Action sports give you so much, but it doesn’t come for free. Whatever you do to get the adrenaline spiking, there’s no reward without risk. The mind may say yes, but the body so often says no.
It takes an insane level of toughness to make it to the top of the action sports world, and nobody comes tougher than these ten.
1) Jake Brown
During the Skateboard Big Air event at the 2007 X Games, Aussie Jake Brown took what might be the most famous slam in action sports history.
Trying a massive 720 on the super sized vert ramp, Brown lost control and slammed 14 metres onto the solid wooden flat bottom below. If you’re unsure what 14 metres looks like, picture the tallest person you know, and times that by seven. Ouch.
It’s a fall that, skate legend Tony Hawk suggest, would kill most people. But, Jake Brown isn’t most people. The impact resulted in him suffering a fractured wrist, fractured vertebrae, bruised liver, bruised lung, ruptured spleen and concussion.
But this long wrap sheet didn’t stop him springing to his feel just minutes after the slam, and walking out of the arena under his own power. Gnarly.
2) Matt Hoffman
When it comes to taking the pain, there are few in the same league as BMX legend Matt Hoffman.
The man they call The Condor went higher and harder than anybody else around at the same time as him and, as a result, has seen more serious injuries than your average A&E unit.
However, Hoffman makes this list for the insane ACL replacement surgery he underwent back in 1999, completely awake, and without a hint of anaesthetic.
The Condor underwent experimental surgery in a Canadian Hospital that involved drilling into his knee. Not only was Hoffman conscious for the procedure, he even joined in the drilling, helping the Doc to stabilise the drill as it bore into his bone.
Craziest, of all, the surgery was a success, and just one week later, Matt Hoffman was back riding his BMX again. Incredible.
3) Keala Kennelly
WARNING: This injury is very graphic, and may cause some viewers distress. To see the unedited version, click here.
Hawaiian pro Surfer Keala Kennelly hit the headlines back in 2011 after a brutal fall while surfing left her with a gruesome gash across her face.
She was riding the infamous Teahupoo wave in Tahiti in August that year – a time of year when the swell is at it’s largest, not to mention meanest.
While surfing, the massive wave barrelled Kennelly, and she slammed hard on to the razor sharp coral below the surface of the water. The slam caused her to suffer ugly facial wounds, including trauma in the right hemifacial, next to her right eye.
How did the hard as nails surfer react to this horrifying accident? With a rather chirpy facebook status that read “They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Sorry if you were eating dinner. I look much better now I promise”.
4) Danny Way
Back to the X Games and back to the Big Air ramp. A year after Jake Browns heroics, the 2008 competition saw American skater Danny Way prove that he’s one of the toughest human beings on the planet, as a combination of steel, wood, and gravity did it’s best to beat him up.
Way took to the massive vert ramp, only to clip the metal coping from a height of 14 metres off the ground. This sent Way ragdolling onto the flat bottom.
But, refusing to give up, and against medical advice, Danny Way battled on, continuing to compete in the competition, where he eventually picked up Silver for his efforts.
Maybe it should be no surprise. After all, Danny Way was at the forefront of creating Big Air events in skateboarding, and once cleared the Great Wall on China on his board. He’s also had so many injuries that he’s filled with more bits of metal than your average Star Ward droid.
5) Mick Fanning
The Aussie surfer made the headlines of just about every global newspaper in July this year when he became the first pro surfer to be attacked by a Great White Shark while live on TV.
Competing in a World Surf League heat at Jeffreys Bay in South Africa, Fanning was waiting in the line up when a Great White appeared from nowhere and attacked him.
Realising that trying to get away was useless, the three times world champ turned around and took the fight to the shark.
Within minutes, Fanning had fought off the shark, and was safely on a rescue boat where he laughingly confirmed “I got a few punches in, yeah”. What a boy!
6) Tom Van Steenburgen
At the very pinnacle of mountain biking, there’s little room to hide when it comes to high risk tricks. Nobody knows that more than Canadian mountain biker Tom van Steenburgen.
Back in 2014, at Red Bull Rampage in Utah, USA, van Steenburgen tried the biggest front flip ever attempted on a mountain bike. Sadly for him, it didn’t end well.
He undercooked his rotation, landing on his back wheel, which catapulted him over his handlebars, grinding across the rocks in front of him. Most normally human beings would have just kept on sliding right into the afterlife, but not Tom.
Within just a few minutes of this mind melting slam, he was back on his feet, almost as if nothing had happened. We still have no idea how this is possible.
7) Halldor Helgason
If you think snow makes for light, soft landings then you’ve got another thing coming, as Halldor Helgason proves.
We’re back at the X Games, this time the 2013 Winter Games. The Icelandic snowboarder tried a massive triple cork trick on the givantic 75 foot big air jump in a bid to improve his score and continue on to the final.
However, he over-rotated and slammed hard onto the deck, landing him with a stay in hospital.
But this wasn’t enough to keep Halldor down. Just thee days later, and with a neckbrace protecting his badly damaged neck, he went and landed possibly the most famous backflip in snowboarding for the Nike Snowboarding movie Never Not. Halldor, we salute you.
8) Aaron ‘Jaws’ Homoki
We have absolutely no idea what American skater Aaron ‘Jaws’ Homoki was built out of. That’s right, built out of. We’re convinced he’s got to be some sort of robot. Or maybe from another planet.
Either way, he’s not like the rest of us. That’s the only way we can wrap our heads around the insanely high drops he makes on a skateboard.
It’s not unusual to see Jaws dropping from two or three stories, directly onto flat bottom. His body regularly contorts into a more compact shape than an Olympic weightlifter at the bottom of a clean and jerk, but then he just pops up and rides away like it’s absolutely nothing. Jaws; take us to your leader.
9) Romain DeMarchi
No list of the toughest personalities in action sports would be complete without a proper hard man, and there are many to choose from. It’s hardly news to many that skateboarder Mike Valley likes a scrap, and we’ve already seen Mick Fanning have a barney with a shark.
But, the honour of the toughest hardman in action sports goes to Swiss born snowboarder Romain de Marchi.
He swaggered on to the snowboard scene like a heavily tattooed breath of fresh air at a time when things were starting to get a little bit too sanitised, and nice. He made his name dropping some of the biggest gaps imaginable on a snowboard, going bigger and harder than anybody else around.
And when he wasn’t bending the laws of physics, De Marchi was testing the limits of social acceptance. No stranger to a party, it was a right for which Romain was willing to fight.
On one occasion, he even spent a night in the cells after he picked a fight with a bar. No, not a fight in a bar, he fought the building.
10) Andreu Lacondeguy
Mounting biking is a pretty gnarly world. Maths can prove it with this simple formula: Speed + Jumps x Rocks + Trees = insanity. It’s a sport where only the toughest need apply.
But, among this steel-skinned world, Andreu Lecondeguy stands out. The Spanish rider has made a name as being one of the gnarliest riders around, with some saying his style borders on reckless.
This willingness to push his body to the limits has made him a favourite among mountain bikers around the word.
This crash from CruzFest in California this year is enough to give you spinal compressions just watching it, but not Lacondeguy. Despite both gravity and his own bike doing their upmost to ground him, he just walked away like it was nothing. Nails.
The Indestructibles, a new TV show sponsored by G-Shock, is coming soon to Dave.
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