This appears in the sports section of the Monday, November 4, 2013 edition of the Business Mirror.
Taking it to the extreme
by rick olivares
When I saw the video of American wakeskater Brian Grubb skating down a rail atop the picturesque Banaue Rice Terraces, my reaction was equal parts, “wow” and “Is this right?”
This is the first I’ve seen the Rice Terraces in a different light other than the usual sleepy but no less scenic spots in tourism advertising. And it sure brought out conflicting emotions in me.
I heard about the rhubarb about Grubb’s “feat” and decided to watch the three minute and four-second video before making any comments.
And here’s what I thought while watching the video:
What great camera angles!
They got some tribal approval but this is going to piss off some people.
Okay, these guys are amazing.
I wonder if this construes as disrespecting a tourist site?
What amazing camera angles!
Landmarks, historic places, or even man-made structures have always been a fascination for some people to try something unusual. That brings to mind Sir Arthur Mallory’s famous line about scaling Mount Everest: “Because it’s there.” Hence, stunt like Grubb’s atop the Banaue Rice Terraces.
Contrary to popular belief, the Banaue Rice Terraces are not a part of the areas designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the presence of numerous modern structures. The Rice Terrace clusters of Batad, Bangaan, Mayoyao, Nagacadan, and Hungduan are the one’s deemed by UNESCO to have outstanding universal value.
Nevertheless, have there been any other sporting events held on UNESCO Heritage Sites? I can remember a few.
In 2005, American skateboarder Danny Way (these Yanks sure are extreme) became the first person to leap the Great Wall of China (over the Ju Yong Guan Gate) without a motor vehicle and land successfully. Way, who holds a number of skateboarding records, pulled off the feat five times in front of a huge crowd that included Chinese dignitaries and government officials. A mountainbiker attempted the feat in 2002 and was killed. Prior to all of this, in 1993, English motorcycle stuntman, Eddie Kidd, jumped over the Great Wall in a motorcycle.
Angkor Wat, the famous Hindu temple ruins in Cambodia, is also the site of an annual international half marathon that is organized by Cambodia’s National Olympic Committee to generate funds for the victims of landmines. The race takes runners around and through the largest religious monument in the world that was built in the 12th century.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef contains the world’s largest collection of coral reefs with 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish, and 4,000 types of mollusk as its inhabitants. But this remarkable site on the northeast coast of Australia is also a choice venue for surfing.
Knowing all of these (and there are quite a few more examples), should we make a big deal out of Grubb’s wakeskating at the Banaue Rice Terraces?
It should be pointed out that the organizers of this stunt took great pains not to damage anything on the rice terraces. They asked permission from the tribal leaders that shows a sign of respect and for that I guess, we should be grateful for as well. Grubb and company are unlike those Russian thrill-seekers -- Vadim Makhorov and Vitaliy Raskalov to name a few – who last March illegally scaled the 4,000-yearold Great Pyramid of Giza to snap photos.
I believe that stunt like this can be good as long as the proper requests and precautions are made. The video will certainly be a boost for local tourism advertising. However, I do not believe these rice terraces should become a full-time wakeskating park because that will surely damage these centuries-old landmarks. They are much too delicate for any board sport. In that light, I am not at ease with Grubb’s statement early in the video where he says, “It’s just a wakeskating paradise but no one even knew it was here.”
That also begets the argument, should Grubb and company wakeskate across the Lincoln Reflecting Pool in Washington? I don’t think many of his fellow Americans will appreciate that.
For many extreme sports athletes, breaking new ground is just as important to being technically proficient in their sports. In that regard, I understand how “ground-breaking” it is to wakeskate in a national historical site so I believe it is fine as long as no sensibilities are offended.
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The oddity site oddee.com lists eight most extremetourist attractions but I am only pointing out those with an element to sports to them.
Cliff BASE Jumping in Norway
The Nordic country is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in God’s green earth. A place like Preikestolem Rock has a drop of 600 meters (1982 feet) high into the Lysefjord below.
Bungee jump Villarrica Volcano (Pucon, Chile)
Remember the James Bond film, Goldeneye, where 007 jumps off the Verzasca Dam? Well, since that iconic film bungee jump, it has become the world’s second highest jump after Macau’s 233-meter-high Skyjump. But no bungee jump (US $10,000 include the trip and the six-day stay) has a view to a kill more than 122-meter dive into the Villarrica Volcano in Pucon, Chile. One hovers some 213 meters above white hot lava. Incredibly, no one has evaporated into the magma since this became an adrenaline junkie’s death ride.
Kayaking with whales (Alaska)
This is not just an extreme sport it’s a selfie with an element of danger. While the whales my be gentle sea creatures, their sheer size and mass can be dangerous when splashing about.