Taking it to the edge

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By: Mary Quiesser <mquiesser@hilite.org>

After several falls, hours on the slope and practice on a wakeboard, senior Harry Bradford accomplished his hardest snowboarding trick: a back-flip. “It’s such a rush, like I just completed a mission or something,” Bradford said.

Despite potential injuries, such as broken necks and other bones, Bradford said the risk doesn’t bother him. “It’s really not a big deal if you know how to fall right,” he said. “And I have gotten pretty good at that.”

Bradford said being scared pushes him farther, instead of making him nervous. “It makes you get that extra spin when you’re doing a 180 and that pop when you’re going over a jump,” he said. “(Getting scared) is kind of the point.”

“There are several reasons people are attracted to extreme sports,” IB psychology teacher Laura Nienstedt said. “Part of it is the biology behind the adrenaline rush we’re faced with in fearful situations.” According to Nienstedt, when confronted with danger the amygdale, the part of the brain that feels fear becomes activated, which inadvertently triggers the adrenal glands.

“Adrenaline is the hormone that gets us revved up and initiates that ‘flight or flight’ instinct,” she said.

Though Bradford said risks encourage him, other people might not necessarily feel the same. “It’s based on a person’s personality,” Nienstedt said. “Some people really thrive off it, while other people don’t really desire it.”

According to Nienstedt, a person’s feeling toward risks is based on hereditary, personality, culture and perception. “Fear is in the eye of the beholder,” she said. “It explains why we behave in certain behaviors that we do.”

Even though Bradford said it’s hard to imagine 40-year-olds grinding rails and jumping into the half-pipe, Nienstedt said teens are not exactly more prone to risks.

She said teens’ frontal lobe is not fully developed, which leads to quick decision-making and failure to think before acting. “But I don’t think that necessarily means teens get off more to activities such as extreme sports than adults,” she said. “There are plenty of adults out there that like the adrenaline rush from it. I don’t think it’s fair to say that teenagers (are attracted) to it more than adults. It depends on a variety of factors.”

Upon leaving the slopes to go home, Bradford said he feels wiped out and calmed at the same time.

He said, “I don’t know what it is, but there’s something really refreshing about (snowboarding).”