They’re the World’s Best Action Sports Stars… But How Do They Measure Up Against Mother Nature?

Could animals be better at sports than us?

Although some adventure sports, such as surfing, can trace their history back for hundreds of years, many are relatively recent inventions.

Admittedly in the short time they’ve been here sports such as parkour, snowboarding and wing-suiting have made a big impact and already there are athletes accomplishing feats we would never previously have thought possible.

The world’s finest animal athletes perform incredible stunts as part of their day to day lives.

But despite these rapid advances, mankind is a little late to the game. Before we even thought of jumping between rooftops and dropping off cliffs, nature had already been at it for thousands of years, training some of the world’s finest animal athletes to perform incredible stunts as part of their day to day lives.

Head-to-head many of these adrenaline fuelled creatures would give even the most hardened human athlete a run for their money. But would they ultimately triumph over mankind? Let’s have a look…

Round 1: Wingsuit vs Peregrine Falcon

Wingsuiter: Wingsuiting is the closest human beings have ever come to truly flying.

Strapped into multicoloured nylon suits, flyers can reach speeds of up to 226mph and skim just meters from the ground in heart stopping displays of aerobatic skill.

Wingsuiters like Japan’s Shin Ito have also pushed the limits even further with HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) drops, clocking up distances of over 17 miles in a single jump.

Among the most famous wingsuit clips of recent years is this successful run by Alexander Polli in which the German nutcase bombed through a cave less than two metres wide at a teeth rattling 155mph.

For precision flying it doesn’t get much better than that… or does it?

Peregrine Falcon: The peregrine falcon is nature’s jet engine. At a mere 58 cm long and weighing just 1.5kg this tiny feathery bullet can reach a staggering 242mph top speed as it tucks into a dive to attack its prey, making it the fastest animal on the planet.

The falcon is no slouch when it comes to handling either as it is able to hit a moving target the size of a pigeon at the end of a dive, making it the top pilot in creation’s airforce.

Verdict: It’s first blood to the animals. With the help of technolology wing suiters continue to go faster and further each year but the falcon still has the upper hand in both speed and accuracy.

With further development wing suiters may eventually break the bird of prey’s 242mph record but for now the win goes to the falcon.

Score: Humans – 0 Animals – 1

Round 2: Free runner vs Macaque

Free runner: Free runners are basically energy in human form.

Bounding across rooftops, flipping, spinning and generally getting from A to B as stylishly as possible free runners flow through urban and even rural environments with ease.

The Redbull Art of Motion competition in Greece last year showcased some of the best free running talent in the world as traceurs tumbled across the dramatic scenery of Santorini, demonstrating almost preternatural acrobatic skills which have undoubtedly been honed through years of practice.

Macaque: For the macaques of India, free running isn’t just a passion it’s daily life as they move from tree to tree and leap across rocks to escape predators and grab food.

With India’s cities expanding macaques have been forced out of their jungle habitats and into the urban environment bringing all of their agility and climbing skills to walls and rooftops throughout the country.

The primates have taken well to their new home and in cities such as Jaipur they are even revered on religious grounds, meaning that they effectively have the run of the streets to practice and hone their flow all day long.

Verdict: This is a tougher one to call. Human free runners throw down insanely technical spins and tricks as they move through the urban environment, showing unique flare and style.

On the other hand, while it’s less likely that you’ll see a macaque do a backflip, their movement is so instinctive and graceful that it seems almost effortless.

This is why monkeys are undoubtedly big influence on free running and why they just clinch this one.

Even macaque babies are at it, giving these cliff divers a run for their money.

Score: Humans – 0 Animals – 2

Round 3: Mountain biker vs Mountain goat

Mountain biker: Let’s be honest you have to have a bit of a screw loose to be a mountain biker – or at least have balls of steel.

Facing off against crumbling ridge lines, stomach churning drops and dirt jumps riders take their life in their hands every time they head out.

