Summer Sports

by Kids Discover

Temperatures are rising, school is out, and it’s time to get outside! Check out these seven hair-raising, high-intensity summer sports. Prepare to sweat, get wet, and go wild.

Number One: It might look like all you need is waves and a board, but surfing requires balance, patience, skill, and guts. The biggest waves can reach 50 feet high and it’s no joke wiping out. For beginners, just catching a wave can be difficult. The ocean changes day by day and minute by minute, so surfing is never done by rote. Sitting on boards beyond the breakers, surfers have to paddle to catch an incoming wave. If they start paddling too soon, they’ll miss it. If they’re too late, they’ll get pounded by the wave crashing down on them. But if they time it just right, the best surfers can catch the inside curl of a wave and ride it at speeds of 25 mph. In surfing competitions, points are awarded for the catching the biggest waves, performing the most radical maneuvers, and riding the wave for as long as possible.

Pro surfer Sebastian Zietz grew up riding monster waves in Hawaii. In 2012, he won the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing at age 24, with a mix of aerials and powerful frontside carves. (Mana Photo/ Shutterstock)

Pro surfer Sebastian Zietz grew up riding monster waves in Hawaii. In 2012, he won the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing at age 24, with a mix of aerials and powerful frontside carves. (Mana Photo/ Shutterstock)

Number Two: Rivers can be lazy and slow, or they can be wild rides. In spots where rivers are steep, narrow, or filled with obstacles like rocks and boulders, whitewater rapids form. Rapids and rivers are ranked by how dangerous and difficult they are. Class 1 is flat and safe, while Class 6 means the rapids are too perilous to run without risking death or serious injury. Class 2 to 4 rapids are the ones experienced paddlers like to test their skills against. In whitewater sports, paddlers in canoes and kayaks battle the forces of nature to maneuver through gates, beat each other’s times, and sometimes even perform aerial tricks. Whitewater slalom, also called canoe slalom, requires paddlers to switchback across a rushing river and get through hanging gates, sometimes reversing direction and going upstream. As whitewater slalom has grown in popularity, there has been a boom in the construction of artificial courses. At the U.S. National Whitewater Training Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, a twisting “river” with concrete banks contains 12 million gallons of rushing water and manmade rapids.

In this canoe slalom, a competitor fights rough water to execute quick turns along a natural river course. (Evronphoto/ Shutterstock)

In this canoe slalom, a competitor fights rough water to execute quick turns along a natural river course. (Evronphoto/ Shutterstock)

Another whitewater event is downriver racing. Run in wild rivers, these races can be as long as six miles through treacherous drops, waves, holes, and narrows. If kayakers take a tumble and hit a rock, padded helmets protect their heads. (2265524729 / Shutterstock.com)

Another whitewater event is downriver racing. Run in wild rivers, these races can be as long as six miles through treacherous drops, waves, holes, and narrows. If kayakers take a tumble and hit a rock, padded helmets protect their heads. (2265524729 / Shutterstock.com)

Number Three: Cannonball! Plunging into cool water on a sizzling hot day is like paradise. Some people do it with the biggest splash possible. In competitive diving, it’s important to be elegant. Dives are performed from springboards as low as 3 feet off the water and from platforms as high as 33 feet. You’d think diving from such dizzying heights would be enough to earn praise from judges, but divers need to perform somersaults and twists with perfect form to earn top scores. Judges also award points to divers for making the smallest splash possible. To do this, divers should be completely vertical with toes pointed when hitting the water.

Olympic diver Francesca Dallape performs a somersaulting dive in the pike position. In the pike position, the legs are straight and the body is bent double at the waist. (Diego Barbieri/ Shutterstock)

Olympic diver Francesca Dallape performs a somersaulting dive in the pike position. In the pike position, the legs are straight and the body is bent double at the waist. (Diego Barbieri/ Shutterstock)

Olympic medalist Meaghan Benfeito executes a high dive in tuck position, pulling her body into a tight ball while somersaulting through the air. Demonstrating proper form, she grabs her shins, pulls her knees to her chest, and points her toes. (Marcello Farina/ Shutterstock)

Olympic medalist Meaghan Benfeito executes a high dive in tuck position, pulling her body into a tight ball while somersaulting through the air. Demonstrating proper form, she grabs her shins, pulls her knees to her chest, and points her toes. (Marcello Farina/ Shutterstock)

Number Four: There’s nothing like having your own set of wheels to ride around the neighborhood or go off exploring in summertime. Mountain bike racing can take you into nature and offer gnarly competition. Some courses are short, all-downhill, and designed for speed. Cross-country courses, like the ones used in the Summer Olympic Games, are elaborately constructed, brutal mazes that test the skill and endurance of riders and the strength of their bikes. If nature doesn’t provide it, course builders create gaps that riders have to jump, “rock gardens” that have to be jiggled over, hairpin turns, steep climbs, and sudden drops. By the end of the finals at the last Olympics, there were punctured tires, jammed gears, and broken bicycle seats.

