Year

2005

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Faculties of Education and Psychology

Abstract

The phrase 'extreme sport' has been adopted as an umbrella term to signify everything from youth sports to lifestyle sports, from skateboarding to big wave surfing. Inevitably this broad definition has created a confusing array of seemingly dissimilar research findings. This study revisits the extreme sport definition to include only those activities where a mismanaged mistake or accident would most likely result in death, as opposed to injury. A broad hermeneutic phenomenological approach has been embraced to reveal findings that critique the assumed relationship to risk-taking, the death wish and the concept of 'No Fear' and reposition the experience in a hitherto unexplored manner. Data sources include direct interviews with male and female participants over 30 years of age and other first and third hand accounts. Participants report deep inner transformations that influence world views and meaningfulness, feelings of coming home and authentic integration as well as a freedom beyond the socio-cultural that is best described as a relaxation from mental chatter. Excitingly participants also describe moments of ineffability that include enhanced sensory, mental and physical prowess, perceptions of time slowing, returning to a primal state, feelings of floating and flying and a deep intimacy with the natural world. Phenomenologically, these experiences have been interpreted as transcendence of time, other, space and body. The implication of these findings is that the young, male, thrill-seeking, adrenaline junky stereotype is exposed as an over simplification. Instead extreme sport participation points to a more potent, life-enhancing endeavour worthy of further investigation.

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