Adventure sport in Argentina

For most people Argentina is the land of steaks, gauchos, yerba mate, tango, and football—to name just a few of the numerous stereotypes (not that they are necessarily wrong or hurtful in this case) that summarise a very diverse, nuanced, and absolutely massive country. Argentina has offered the world much over the years and continues to be a source of innovation, development and inspiration in a slew of different fields.

One aspect of the country that’s often overlooked—or at the very least not too discussed, including by city-dwelling Argentineans themselves, which is in fact the majority of the country’s residents—is the tremendous nature that Argentina has and the potential for adventure (both planned and the more dangerous kind) that that nature has to offer.

In Argentina’s northeast, where the country borders Paraguay and Brazil one finds tropical jungle of South American fame. One of the world’s largest waterfalls, Iguazo, can be found precisely at the point that the three countries come together.

On the other side of the north of Argentina, one finds the Atacama Desert, the driest place in the world outside of the polar region (which despite their massive but diminishing ice coverage, which might lead one to think that the regions aren’t dry, are in fact the driest regions on the entire planet). The desert, which also spills into Chile and Bolivia, creates an other worldly impression and is actually used to test extraterrestrial exploration devices, like the famed Martian rovers.

In the very south of the country—it should be noted that Argentina has the distinction of being the southernmost country on the planet—there is the region of Tierra del Fuego which is dotted with massive, snow- and ice-capped peaks, numerous fjords and unique wildlife. One also finds, just slightly north of Tierra del Fuego, the Patagonian Ice Field which is one of the largest (and sadly last) glacial fields on the planet.

Whatever it is you’re seeking in the world of outdoor adventure, Argentina has something to offer. From its tropical jungles to its glacial regions, to its flat and sprawling plains to its titanic mountains, there’s something for every adventurer in Argentina.

Skydiving over Prague

Prague is one of the most beautiful and remarkable cities in Europe. It was the former capital of the Holy Roman Empire; it was possibly the most advanced European city during the Middle Ages and Europe’s first stone city; it was home to both a German and Czech population until the middle of the 20th century, which gave it access to diversity and thoughts not seen in most other parts of Europe—and the list goes on and on and on. It’s hard to find someone who has been to Prague who wasn’t impressed by it, regardless of if they went for the cheap and delicious beer and a party with friends or if they went to suck up it’s fascinating history.

I recently went to Prague with a couple of friends and did something that blew me away—fortunately not literally though it was a possibility. I went skydiving. I had always wanted to go skydiving, but had just never done it for reasons that eluded me. I’m not sure if it was the cost to duration ratio, or perhaps I was just a bit afraid of jumping from an aeroplane, or maybe I didn’t want to do it alone. Honestly, I can’t say what it was, but when I was for a long-weekend in Prague with two close friends we spontaneously decided that we wanted a little bit of adventure injected into our cultural escape. The experience did not disappoint.

It’s a bit hyperbolic to say we were skydiving over Prague. Needless to say, we were in the countryside just outside of Czechia’s capital. The service provided was excellent too. We were collected at our hotel in the morning and driven out to the air field. We were also given a demonstration of how the whole experience works and met the professionals who would be jumping with us (and they spoke perfect English and were able to answer all our questions). As none of us had ever done a jump before it was a tandem jump, which practically meant that all my friends and I were doing was experiencing extreme adrenaline as we fell to Earth and the guides were the ones making sure we didn’t die.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I can recommend it to anyone who’s looking for their next big adrenaline kick!

Of Ice and Men

Sorry for the pun, but I had to if I wanted to talk about ice climbing. Ice climbing is truly an amazing sport that last winter I got to experience and I have to say that I think I’m hooked. With all the specific ice climbing equipment necessary, it’s a sport that doesn’t come cheaply. While there is some areas of possibly overlap—ski boots and sometimes be used as climbing boots, for example—there is a lot of unique equipment that needs to be obtained before one can properly ice climb.

In my case, I went ice climbing with a friend and a group of acquaintance from the local climbing club. As is often the case in outdoor sports clubs a lot of the more experienced and seasoned climbers had surplus equipment so I didn’t have to worry too much about buying or hiring equipment (that I might not have even known about if I did it myself). After my first experience I told some of the people that I was ready to do it again sometime soon and would even consider buying some of my own kit.

There was a local sporting supply shop, they told me, that worked with the climber’s club (providing space for meetings and allowing them to post events on the shops message board) and assured me that that sort of social organisation was common among climbers. They would often hold events such as ‘slideshows’ where climbers could show photos from their climbing trips abroad and there was plenty of time for Q&A afterwards.

