Tag Archives: Edge Radio

Extreme Sports are Good for Your Health

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Dr. Eric Brymer

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According to psychologist Eric Brymer, extreme sports are good for you. Far from the realm of the “adrenaline junkie”, true extreme sports require intense focus and offer an opportunity for optimal experiences and even transcendence. Brymer narrowly defines “extreme sports” as one in which the most likely outcome of a mismanaged mistake is death. (While many athletes eschew the term “extreme” when referring to their sport, psychologists such as Brymer use the term to define a certain type of action sport.)

Brymer’s recent study showed that extreme athletes are actually better off than the rest of us. They have lower anxiety, are more independent and self-assertive and have a higher sense of reality. Anyone who takes part in risky action sports will most likely nod their heads in agreement. They will tell you, jumping/climbing/skiing/fill in the blank makes them a better person. My biggest fear is that I will get injured and sick and not be able to ski. Because a non-skiing Kim is an unpleasant beast, I assure you. But maybe it’s more than that. Perhaps, access to mountains and rivers and places to test our boundaries is an essential part of what it means to be human.

Brymer’s findings fly in the face of past research. Most psychologists have lumped sky-diving with gambling, reckless driving, and drug abuse, labeling anyone who participates in these activities as “sensation-seekers.” In essence, extreme athletes are on the same spectrum as heroine addicts, but their fix comes from a different “drug.” These folks need more thrill in part because their dopamine receptors vary in a way that requires a higher dose of fun in order to get the same kick.

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Do we NEED fear?

Brymer disagrees with this premise. He claims that extreme athletes are not looking for sensation, but other rewards such as a connection to nature and a better understanding of the self. This is big news in the very small world of extreme sport research.

Instead of the NO FEAR mentality so often associated with action sports media, Brymer claims that not only do his subjects feel fear, but that fear is a good thing to have. Fear, claims Brymer, is a clear reminder. It tells you to pay attention. It reminds you that this is important here. You can’t be on autopilot or making status updates on your phone. Not while you’re packing your parachute before jumping off a cliff, and not before kayaking off a thirty-foot waterfall.

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This week, I’m interviewing Dr. Brymer on The Edge Radio in hopes to learn more about his fascinating research. Join me on Wednesday at 8am pacific time.

Rowing Across the Atlantic

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Pat Fleming

Pat Fleming

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On January 23rd, 2013 Pat Fleming and a crew of three other rowers set off from the coast of Africa to row their open ocean self-supported boat across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas. The crew collected data, weathered storms, broke oars, and survived the maddening doldrums until just a few days from shore the worst happened. They were hit by a rogue wave and capsized.

The mission of the Africa to the Americas expedition, sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Federation, was to row their 29 feet boat 3659 nautical miles from Dakar, Africa to Miami. Along the way the crew collected data to be used for education and other purposes.
Their main goal was to inspire others to seek their own adventures in the outdoors. Pat and his fellow crew members rowing in 2-4 hour shifts day in and day out. The trip was to take 60-80 days. On day 73, only a week away from Miami, the boat capsized and the crew was unable to right it.
The crew about the James Robert Hanssen

The crew about the James Robert Hanssen

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Listen in this week on The Edge Radio as Pat joins me to talk about this amazing adventure Wednesday morning live at 8am pacific.

If you have questions for the show, email me at kimberlykircher(at)gmail(dot)com or call in live at 1-888-346-9144. Can’t listen live? All shows are archived within a few hours and available anytime. Click here to see the archives.
Please spread the word about this show. Share this post on your social media sites. The archives are quickly filling in with some truly amazing stories that need to be shared.Know someone who’d be a great guest on the show? Shoot me an email at kimberlykircher(at)gmail(dot)com.

The Fear Project With Author Jaimal Yogis

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Jaimal Yogis, author of THE FEAR PROJECT: What Our Most Primal Emotion Taught Me About Survival, Success, Surfing… and Love knows a thing or two about facing fear. He’s stared his fear straight in the face and surfed Mavericks. He also used himself as a guinea pig in his book to explore the human reaction to this most primordial of emotions. An epic adventure full of incredible characters, death-defying athletic achievement, and bleeding edge science, THE FEAR PROJECT began with one question: how can we overcome our fears to reach our full potential?

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Jaimal Yogis staring down his fear

Yogis checks in with neuroscientists to find how our memories become our biggest fears and how to tell the difference between good fear and bad fear. He also mines the depths of his own fears–of sharks and lost love and getting caught in the maytag churn underneath a big wave. Most of all, Yogis hopes to turn fear into performance, unlocking his own potential and then handing the key to his reader.

When I read his book several months ago, I knew I wanted to sit down with Jaimal and swap stories. This is a guy who spoke my language. For me, fear is a dance partner and an enemy. It’s a nemesis that I keep trying to debunk; and one that I can’t help coming back to. Like watching a scary movie, I’m horrified by fearful things but I can’t look away. Someone recently asked me what activity would scare me the most. I immediately answered, “stand up comedy.” It was never on my radar, not something I ever wanted to do. But as soon as I said those words, they became a raised finger slithering in a come hither hook that I can’t ignore. Now I’m worried that unless I add, “stand up comedy” to my bucket list I’m going to feel like a sissy. Feeling afraid is strangely alluring to me.

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I’m looking forward to my chance to interview Jaimal Yogis tomorrow on The Edge Radio. One question I plan to ask is how does one get the upper hand with fear? Do you ever just let fear take over the yard, like blackberry bushes that crawl over every shrub and fold back on themselves until they’re too thick to cut down? Or must we, every time, face those fears as a way of of pushing back the encroachment? Have questions of your own for Jaimal? Leave me a comment here and I’ll be sure to ask.

