Extreme sports are called extreme sports for a reason. They are extremely dangerous and provide a high risk of injury. For many of these sports, it's not only the potential for injury that's raised but the severity of the injury as well. Even contact sports like football, where knees explode on a weekly basis, have nowhere near as many fatalities as the sports on the "extreme" category. Sure, people have died playing regular sports as well, but the sports you'll find ahead are literally death-defying and sometimes, death catches up.
"Send it" has been a popular meme these days, and it seems to have replaced "YOLO" to some degree. Being reckless can be fun in some instances and often makes for a dynamite video, but it can also be deadly. Part of the reason these sports are so popular is because of the danger involved. Seeing someone attempt a double backflip on a motorcycle is only exciting because we know the consequences of a wrong move.
Everyone in the extreme sports realm have a different mentality. Some assume that they are destined to die going for their stunts. Others seem to think they are immortal. Especially for the younger athletes on this list, it seems that death wasn't even on their mind when, even though they've been flirting with it for years.
15 Jay Moriarity
Jay Moriarity was a professional surfer and general water fanatic from California. He first burst onto the scene due to a wipeout he sustained while surfing at 16. This earned him the cover of Surfer magazine. Moriarity was fairly accomplished during his professional career, but was more of a fan-favorite than a frontrunner in most of his competitive appearances.
Moriarity loved everything under the ocean. He participated in nearly every water-related event and was a seasoned diver at only 22. Sadly, Moriarity died one day before his 23rd birthday—June 15, 2001. He was free-diving alone at the time—something that is extremely dangerous and not recommended. For those who don't know, free diving involves the diver's ability to hold his/her breath instead of relying on a scuba tank. Moriarity wasn't seen again after his free-diving trip, and his body was only partially recovered days after his death. It is presumed that he drowned.
14 Shane McConkey
Shane McConkey was a professional skier and BASE jumper. He is credited with being one of the pioneers for combing the two sports, where he would often ski off of a jump and deploy a parachute. He was featured in multiple films the dealt with professional skiing, but these death-defying stunts would be what eventually ended his life eventually.
McConkey died while skiing into a base jump in 2009. When he went off of the jump, his skis didn't deploy. He corrected the issue in the air, but by the time his skis were fixed, it was too late for him to deploy the parachute. It is also theorized that McConkey estimated his height to be higher at the time of his jump. He was 39 years old when he died.
13 Caleb Moore
Caleb Moore was a professional snowmobile racer and freestyle rider from Texas. Moore was the first person in history to die after sustaining injuries during an X Games competition. Moore's career in the extreme sports industry was a successful one, with four medals in the X Games. Most of his medals came in the freestyle snowmobile competition, which was the competition that eventually took his life.
One of Moore's signature tricks on the snowmobile was the backflip. A backflip on a snowmobile is extremely difficult due to the weight of the vehicle, but it was a trick that Moore had successfully completed multiple times. During the Winter X Games of 2013, Moore was attempting another backflip when the skis of his snowmobile caught the snow on the landing ramp. Moore flipped over the handlebars and was sent flying by the impact of his falling snowmobile.
Although Moore left the accident under his own power, he was sent to the hospital for a concussion and was later diagnosed with a heart contusion. During the airlift to St. Mary's Hospital, Moore lost consciousness. He wasn't responding when he reached the hospital and was pronounced dead on January 31, 2013. Moore was only 25 at the time of his death.
12 Jeremy Lusk
Jeremy Musk was a freestyle motocross rider who was part of the popular riding group Metal Mulisha. Most of his professional accomplishments came in 2008, a year before his death, when he won gold and silver at the X Games and a bronze helmet at the Moto X World Championship.
Lusk sustained an ultimately fatal crash on February 9, 2009. He was competing in the X Knights motocross competition and was attempting a "Heart Attack Indian Air Backflip." Lusk under-rotated the flip and his front wheel stuck in the ground upon landing. The force of the crash sent him flying, and he landed on his head. Lusk suffered severe brain damage from the crash and was rushed to the hospital. After hours of surgery, Lusk went into cardiac and respiratory failure. He was declared dead on February 10, 2009 at age 24.
