

Photo by x ) on Unsplash

5. Bouldering

Bouldering is a style of free climbing done close to the ground without ropes or harnesses. The movements, hold types and slang are similar to rock climbing, only there’s much less gear. Bouldering allows climbers to practice difficult moves over and over again, building up better grip and a stronger core over time.

The sport had its Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games in 2020, making it one of the newest additions to the extreme sports program.

6. BMX

BMX is a type of extreme cycling sport that mimics motocross. Originating in California in the 1970s, BMX bikes are lightweight with small frames and wheels designed for off-road racing and tricks.

BMX racers ride around circuits with jumps, bumps and turns, with the goal of being the first to complete a set number of laps. There’s also freestyle BMX, where riders score points for performing the most insane and daring tricks on ramps, rails and flat or paved surfaces.

Extreme sports in the water

7. Whitewater rafting

Whitewater rafting is one of the most high-octane extreme sports on the water. It involves an inflatable raft that carries 4-8 people down shallow, fast-moving bodies of water called rapids.

If you’re new to the sport, a trained guide will supervise the crew, provide instructions and steer the raft. Got a bit of experience and want to give it a more independent go? You’ll find some of the best whitewater rapids in the Suarez River in Columbia and the Sun Kosi River in Nepal.

8. Ice swimming

With a name coined in 2009, ice swimming is a relatively new extreme sport – at least in an official capacity. The International Ice Swimming Association (IISA) describes it as swimming for at least one mile in bone-chilling water with temperatures of 5.0C / 41.0F. You must swim unassisted, with only a silicone cap, goggles and a standard swimming costume for company. No wetsuits are allowed, so things can get pretty chilly in the water.

Ice swimming is popular in Europe – particularly in Germany, Ireland, France, the Netherlands and the UK, where temperatures drop below freezing in winter.

9. Coasteering 

A blend of swimming, diving, climbing and scrambling, coasteering is similar to canyoning – only it takes place on the coast instead of in a canyon. A relatively new addition to the world of extreme sports, the name is a play on ‘coast’ and ‘mountaineering’ – although there’s often more scrambling than mountaineering involved.

The premise is simple. You climb along boulders and swim across pools in places where the sea meets the land. As you traverse, you might come across sluices, whirlpools and pour-overs.                                                                                                                   

The sport was first developed commercially in Pembrokeshire in the UK, still one of the best coasteering destinations in the world.

10. Kayaking

Kayaking is a fun sport where you move through water in a small watercraft, propelling yourself with a single- or double-bladed paddle. You sit in the cockpit with your legs extended below a closed deck while your upper body remains free and agile. Extreme kayakers enjoy racing along rushing rapids, while others prefer to paddle along gentle rivers.

You can up the ante on your kayaking expeditions by incorporating camping or fishing into your adventures. You can also use a kayak to reach remote rock-climbing areas located near the water.

Kayaker paddling down a fast-moving river

Photo by x ) on Unsplash

11. Kitesurfing

Kitesurfing is an extreme board sport that harnesses the power of wind. Combining elements of surfing, windsurfing, paragliding, skateboarding, snowboarding and wakeboarding, you hold onto a large, parachute-style kite while gliding across the water’s surface. When kitesurfing, you can surf the waves, attempt speed records, travel long distances or perform freestyle tricks. 

If you’d like to give kitesurfing a go, check out a year-round windy beach like Camber Sands in the UK, El Gouna in Egypt or Hawaii’s Kailu Beach.

12. Surfing

Surfing might be an extreme sport, but it’s one of the most accessible (and well known). All you need is a surfboard and some ocean waves, and you’re good to go. You might need a wetsuit in cold temperatures, but a swimsuit or board shorts are perfect for surfing in warmer climates.

Hossegor in France is known as the surfing capital of Europe. And the Portuguese town of Nazaré, home to the largest surfable waves in the world, is one of the globe’s most legendary surf spots.

Extreme sports in the snow

13. Skiing

One of the oldest alpine sports, skiing is where athletes glide down snow-covered slopes on a pair of wooden planks – aka skis – that are attached to a pair of boots. Most people can picture the basic idea, but the sport includes several disciplines, including alpine skiing, cross country, off-piste, slalom and freestyle.

Some skiers spend their days on groomed slopes, while others prefer to go off-piste in search of powdery, waist-deep snow. Then there are the park rats who practice tricks and throw themselves off kickers in purpose-made freestyle snow parks.

Skier wearing an orange jacket and helmet skiing down a powdery backcountry trail

Photo by Alex Lange on Unsplash

14. Snowboarding 

Inspired by surfing, one of the earliest snowboards was created as way to surf the snow. Fast forward a few years, and snowboarding has gained a massive following. The premise is similar to skiing. You strap both feet into a single wooden board and glide from the top of the mountain to the bottom. You can carve, cruise, perform tricks and shred along the way – and you’re bound to bail at least once or twice.