Downhill mountain bike racing can be blisteringly fast and jumps built into the courses send riders airborne. Wipeouts are common, so riders bulk up on protective gear. This downhill racer is wearing shin guards, knee pads, elbow pads, and a full-face helmet. (Andrey Khrolenok/ Shutterstock)

Downhill mountain bike racing can be blisteringly fast and jumps built into the courses send riders airborne. Wipeouts are common, so riders bulk up on protective gear. This downhill racer is wearing shin guards, knee pads, elbow pads, and a full-face helmet. (Andrey Khrolenok/ Shutterstock)

Number Five: Track and field sports are all about running, jumping, and throwing. The 100-meter dash is the race that traditionally determines the fastest person alive. Right now, that person is Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt, who holds the record for the 100-meter dash, sprinting to the finish line in just 9.58 seconds. There are longer races, too, and they can be grueling. Every summer, the Burning River 100-Mile Endurance Run is held on rugged trails and roads in and around Cleveland, Ohio. Although the winner can finish this exhausting race in less than 16 hours, other participants take as long as 30 hours—they run through the night and don’t stop to sleep.

Pole vaulting is the highest flying of the track and field sports. Athletes choose the height of the bar and then get three chances to vault over without knocking it down. Technique and timing are everything. Competitors sprint down a track, plant the pole, and then swing up. At that point, the athlete is hanging on the pole upside down, but there’s so much forward momentum that she can launch upward and flip her body over the bar (hopefully). A soft mat on the other side breaks her fall. The world record for pole vaulting is over 19 feet. (Aspen Photo/ Shutterstock)

Pole vaulting is the highest flying of the track and field sports. Athletes choose the height of the bar and then get three chances to vault over without knocking it down. Technique and timing are everything. Competitors sprint down a track, plant the pole, and then swing up. At that point, the athlete is hanging on the pole upside down, but there’s so much forward momentum that she can launch upward and flip her body over the bar (hopefully). A soft mat on the other side breaks her fall. The world record for pole vaulting is over 19 feet. (Aspen Photo/ Shutterstock)

Olympian Lolo Jones (center) wins the 100-meter hurdles at an international competition. (Diego Barbieri/ Shutterstock)

Olympian Lolo Jones (center) wins the 100-meter hurdles at an international competition. (Diego Barbieri/ Shutterstock)

Are you ready to fly? With a running start, Olympic long jumper Wilfredo Martinez can sail through the air for more than 26 feet. (Maxisport/ Shutterstock)

Are you ready to fly? With a running start, Olympic long jumper Wilfredo Martinez can sail through the air for more than 26 feet. (Maxisport/ Shutterstock)

Number Six: Sure, you could swim in a pool. But what about a bay, lake, or river? In open water swimming, competitors get to plunge into places normally only used by boats, ferries, and fish. To make open water swimming safe, buoys are placed along the edges of courses so swimmers don’t drift off. Kayakers and boaters often patrol course edges to help any swimmers who get into trouble. Some of these races take place in surprisingly urban waterways. Open water swim competitions include the Bridge to Bridge 10-kilometer race in San Francisco Bay from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Bay Bridge and the 28.5-mile Manhattan Island Marathon in which competitors swim past the skyscrapers of New York City and all the way around the island of Manhattan.

    Swimmers in Barcelona, Spain, cross the city’s Old Harbor during an open water swim. The distance is equivalent to four lengths of an Olympic-sized pool. (Maxisport/ Shutterstock)

Swimmers in Barcelona, Spain, cross the city’s Old Harbor during an open water swim. The distance is equivalent to four lengths of an Olympic-sized pool. (Maxisport/ Shutterstock)

Number Seven Through Infinity: With so many sports and activities you can do outside in the summer, it’s almost impossible to choose. Why not try them all? Or make up your own.

Do you like games near the water? Beach volleyball is played with just two people on each team. Players work closely to dig, set, block, and spike their way to victory. (wdeon/ Shutterstock)

Do you like games near the water? Beach volleyball is played with just two people on each team. Players work closely to dig, set, block, and spike their way to victory. (wdeon/ Shutterstock)

Ready to shred? Facing off in summer competitions around the world, skateboarders show off mind-blowing aerials, grinds, and grabs. (homydesign/ Shutterstock)

Ready to shred? Facing off in summer competitions around the world, skateboarders show off mind-blowing aerials, grinds, and grabs. (homydesign/ Shutterstock)

Not feeling like competing yourself? Maybe your canine companion is an athlete. In dog agility contests, pooches complete colorful obstacles courses with hurdles, ramps, teeter-totters, and weave poles. (Castka/ Shutterstock)

Not feeling like competing yourself? Maybe your canine companion is an athlete. In dog agility contests, pooches complete colorful obstacles courses with hurdles, ramps, teeter-totters, and weave poles. (Castka/ Shutterstock)

Written by Margaret Mittelbach
 
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