11 Uli Emanuele
Uli Emanuele was never a household name for his stunts, but was performing base jumping feats in relative obscurity during the time of his death. He was an Italian base parachutist by trade, but garnered a decent internet following from his BASE jumping footage. At the time of his death, he was filming a stunt for a GoPro sponsorship.
Emanuele died in 2016 during a BASE jump attempt in the Swiss Alps. He jumped from the top of a mountain, but didn't navigate his fall correctly and ended up hitting rocks before being able to open his parachute. Emanuele was filming the entire thing, which makes for a chilling video when you know the person died making it. He was 29 at the time of his death.
10 Jim McNeil
Jim McNeil was a professional freestyle motocross rider from Arizona. He had been competing in motocross since 1987, with his first X Games appearance coming nearly 20 years later in 2005. He was constantly competing in motocross competitions since he first burst onto the scene. His name was likely to appear in any major competition since he first started riding.
McNeil died in 2011 while practicing for the Boost Mobile FreestyleMX.com Worldwide Tour. He had been a part of the Boost Mobile riding crew and competed under their sponsorship. It's unknown what he was attempting at the time of his death, but he crashed and had to be rushed into care. He had already passed by the time he reached the hospital. McNeil was 32 years old when he died.
9 Malik Joyeux
Malik Joyeux was a French professional surfer who made a name for himself by surfing some of the biggest waves anyone has ever seen. His reputation was that there was no wave too big for him, and he specialized in narrowly escaping massive tunnels that would mean certain death if he failed.
Joyeux died on December 2,2005 while doing exactly what he was famous for. According to witnesses, he took off late on an eight foot wave while surfing in Hawaii. The board sank into the wave which cost Joyeux the speed he needed. He was unable to get out of the way and the wave took him under. His wave broke immediately, detaching from his body. People on the beach and in the water searched for him but found nothing until his body surfaced. An autopsy declared that he had been knocked unconscious by the wave and his board and he subsequently drowned.
8 Dean Potter
Dean Potter was a true extreme sport athlete, participating in BASE jumping, free climbing, slack lining, and wing suit flying. He made a name for himself as a free climber for the most part, but seemed to be interested in anything that got adrenaline levels raised. He was especially adept at speed climbing, where he would climb giant structures in mere seconds, with nothing to catch him if he fell.
Potter died in May of 2015 during a wing suit flight in Yosemite Valley. It was an illegal flight, although most of these national park flights are. Potter was flying alongside friend and fellow thrill-seeker, Graham Hunt. This was the second time they made the flight but this didn't make it any less dangerous. Bock fliers crashed and died on impact before their parachutes could be deployed.
7 Todd Skinner
Todd Skinner was an American free climber and was best known for being one of the first free climbers to climb some of the toughest courses in the world. During his career, Skinner was the first climber to free climb a grade 7 ascent. He started his career in 1985 and climbed regularly until his death in 2006.
Skinner died doing what he loved—free climbing. He had just completed the climb up the face of Leaning Tower in Yosemite National Park when tragedy struck. Skinner was rappelling down to the ground to finish his outing, when the rope gave way and sent him free-falling 500 feet to the ground. Skinner was killed immediately on impact. Investigators found that his death was caused by a faulty belay loop on his harness. The loop was too weathered to hold his weight any more and failed at the wrong instance for Skinner.
6 Nodar Kumaritashvili
The luge isn't generally considered to be an extreme sport–probably because it has long been recognized as an Olympic sport–but it remains one of the more dangerous sports in the competition. The speed at which these lugers are traveling, the slightest misstep can mean instant death.
Nodar Kumaritashvili was a Gorgian luger who started in the sport at the early age of 13. He gained the most attention upon his death while training for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Canada. Kumaritashvili died one day before the opening ceremony of the event and became the seventh person to die in the Olympic games.