I tried it a few more that season and although I was sore and a bit bruised after seemingly every foray to frozen walls, the sport had a hold over me. With a little bit of luck the climbing club is going this winter to the French Alps to do some ice climbing for a week and I’m hoping to join them. Unfortunately there’s not too much ice climbing to be found in the UK, but then again I’ve always been drawn towards sports that require to travel a bit and see the world.

Kiteboarding: a new but familiar challenge for the skateboarder

Not be in the papers and top sports blogs in the same way that football, ice hockey, tennis, and car racing are, kiteboarding has nevertheless been growing in popularity over the last few decades. Not only is it a sport unlike any other that requires agility, strength, and flexibility in addition to something of an adventurous spirit, it also provides quite a few enthusiasts a sound excuse to get out of the sofa and see the world. If you’re new to the sport of kiteboarding,  you’re in for a rewarding hobby but there are more than a couple things you’ll need to take under consideration before you start travelling the globe looking for the perfect wave.

Firstly and perhaps most importantly, one needs to bear in mind that kiteboarding is not always the safest of sports when considering that fact that it is always done in nature. And like other sports performed outdoors—like sailing, skiing, skydiving—changes in weather, especially sudden ones, can led to fatal outcomes if proper care is not taken. But I don’t want to discourage the would-be kiteboarder because most of the time kiteboarding is perfectly safe. Do however bear in mind that you should have a thorough weather forecast before starting out for the day.

Even before you get to the water, if you’re first-timer you’ll probably want to have lessons. As dull as it can sound for adrenaline sport junkies, kiteboarding shouldn’t be taken lightly and you’ll want to have an experienced kiteboarder with you. Although the sport incorporates skills common in other sports you may already know how to do, like sailing, surfing, or snowboarding, it is a sport of its own and should be treated thusly.

As with any sport, it has a large fanbase and quite a few people enjoy travelling to large tournaments like the international the Kiteboarding World Championships. With events held in France, Italy, China, and Egypt during the 2016 championships, it’s no wonder that kiteboarding is a favourite of travel lovers.

But before doing that—competing internationally for rank that is—you might be wondering how long learning will take you. The good news there is for the complete beginner it doesn’t require too much more than a couple of days’ investment—usually 10 to 20 hours in total— before one learns the basics. As with other sports were balance is crucial though, the steep learning curve usually means that there can be a lot of potential for injury—don’t try this sport without an expert—and you’re probably going to fall a lot.

Nevertheless it’s usually possible to get the basics down, especially if you’re an avid skateboarder, since so many of the skills are transferable.

History of basketball

The Canadian doctor Jame Naismith was an educator who specialised in physical education at the at the International Young Men’s Christian Association Training School (YMCA) in Springfield, Massachusetts. On rainy day, so the story goes, he was endeavouring to keep his gym class busy and doing sport and so he needed a game that could be played indoors and year round.

He wrote the basic rules and nailed a peach basket onto a 10-foot (3.0 m) elevated track. In contrast with modern basketball nets, this peach basket retained its bottom, and balls had to be retrieved manually after each “basket” or point scored. This meant that initially a team player had to stand on a ladder and retrieve the ball every time someone scored. Needless to say, this proved inefficient so the bottom of the basket was removed, allowing the balls to be poked out with a long dowel each time.

Basketball was originally played with a football/soccer ball. It wasn’t until much later, that balls were made especially for basketball. They were brown and it wasn’t until more than half a century later that Tony Hinkle decided to give the balls their familiar orange colour so that both the spectators and the athletes themselves would have an easier time following the ball. Surprising to any modern fan of the game, dribbling was not part of the early basketball with the except of the “bounce pass”. Passing the ball was the primary means of ball movement. Dribbling was eventually introduced but limited by the asymmetric shape of early balls. It wasn’t until the 1950s, round the same time that the balls got their orange colour that dribbling became institutionalised as the primary mode of movement for the balls.

The peach baskets however, were phased out much, much earlier in the history of the sport — in 1906 — when they were replaced by metal hoops with backboards. Another design change was added so that instead of having to have a person manually remove the ball or poke it out with a long stick, as was common, the ball would merely pass through the hoop. The scoring was more or less the same as it is today: one point was scored every time the ball pass through the hoop (from top to bottom) and the team with the most points won the match.

