1 Canterbury District Health Board Regional Forensic Service, Christchurch, New Zealand
2 Psychological Medicine, Christchurch School of Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand
3 Australian College of Applied Psychology, Brisbane, Australia
4 Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Queensland, Australia
Background. Extreme sports, such as BASE jumping and big wave surfing, are emerging as highly popular sporting activities with profoundly different characteristics to traditional sports. To date, research has generally assumed that performance in extreme sports is based on a homogenous understanding of extreme sports and extreme sport participants. Methods. A narrative examination of the physiological and psychological literature on extreme sports. Results. The traditional perspective is limited and overlooks important and nuanced differ- ences which are essential for performance enhancement. Athletes are not a homogenous group of individuals and performance environments provide different challenges. A more nuanced assessment of extreme sports reveals that effective performance and survival in extreme sports is centred on the development of the capacity to make fast, accurate decisions under severe physiological and psychological stress, where getting it wrong might result in serious inju- ries or death. Enhancing performance in extreme sports depends on understanding these issues and designing programs that appreciate the unique relationship between the individual athletes, the task and the performance environment. Like traditional sports, extreme sports necessitate precise attunement to information in the performance environment. Additionally, the extreme sports environment is constantly changing and dangerous. Conclusions. A one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate for performance enhancement in extreme sports. Extreme sports are also different to traditional sports. Gradual immersion in the activity will facilitate attunement to information in the performance environment and the realisation of capacities to make effective decisions essential for successful performance.
KEY WORDS: Physiology; psychology; extreme sports; BASE jumping; sport-specific.