Andy Farrington: Born to Fly

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Redbull Airforce team member Andy Farrington

Redbull Airforce team member Andy Farrington

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Andy Farrington can fly. A member of the elite Red Bull Air Force, a team of the most accomplished BASE jumpers, wingsuit pilots, and paraglider pilots in the world, Andy is a bit of an expert. He can maneuver around buildings and along cliff faces with his wingsuit, and has jumped out of an airplane more than 19,000 times.

There are birds that haven’t flown as much as Andy. As a BASE jumper and skydiver, Andy is on the cutting edge of wingsuit flying. Andy has over 1,000 BASE jumps, two action films and numerous canopy piloting championships under his belt. But for Andy, this is just normal life.

If the first time you ever met Andy was at 12,000 feet after just having jumped from an airplane, strapped to your skydiving instructor’s belly, like I did, you might get a very different first impression. I hadn’t really noticed Andy on the plane ride. I was too nervous contemplating what I was about to do. When the cockpit door slid open, Andy jumped out. My stomach flip-flopped as a few other experts jumped out of the plane and disappeared with a freaky swooshing sound as if being sucked into outer space.

Andy Farrington skimming

Andy Farrington skimming

I first noticed Andy during freefall, when he swooped close by in his wingsuit and hovered for a moment. My brain registered his presence, even while my cheeks were inflating with wind as if I’d stuck my head out the window while riding shotgun at the Grand Prix. I looked at this winged man and thought, that guy is awesome; then he made an invisible adjustment of his limbs and darted away like a human hummingbird. Then I thought, that guy is insane.

One of 19,000 jumps for Andy Farrington

One of 19,000 jumps for Andy Farrington

When you’re about to BASE jump off a 2,000-foot cliff, you simply can’t hesitate. You cannot jump halfway. Andy Farrington lives his life without hesitation. There is simply no room for doubt. He claims he’s never walked up to a cliff and decided not to jump. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t without his own risk/reward calculus. When he’s up against something especially risky, he asks his mother for her advice. What mom says, goes.

Before he was born, his mother Jessie jumped 100 times while he was in utero. You could say he was born to jump out of airplanes. At age 10, he packed chutes at Skydive Kapowsin, his family’s skydive center, for $3 a pack. He now owns the drop zone with his sister, the third generation to carry on the family tradition. Andy and his wife Kasha recently had a baby, so perhaps the next generation is already queuing up to take over.

Some might think Andy is trying to escape the real world with all this time in the air. But for Andy, this is the real world. After meeting Andy in flight, I sat down and talked to him over a beer. It took a moment to connect the two images: one of a human bird capable of superhuman feats, the other a quiet, almost shy, man of great humility.

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In the film Transformers 3, Andy flies between Chicago’s downtown buildings at 150 mph, and BASE jumped off the Sears Tower. Andy’s current movie Iron Man 3, in which he does stunt work with mom Jessie, is in theaters now.

Join me this week on The Edge Radio when I talk to Andy Farrington about BASE jumping, the Redbull team and stunt filming. You won’t want to miss this one.

Getting GNAR With Robb Gaffney

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Robb Gaffney dropping in

Imagine telling a professional athlete, “I can’t believe you’re a pro. I’m so much better than you.” That’s exactly what the game of G.N.A.R., played at ski areas around the West, encourages participants to do. Meant to showcase the good-natured part of the sport of skiing, G.N.A.R points can be scored anytime, anywhere.

In 2003, Robb Gaffney wrote the book “Squallywood“, a guidebook to the most exposed lines at Squaw Valley. Legendary skier Shane McConkey added the chapter “G.N.A.R”, which stands for Gaffney’s Numeric Assessment of Radness, poking fun at those on the slopes taking themselves a bit too seriously.

Skiing certain lines at Squaw, where the game originated, score a certain number of points. But there are ways to improve the score. You get extra credit for skiing a difficult line while also talking to your mom on your cell phone. If you really want to up the fear factor a notch, try skiing the line BN, short for Butt Naked. That provides an extra 5,000 points for men and 10,000 points for women. (I suppose that extra 5,000 points is a either a consideration of how we women actually have more to show or perhaps a way of encouraging us to show it off more often.)

In fact, rumor has it that a certain female ski patroller scored 10,000 G.N.A.R. points for an after-hours naked ski run at Crystal Mountain recently. She even tried to call her mom on her cell phone at the same time, but her mom didn’t answer. Certainly leaving a message for your mom while skiing Discovery Chair butt naked deserves a few extra credit points. But I digress.

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Robb Gaffney topping out

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Robb Gaffney takes a look

Robb Gaffney is no stranger to extreme skiing. He lives with his wife Andrea and two children in Tahoe City and works as a psychiatrist in Squaw Valley. Starting in 1990, and continuing through medical school and residency, Robb helped his brother Scott produce numerous ski films including the most recent and probably the most popular, “G.N.A.R. The Movie“. He skied in most of his brother’s movies and has had several segments in Matchstick Productions films.

Currently Robb’s interest lies in backcountry skiing all over the Sierra Nevada and sharing some of these excursions with his kids. He has also founded a project called Sportgevity, with the goal of increasing the lifespans and physical health of athletes in action and mainstream sports.

Kircher-show-descriptionThis week on The Edge Radio, Gaffney will talk to us about playing the game of G.N.A.R, the late McConkey and how to get close enough to the edge without going over it. So often big skiing has been filled with big egos and bigger checkbooks. But Robb Gaffney reminds us of our roots. Sometimes the biggest risk is to throw away the rules and just have fun. Robb Gaffney is the man that knows how to do that.