Extreme sport participation has traditionally been conceptualized as a psychological disorder and something to be avoided (Cashmore, 2002). Viewed in this way, these individuals are thought to be enacting an unhealthy psychology (Ogilvie, 1997; Slanger & Rudestam, 1997). Other research has described participants in extreme sports as sensation seekers under-stimulated by their normal surroundings and out of control (Zuckerman, 1979). Using Brymer's (2005) focused definition of extreme sports, "activities where a mismanaged mistake or accident would most likely result in death, as opposed to injury" (p. 5), this study utilized a phenomenological method to analyze semi-structured interviews with 16 free-solo climbers (n =16). The participants described their motivations in terms of overwhelming enjoyment, heightened focus, and personal progress. These results support more recent research describing extreme sport experiences as opportunities for positive transformation with outcomes including gains in courage, humility, eco-centrism, and emotional engagement (Brymer, 2009; Willig, 2008). These findings challenge the traditional, stereotypical notions of extreme sports participants as young and male (Wheaton & Beal, 2003), sensation-seeking (Zuckerman, 1979), and psychologically unwell (Ogilvie, 1997; Slanger & Rudestam, 1997). Answering Brymer's (2005) call to investigate all extreme sports individually, this study focused on the specific extreme sport of free-solo climbing and found the experience of the free-solo climber is a powerful undertaking enjoyed by young, old, male, and female.
College and Department
Marriott School of Management; Recreation Management
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Sparks, Jacob Ray, "Extreme Sports: A Study of Free-Solo Rock Climbers" (2016). Theses and Dissertations. 6136.
extreme sports, free-solo climbing, meaningful learning experiences, enjoyment, progression, focus