The dangers are forever present in extreme sports, and something that sets them a part from any other activity. Seeing athletes perform death defying acts of athleticism, jumping from thousands of feet in the air, off of cliffs, racing at 100s of miles per hour, holding their breath underwater for extended periods of time—every extreme sport has its risks.
That’s what draws both athletes and spectators to extreme sports, right? Seeing people that seem more superhuman the normal do things that don’t even feel real leaves the rest of us in awe and inspired. For extreme sports athletes, they feel more alive than ever. It’s not an addition—it’s a way of living, a vital part of who they are, as much as breathing is.
For some, however, that ad inline rush was unexpectedly cut short. In the back of all extreme sports athletes, there is the knowledge that this jump, dive, flip, might just be their last. And no matter how well you prepare, there is always the possibility that something may go wrong, equipment may fail even through you checked it countless times, a simple mistake or miscalculation could be the end of the line. All the safety check and training, unfortunately, cannot prepare you for every single possible failure that could happen.
Below, we are sharing sudden, tragic and heartbreaking deaths in extreme sport that shook the global community to its core, and reminds us all just how quickly and unexpectedly it can all end.
Malik Joyeux, 2005
Malik Joyeux was a big-wave surfer on the cusp of stardom when he went surfing on a normal surf day at the famous Oahu Pipeline on Hawaii’s North Shore. His last wave was 8 feet tall one that crashed into him, pushing him under and destroying his board, while two more waves crashed on top of him. It took 15 minutes for lifeguards to locate his body, and by the point CPR attempts were unsuccessful. He was 25 years old, French-born and grew up in Tahiti. An all around great guy, he was a strong antidrug advocate, as well as a professional kite surfer and windsurfer. Not coming from a privileged background, his future in the watersport world was so bright before the waves took him.
Uli Emanuele, 2016
One of the most widely known death in extreme sports for a reason you probably wouldn’t expect: Uli Emanuele (unknowingly at the time) livestreamed his own death.
A professional BASE jumper, Emanuele had nerves of steel as he would jump in extreme locations around the world. Wingsuit diving was his passion, and he would livestream his jumps on Facebook. Emanuele was filming a wingsuit flight at the famous Italian Dolomite mountains, and it ended in a fatal crash, with him dying on impact. His skills and detail to safety and planning to flights were known far and wide, which added to the shock that his death brought upon the world. He was 29.
Jay Moriarity, 2001
Jay Moriarity’s name is a legend within in the surfing world. One of the very first surfing stars and legends of surfing in the 21st century, Moriarity’s story is heart-wrenching. A lover of the sea all of his life, he gained worldwide attention when he was sixteen when a photo of him wiping out on a big wave at Mavericks appeared on the cover of surfer Magazine. The Mavercks are an iconic surfing destination, in northern California, and from that moment on, his life transformed.
Although several surfers have died at the Mavericks, Moriarity’s fate was sealed in the Maldives. He was incredibly serious about his sport and fitness, constantly looking to improve both his own fitness and conditioning his body to be able to be deep underwater for long periods of time. It is believed that after he free dived into the water, climbing down a buoy rope to sit on the bottom of the ocean (without any equipment) he blacked out from the lack of air while trying to return to the surface. His body was recovered later that night by a search party. This happened a Day before his 23rd birthday, and about a year into his marriage to the love of his life.
Erik Roner, 2015
Erik Roner had extreme sports in his blood. A German extreme sports enthusiast, his rise to fame came from appearing on the MTV show Nitro Circus. His death was a freak accident, as he was preforming a skydiving stunt with two other skydivers of the opening ceremonies of a golf tournament. The other two skydivers landed safely, but Roner slammed into a tree and became entangled within the branches. People rushed to help save him by creating a human ladder to get him untangled and on the ground, he died while in the tree at 39 years old.
Kuraudo ‘Cloud’ Toda, 2015
This 34 year old Japanese motocross rider was a major inspiration both during his life and after his death. While testing Suzuki bikes in 2008, he was involved in a serious accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. With guts of lead and sheer determination, Cloud decided he was going to keep riding, much to everyone’s surprise. After healing as much as possible, he had a cage installed on his bike, eliminating him from having to use the lower part of his body. His plan worked, and he was training for the X Games Best Whip competition at the time of his death.
With the help of his friends, they constructed a foam pit for him to practice and as a safety measure in case something should go wrong. Tragic, something did. When Cloud landed in the foam pit, his bike ignited the foam, causing him to burn to death as he was trapped under the cage and the fire got too hot, too quickly, for his friends to save him.
It’s all to forget or ignore the very real risks that extreme sports impose on athletes, and all it takes is one wrong move, a split second, and it’s over. These athletes have inspired countless others to train and explore their chosen sports, and their stories live on, both as a reminder of their great achievements and as a stark reminder to those looking to follow in their footsteps.
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