The backboard was an addition that prevented spectators from interfering in the game, as it was common, before the backboard, for spectators to try to influence the game by knocking the ball away from the backboard as the spectators sat in the mezzanine balcony of the playing court, where the basket were initially mounted. It had the additional effect of allowing rebound shots. Naismith’s diaries were discovered by his granddaughter a century later 2006,and showed he was sceptibal about the new game he had invented, which incorporated rules from a children’s game called “Duck on a Rock”. Naismith called the new game “Basket Ball”.

Celebrity athletes in society

Being at the absolute top of almost any profession is cause for celebrity in most cases. Top lawyers, top journalists, the best doctors and scientists, and the wealthiest bankers are not seen infrequently in the headlines. While we don’t always hear about the best bus driver or factory worker, jobs that are in the public eye or earn a lot of money are often known throughout a country. The best example of this is probably actors and sports stars.

It’s not uncommon, especially for entertainers, to use their fanbase and celebrity to raise awareness for political campaigns, causes they support or are opposed to—John Lennon and Jane Fonda both had very public anti-war activities during the 60s and 70s—and shift the public spotlight on to causes.

While some people feel that celebrities should stick to what made them famous, their role in society as people of prominence allows them to shine light on topics that might not otherwise get much press coverage—and subsequent public discussion. And in many cases sports stars have made huge contributions to society both after and during their professional careers.

World champion boxer  Amir Khan as attracted attention lately by teaming up with Penny Appeal to fight social injustice. Football star David Beckham support many charities such as United Against AIDS and UNICEF. Beyond individuals there are even either organisations that focus on the role athletes play in a broader society such as the very aptly named Athletes For Charity.

Khan is by no means an exception. One of the most successful campaigns conducted by a famous athlete was Michael Jordan in the 1990s and his campaign to raise awareness of and fight AIDS. As someone with HIV/AIDS himself he put one of the most public faces onto a usually fatal and utterly devastating disease.

A more recent example of a sporting legend tackling social problems is record-holing American cyclist Lance Armstrong. Struck by cancer, how the world-class cyclist fought cancer and continued his already impressive cycling career became the stuck of tabloid coverage as well as more prestigious discourse. He survived and continues to work with charities that raise money for cancer sufferers and cancer treatment research.

Despite some people’s rather cynical opinion that celebrities only engage in charity work in order to boost their own profile, their intervention and profile has and continues to lead to positive changes for societies around the world.

My top five picks for an adventure holiday

1. Dasht-i-Lut. This desert in Iran might be only the 25th largest in the world at 51 000, but it’s one of the hottest and driest places on the planet. The highest recorded temperature in the desert in western Iran, on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, was about 70 C, making it one of the hottest (and the hottest by some measurements) places on the entire planet. With such extreme conditions, survival is tough which means that the bit of land has remained unchanged by humans for the entirety of human history.

2. Colorado River. At La Poudre Pass in the Southern Rocky Mountains in Colorado (a bit northwest of the state’s capital, Denver) an unassuming stream begins its journey to the the Gulf of Cortes between mainland Mexico and the Baja Peninsula. By the time the stream reaches its destination it will have carved through the Grand Canyon, a testament to the ancient courses of the river. Although the river flows through a developed country its territory is pure wilderness. Rafting now the river would be an exhilarating treat.

3. Mt Everest Base Camp. In the Nepalese and Tibetan Himalaya one finds the worlds highest mountain. As exotic and synonymous with adventure as Mount Everest is, the base camp itself has become something of a tourist hotspot. While journeying to it may seem remarkable—and it’s no small feat—most people in reasonably good health should be able to make the journey provided they have enough time. The journey on foot takes roughly a week from Lukla, the highest point in the valley to land safely and easily reachable from Kathmandu. With teahouses and Buddhist temples as accommodation along the way, it’s a cultural adventure as much as a nature one.

4. Scoresby Sound. Not for the light-hearted or the cold-blooded! This inlet that cuts into Green just north and east of Iceland has icebergs in its water throughout the year. Kayaking through it proves a challenge and only for those with enough courage to brave the elements. For those brave enough for a northern paddle, they will be rewarded with schools of orca, as known as killer whales, seals, and possibly a polar bear or two. You wouldn’t be the first human to set foot on the shores though, as this area was first inhabited by Vikings some 1000 years ago. Remnants of their camps can still be found today.