New to snowboarding and want to sound like a pro? Discover the 40 snowboarding terms you need to know.

15. Snowmobiling

Pioneered in 1937 as a method of transport, snowmobiling is now one of the most extreme sports the mountains have to offer. Experienced athletes can perform jumps and stunts – all while maintaining control of their snowmobiles, a motorized vehicle meant to traverse wintry landscapes. Even though it’s one of the less common winter sports, it’s one of the most exciting to watch. 

16. Ice climbing

Ice climbing is a lot like rock climbing. But instead of scaling rugged rock faces, you ascend routes consisting exclusively of frozen water. Due to the slippery nature of the terrain, having the right gear is essential. The only way up is with crampons, ice tools, picks and rope. You’ll also need to dress for extreme altitudes and temperatures, or you’ll struggle to make it to the top in one piece. 

The Ouray Ice Park in Colorado is the world’s largest ice park and the perfect place to practice your ice climbing skills.

17. Glacier trekking

Similar to ice climbing, glacier trekking involves hiking over glaciers using specialist alpine equipment including crampons, ropes and climbing harnesses. Glacier trekking is strenuous, with freezing cold temperatures to withstand and rugged terrain to clamber over. But throughout your journey, you’ll get to see caves, ice towers, lakes and waterfalls, making the challenge well worth the effort.

18. Snowkiting

Snowkiting is a bit like kitesurfing. But instead of riding the waves, you strap into a pair of skis or snowboard and glide over snow or ice holding a specially designed kite. You don’t need to go downhill. As long as there’s enough wind, you can snowkite along flat, open ground. Strapping into a body harness gives you more control. And that way, instead of riding with your arms, you ride with your body weight, so your biceps are less likely to give out before your enthusiasm does. 

Extreme sports in the air

19. Skydiving 

Nothing give you a bigger rush of excitement and adrenaline than skydiving. After launching yourself out of a plane at 7,500 – 15,000 feet, you freefall through the air for roughly 30 – 180 seconds (depending on the altitude) before opening your parachute and gliding safely to the ground. As you approach the earth, you only descend at approximately 10 miles an hour, giving you the chance to land with nothing more than a gentle thud.

Anyone can skydive – as long as you have a licensed instructor with you. Only qualified skydivers should freefall solo.

20. Bungee jumping

Bungee jumping involves diving headfirst off a tall platform with a rubber bungee cord attached to your feet or body. The cord then reaches its maximum length, pulling you back up until you eventually sway to a stop.

Bungee jumping produces one of the biggest and most intense thrills of any extreme sport. One of the most popular places to bungee jump is at the Nevis Highwire on the Nevis River Valley in New Zealand.

Bungee jumper mid-jump secured by a harness and bungee cord as he plummets towards the water

21. Hang gliding

Hang gliding is perhaps the closest you can get to flying. Using air currents to stay aloft, this exhilarating aerial sport involves a light, motorless, wing-like aircraft piloted by a solo rider through the open air. The pilot steers the craft by shifting their weight, while rising air masses keep them aloft. Most pilots take off from a hilltop or peak, taking advantage of the spectacular scenery.

22. BASE jumping

Dubbed the most dangerous sport in the world, BASE jumping involves jumping from buildings, bridges, cliffs and other high places with a parachute. After freefalling for a brief period, the BASE jumper will deploy their parachute to slow their descent before landing. There are many risks involved, but the thrill and excitement is too much for the most extreme adrenaline junkies to resist. 

23. Wingsuiting

Wingsuiting – or wingsuit flying – is a type of skydiving where the jumper wears a web-sleeved jumpsuit to glide through the air (like a human flying squirrel). Some wingsuiters drop from an aircraft, while others jump from a tall cliff or mountaintop. At the end of the descent, a parachute is deployed to slow their fall.

24. Paragliding

Founded in the 1980s, paragliding is as adrenaline inducing as any extreme sport, but it’s slightly more accessible than hang gliding and BASE jumping. Using a lightweight, free-flying fabric glider in the shape of a wing, paragliding allows pilots to cover hundreds of kilometers in a single flight. Pilots can even climb to higher altitudes using sources of lift, which can be wind or heat based. You can paraglide anywhere with a high enough elevation to get some air – including ski resorts.

Translations by thrill-seekers, for thrill-seekers

At The Action Sports Translator, we’re translation specialists all day long – but when the laptop’s closed, we can’t get enough of our favorite extreme sports. The more extreme, the better. Our passion for adventure is what gives us the edge in helping your content land safely with the right people and motivating your customers to chase their fears.

Whether you’re an outdoor brand looking for tone of voice guidelines or need help with your extreme sports translations, our adventure sports translation specialists are ready to take the plunge. Fancy coming along for the ride? Get in touch for a quote.

Psst… Calling all adrenaline junkies!  

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