Office dwellers get adrenaline kick by sky diving, canoeing, racing

Shaun King, a passionate ice and mountain climber from Nelson, B.C., gets an adrenaline kick from...

Shaun King, a passionate ice and mountain climber from Nelson, B.C., gets an adrenaline kick from climbing; he offers clients the thrill of pushing past their personal comfort zones at mountainsense.ca in the Rockies. (Shaun King Collection)

JOANNE RICHARD, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:13 PM ET

Screen time may be leading to scream time.

Growing numbers of office dwellers are looking for thrills, and possibly spills, to kill the boredom of their boxed-in lives.

Leisure pursuit of novel and intense experiences is on the rise – sky diving, mountain climbing, whitewater canoeing, downhill mountain biking, deep sea diving, adventure travel and gruelling races like the Death Race, are providing the rush.

Screen overload may be the motive. “The screen is pervasive in our contemporary lives, and its lack of personal physicality, its diminished contact with the real world we’ve evolved in and lived in for thousands of years, may be creating a new boredom and so physical adventure re-enters the picture,” says Dr. Frank Farley.

Recreational risk-taking may actually be a psychological reaction to the growing dominance of digital cyberspace living “an attempt to reconnect ourselves to the physical world around us,” says Farley, a Canadian-born psychologist and professor at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Add to the boredom the safety fixation in some areas of our society, such as over-controlling parenting and governmental rule making, says Farley, the former president of the American Psychological Association. “There is certainly safety obsession in some quarters of Canadian and U.S. society that can generate opposite reactions that encourage risk-taking/thrill-seeking.”

For the thrill of it, Gail Emery has gone skydiving, bungee jumping and rappelling down Winnipeg’s RBC building; she also took flying lessons, whitewater rafted, zip-lined and went on a week-long cattle drive in Alberta. “I haven’t met a roller coaster I won’t ride.”

She loves the “woo-hoo, I made it!” moment. “It’s addictive. I think it’s also the danger, or the perceived danger, in these activities that draws me to them… Part of the thrill is eluding serious injury or death.”

Emery, a 41-year-old administrative school secretary from Winnipeg, is hooked on the adrenaline rush. “I’ve told friends if I was rich, I’d be dead.”

She’s doing the Dirty Donkey and Swamp Donkey, both adventure races, this summer and is registered for Fargo full marathon.

While many shake their heads at the insanity and potential risks, some sensation seekers believe routine is the killer, not high-stimulus activities.

“Recreational risk-taking makes me feel alive,” says Toronto’s Jill Butler, 37, who loves the barbed wire, mud and mayhem of obstacle racing.

According to Ottawa-area whitewater warrior Jodi Bigelow, “there is a huge need for people these days to feel some sort of excitement. On top of that, they want to share these experiences with like-minded people at the same time.”

Risk-taking sports create “stimulating energy” in an otherwise mundane, 9-to-5 existence, and reward participants with not only thrills but a connectedness to the natural environment, says Bigelow, of Paddlefit.com.

For Bigelow, who regularly races kayaks, picking up a paddle “represents freedom, an escape” and time to think.

The mountains offer ice climbing thrills for Shaun King. “Your heart pounds and you get very focused. When the only thing that matters is your ability to hang on, all the other troubles and worries fall by the wayside.

“In this regard it is a sort of escapism from whatever mundane or painful lives people might lead - a much healthier alternative to drugs and with similar benefits,” says King, mountain guide and owner of Mountain Sense Guiding and Instruction in Nelson, B.C., mountainsense.ca.

Climbing makes him feel alive and King routinely helps clients to push past their personal comfort zones, to break through what feels like “the windshield of their existence” so they come to realize that overcoming other obstacles in life is possible, too.

The mountaineer is seeing more people out climbing. Maybe “people are finally getting the fact that there is a whole world of wonderful out there waiting for them.”

 


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