There are only tough times finding academic craziness to get involved with during spring break, so I decided I should break out the unicycle and do a trick.  It was a 180 unispin….  But that is unimportant.

I think tricks, fitness, and the subsequent cultures they create are a valuable asset worth cherishing.  From “grandmaster”, 50+ year old women and men duking it out armed to the teeth with ultimate frisbee discs, knee braces, ankle support, and vast quantities of beer to 20-30-year-olds scaling famous rock faces with nothing but a trad rack of cams and a bag of snow white chalk, to some french dudes doing unicycle ballet to the little lads and lasses on their skateboards and scooters, one can draw a clear conclusion: humans seem to benefit from physical and mental challenges that really don’t fit in with most primary evolution-related characteristics.

Oddly enough, even the most elite athletes in frisbee, climbing, and scootering will consider their sports part of their culture and a way to “chill” while also pushing limits.    Does that make sense?

I had a great friend a few years back- nicest fellow in town.  Not only was he extremely well educated and respected in the doctoral-level health services community, he was  one of the top competitive ultimate frisbee players in the country, heralding from Boston.  This dude is the definitive quarterback of frisbee for crying out loud- upon entering a stadium where he was playing on evening (I had not realized his elite-ness yet, I was just going to a game to be nice), I quickly realized the crowd was chanting, screaming my friend’s last name- when he came roaring into the field leading the team, I could feel the adrenaline in the crowd like helium in my lungs.  Yet: this was just his game, not even a “sport” (like pro baseball) to him as far as I could tell…  …My friend had unearthed the “ultimate” way to deal with stress from his lofty academic and work positions.   Despite the immense amount of time, energy, and failure put into a complicated, dangerous game (he definitely tore more ankles, shoulders, and labrums “playing” than he ever would working on his doctorate) he was able to find a balance between relaxation, play, and work while maintaining a cheery attitude and high octane, dedicated mindset.

Photo by Bob Durling –

We see here a balance of playing, chilling, and working in this multifaceted fellow.  Why is this so important?  It turns out the balance being struck here is neither trivial or even fully understood.  researchers in the 80s convinced themselves all this play and relaxing in other animals was about preparing for adulthood, deciding the reason for all this extra work animals go through boiled down to a ultimatum of adult survival and reproductive success…

…These researchers were great and important in advancing this difficult-to-pin-down subject, but that idea  definitely does not complete much of our story here.  We can observe all animals who have play and chill in their student workbook will indeed play as a child, about the same amount.  We will then observe the data correlating any aspects of play to adult success really doesn’t provide amazing parallels or strong trends….   So it must be more fundamental than what simple 80’s observation studies can show us.

These boundary-pushing sports we engage with for fun teach us to teach ourselves things and support others doing the same thing; in this way, it is a self-serving cycle.  This learning, teaching, and progressing through extreme sport  is simply a way of living and experiencing life through a lens already suited for play, relaxation, and hard work.

Next up:  Scooters + Youtube = ?