The 2010 Olympics were the first that Kumaritashvili qualified for. He was training rigorously before the event and was on his 26th training run at the time of his crash. He was traveling 89.2 mph when he lost control on a turn and was thrown from his luge. Kumaritashvili was airlifted to the hospital but died from his injuries while in care.
5 Shane Cross
Shane Cross was an Australian skateboarder that was a rising star in the sport before he died in a motorcycle accident in 2007 at only 20 years old. Before his death, Cross was rising the ranks on the skateboarding scene for his street skating and was thought to be one of the next big competitors in the niche.
Cross didn't die while competing in an extreme sport like others on this list, but the same mentality may have caused the fatal motorcycle crash. Cross was being driven by fellow professional skateboarder Ali Boulala, who had been drinking at the time. Neither one was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash and both were seriously injured. Boulala went into a coma after the crash, although he awoke and was charged with the death of his friend. Boulala had to spend four years in prison for killing Cross while drunk driving.
4 Dale Earnhardt
NASCAR isn't considered an extreme sport by traditional standards, but driving at those speeds is certainly extreme, no matter how mainstream the sport may be. It isn't shocking to learn of the deaths in racing, which is the reason Dale Earnhardt's high-profile death makes it onto this list.
Even if you're not familiar with anyone on this list, you probably know who Dale Earnhardt is. He is widely considered to be one of the most accomplished and important figures in the sport, especially considering the fact that he gave his life to it.
Earnhardt died during the Daytona 500 in 2001. He was involved in a three-car accident on the last lap, striking Ken Schrader and Sterling Marlin. There was extreme scrutiny surrounding the sport after his crash, and a police investigation was conducted to find all of the things that went wrong. An autopsy determined that Earnhardt died immediately on impact. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who reportedly saw the fatal crash in his rear-view mirror, finished second shortly after the accident that killed his father.
3 Erik Roner
Erik Roner may be one of the most recognizable faces on this list due to his role on MTV's Nitro Circus. The gang, led by professional motocross rider/mad man Travis Pastrana, partook in countless death-defying stunts on the show. Almost everything the group did could have gotten someone killed, and during some stunts, people were mere inches away from death or catastrophic injury.
Roner made a name for himself as a professional skier and BASE jumper, often combining the two extreme sports for maximum results. He died during a skydiving performance in 2015. His parachute deployed, but Roner was unable to control his momentum and struck a tree. Hundreds of people got a clear view of the accident, making the already tragic death that much more shocking. He was pronounced dead at the scene at the age of 39.
2 Jeff Kargola
Jeff Kargola was another member of the Metal Mulisha FMX team who met his end prematurely. At the age of 27, Kargola was already a seasoned veteran of the sport. He went pro at 16 and had competed in every X Games competition from 2001 until his death in 2011.
Kargola died during the second day of the Desert Assassins' 2011 Rip to the Tip event, an off-road freestyle motocross event. He suffered a crash that left him unconscious, which ultimately ended in his death. The crash left him with a devastating head injury and internal bleeding. Medvac was organizing an airlift, but they were unable to stabilize Kargola (a requirement before a person is airlifted). He died before he was able to receive serious medical attention. Kargola was 27 at the time of his death.
1 Cloud Toda
Cloud Toda is a motocross rider from Japan who had to overcome tragic injuries in the past. Toda was paralyzed from the waist down during a crash in 2008. Doctors told him that he'd never be able to walk again after the accident, but he surprised everyone by making a comeback and being able to ride after the accident. He was working towards a comeback in the motocross world when he suffered another, more devastating crash in practice.
Toda was practicing for the X Games Best Whip competition, hoping to receive an invite from the organization. He was practicing his whips into a foam pit in 2015 when tragedy struck. Toda landed in the pit but the heat from the engine ignited the foam. This happens from time to time, and riders are almost always able to escape with their lives. Unfortunately, Toda was not one of them. He died at the age of 35.
Sources: espn.com, espn.com, usatoday.com
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