5. Kilimanjaro. Climbing Kilimanjaro is an adventurers classic. The highest peak in Africa is no walk in the park, especially when considering the possibility of altitude sickness, but for a reasonably experienced hiker making the summit shouldn’t prove too challenging. Along it’s located inside Tanzania, the nearest city to fly into is Niarobi, Kenya and then make the journey overland into Tanzania. Beyond the trek itself one is bequeathed the opportunity to see some of the world’s most famous wildlife—and sadly, wildlife that might only be round for a few more years.

Best outdoor activities in Wales

In addition to its ancient language, stunning, lush landscapes, unique culture and rich history, in recent years Wales has become an increasing popular destination for adventure travels and outdoors lovers. With mountains and valley, fast moving rivers, rugged coasts complete with numerous sea caves, and compared to much of the rest of the UK very low levels of population density, Wales is a haven for all things outdoors. The only difficulty is deciding what to spend your limited time on!
Firstly, remember that there are also numerous possibilities for more traditional sports like football (especially after Wales’ success in the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament) and rugby. If you’re in the market for sports of that sort, Wales will not disappoint. With so many different events going on in Wales websites like have seen surges in popularity in recent years. You’re very likely to find whatever you’re looking for in the realm of team sports and more traditional sports.
However, that is by no means the only thing on offer in Wales. Over the last decades a sport that has seen an increasing in popularity is surfing. When most people think of surfing they think of warm, sunny, tropical beaches strewn with palm tress and sugary cocktails. While that’s not the case in Wales, it is nevertheless an extremely popular place for surfing, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. The waters are often quite cool and so a wet suit is part of the essential kit for the Welsh surfer as is—obviously—a strong ability to swim because the waters round Wales can often be unforgiving with deadly currents that can sweep one out to sea so be sure to do your research before you hop on that board.
Unsurprisingly, the Welsh countryside with it famed hills and praised valleys is also a great place to indulge in river rafting if you’re keen on water sport, but can’t quite muster the desire to go surfing on the seaside. With it’s many meandering streams and rivers, rafting is starting to become a staple of the adventurous holiday-maker and there are a great number of guides and experts who are willing to take you on rafting escapades.
Not all the outdoor sports are necessarily full of adrenaline. For those who wish to have a more quiet and relaxing holiday in the peace and quiet of nature, Wales offers abundant opportunities for walking holidays throughout the valleys, hills and along the coasts, with the possibility of camping or staying in small huts along the way.
Regardless of what level of excitement it is that you’re after you’re likely to find what you’re looking for not so far way in the wilds of the Welsh countryside.

Getting your kids involved in sports – the checklist

A childhood without participating in an organised sport of some description seems utterly alien to most people. Almost all of us played on some team at some point in our respective childhoods, or participating in individual sports such as gymnastics, golf, skiing, or dance, just to name a few. If you’re a parent now you may even want to be getting your own child or children involved in sports, and if so, we’ve amassed a couple of things to consider before you sign your kid up for those lessons.

Firstly, be sure your child is interested.If this sounds like an obvious one, that’s because it is. Nevertheless it one that needs to be repeated over and over again. It’s not uncommon for parents to encourage their children to play the sports they played as children, even claiming the sport to be a family tradition, but one needs to remember that the popularity of sports waxes and wanes over time. What was popular when you were a child may no longer be in vogue, which can certainly weigh on the mind of a child. Talk to your children and ask them their opinion before you sign them up.

Keep in mind children’s attention spans. We’ve all had phases in life when we thought we were going to take up a new hobby—be it a new sport, learning a new language, painting, cooking, or skydiving—only to become immediately uninterested in the pastime. This happens as an adult and even more often to children. Before you buy them all the kit, be certain that they are not going to lose interest. Check local listings or even sport betting sites for sporting events in your area to which you can go with your children and gage their enthusiasm for what’s going on.

Try to share in the sport of your child’s choice. Obvious if you’re a bit overweight, somewhat lazy and disastrously inflexible, you’ll want not to participate in your child’s gymnastics course, but where possible try to be involved with them and practise together at every opportunity.

Be mindful of what you say when you’re talking to your child. One can never know what passing remark will scar a child for life. Saying something like ‘You’re the best, you’ll win for sure’ may sound reassuring to adults, but to a child it could sound like you’re putting pressure on then to win the competition. Try to encourage them to have a good time, to practise, and to enjoy playing the sport itself, more than actually winning it. Wanting to win comes naturally enough to almost everyone.

And lastly, be supportive. As obvious as the first one, and equally important. Children are sensitive, so when go to their matches or games or tournaments or whatever as often as you can and show them you’re having a good time too!