August 20, 2012 9:45 pm

Why New Zealand is the extreme sports capital

New Zealand is not for the faint hearted. Just ask the guys and gals who’ve been mule kicking, cannonballing and miller flipping off peaks in the first ever Burton ‘High Fives’ snowboarding competition. With a little tech magic from Nokia, this cool event showcased the Kiwi’s passion for hardcore sports perfectly. But what makes this island country such a magnet for the madly adventurous?

It dares you!

Temperate climate all year round, a third of its glorious land marked for conservation, but less than four million people. Not just filmic in the Frodo Baggins sense – it screams ‘I dare you’ thrills from every sun-buttered stone. Add history – that mighty Maori heritage and the influx of nineteenth century gold-seeking Europeans crafting skis to get around. Then spectacular caves littered with glow worms and sulphurous pools secreted in the woods. Perfect.

Upside down on elastic – really?

It’s fine, as 1980s entrepreneurs Henry Van Asch and AJ Hackett, who developed the bungy/bungee, will tell you. Want to jump 400 metres off Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown? No problem. The whole concept was inspired by a myth from Vanuatu (not in New Zealand) of an abused wife tricking her husband into jumping after her. She had vine and he did not. Some Vanuatu people land-dive still, as a harvest ritual. No fatal trickery in modern bungy though – the ‘vine’ is latex – just great opportunities for bouncy scream-inducing leaps. Both North and South Islands offer it.

You better roll with it

Remember a big white ball called Rover, that followed The Prisoner in sinister fashion? Well you can be inside something similar and zorb your way around – but this one is transparent. OK, so you may not see a complete inventory of landscape clearly – those beaches, mountains, lakes, rivers and forests will be going round and round as you do. Invented in New Zealand, you can also do liquid zorbing, where water is added, or hydro-zorbing, where you roll on a lake. What’s not to like?

Water babies

You can always do white water rafting in New Zealand. Or take a spin in a jet boat. The country is at one with water, with its ‘outdoor-can-do’ sportsy attitude. Last century, farmer Bill Hamilton developed the jet boat to navigate through even 3cm of shallow water, to reach inaccessible land. But if you’ve been there, done that, then black water rafting is the thing. While if you like alliteration and small spaces, then fun and adventure in Hagga Honking Holes in Waitomo is ideal. New Zealand also offers spelunking (deep water diving within caves) and cave abseiling for the claustrophobia-adverse.

The fun never stops

New Zealand has an adept way of not simply showing you their country, but making you use it. Mountain? Cycle up it. Rocky slide called Bealey Slide in Arthur’s Pass National Park? Try scree running. Glacier? You can go by helicopter to the best known – Franz Josef. There, you can see a frozen waterfall and walk on top of ice, staring at the drop below and squeezing your way through crevasses.

Like a savvy cook plundering every bit of the chicken for a meal, New Zealanders use every geographical asset they have. Feast on it all – it’ll make your heart beat faster.

 

image credits: imprinttours, misterbisson

 

Updated October 1, 2015 8:40 am