The wonderful maniacs at Red Bull have also decided to take things a step further with the annual Red Bull Rampage held in Utah.

Here mountain bikers can look forward to 76 ft drop offs, punishing landings and even a 72ft canyon to cross, all while throwing down as many backflips as they can muster.

Mountain goat: The equally deranged mountain goat calls slippery rock faces and deadly drops home.

Taking the family for a stroll often means navigating surfaces that would give Spiderman vertigo and the crazy beasts often battle for mating rights across tiny footholds on the side of 60 degree slopes.

Verdict: This one actually goes to the bikers. Despite the billy’s death defying take on a family day out, the Red Bull riders really show how to navigate the mountain in style.

They drop much bigger cliffs and cover the ground quicker than their animal counterparts.

Score: Humans – 1 Animals – 2

Round 4: Surfer vs Dolphin

Surfer: From the mid 1700s mankind has been messing about on the waves and we’ve actually got quite good at it. From ridiculously high airs and rodeo flips  to surfing insane spots like Teahupoo in Tahiti.

Perhaps one of the best examples is this record breaking monster nailed by big wave legend Carlos Burle at Navarre, Portugal after some serious storms in the Atlantic.

Anyone see any dolphins there? No, thought not.

Dolphin: Having said that, dolphins are almost the perfect surfer. Seemingly constructed mostly out of muscle and fun they like nothing better than having a laugh with their mates down the beach.

According to scientists they are one of the only other species on the planet that continues to play as adults.

Their streamlined bodies and powerful tails allow dolphins to jump up to 15ft which eclipses even John John Florence’s best attempt.

The lovable mammals can also be found doing little flips and spins in the waves when they’re not trying their smooth moves on our womenfolk.

Verdict: We’re sorry flipper but this one goes to the surfers. Hands down the dolphins would win a competition underwater but despite having the bigger ups above the waves they haven’t quite got the moves to keep up with today’s top pros.

Still they are great mates to have in a tight spot.

Score: Humans – 2 Animals – 2

Round 5: Freediver vs Sperm Whale

Freediver: The deciding round of this ‘completely scientific’ contest comes down to a battle between a skinny guy in a wetsuit and a marine mammal bigger than a bus.

Free diving, otherwise known as ‘that sport where you hold your breath for ages and get dragged underwater to eye-popping depths’, appeals to people who like to push themselves to the limit.

The current world record free dive is held by Canadian William Winram who descended to a depth of 145 meters on just one breath of air.

The dive which took place at Sharm El Sheik in Egypt, lasted for 3 minutes and 8 seconds. Which must make Winram great during those awkward moments in lifts.

Sperm whale: The sperm whale is the king of deep sea divers. Like a giant, blubbery submarine it’s able to stay underwater for more than 90 minutes and swim to depths of up to 2,250 meters.

That means these titanic beasts could quite literally eat free divers for breakfast – which would explain the occasional poonado. Yes that’s a thing, a tornado made of poo.

Sperm whale’s entire bodies are adapted to free diving with higher myoglobin levels than land animals allowing them to store more oxygen in their muscles.

The marine mammoths have plenty of haemoglobin for storing oxygen in their blood too and can direct it just towards the brain and other essential organs when they start running out of air.

Oh and on the subject of bodily gases, thanks to methane build up sperm whales also have a nasty tendency of exploding from time to time.

Verdict: There’s no doubt about it, this one goes to the whale, which easily knocks mankind out of the park in the diving stakes.

Able to submerge 15 times deeper and for almost 90 minutes longer than our best efforts it may never be humanly possible to top them.

Final score: Humans – 2 Animals – 3

So that’s it, victory to the animals. It was a close run contest but nature came out on top this time.

Still, one major strengths of humanity is that we don’t give up easy. ‘Experts’ around the world have been studying some of nature’s best tricks and we’ve got some animal moves of our own ready for the inevitable rematch…

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