By Daniel Bukszpan
When it comes to separating the rational from the reckless, few activities draw a line in the sand quite like extreme sports. Do you think you're an extreme sports practitioner just because you grunt loudly when you hit a tennis ball? Well, try jumping off a 1,000-foot-tall cellphone tower with only seconds to deploy your parachute, or leaping from an airplane for a little wingsuit flying. Your attitude is likely to change.
|Slideshow: Extreme sports costs|
For those who participate in these sports, laughing in the face of death is a persistent itch that requires scratching. This comes at a high price, and not just to personal safety. One can spend anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars on training, equipment and travel -- all for the undeniable adrenaline rush of risking life and limb.
BASE jumping isn't just dangerous; in some parts of the world it's illegal. BASE is short for Buildings, Antennas, Spans and Earth, all of which serve as platforms for jumpers and all of which have an altitude of 2,000 feet or less. Someone jumping from 2,000 feet has mere seconds before a fatal collision with the ground, barely enough time to deploy a parachute -- and therein lies the thrill. The parachute that's designed specifically for BASE jumping has a larger pilot chute than the one used in traditional skydiving. It costs between $1,200 and $1,500.
For some skiers, tearing up the expert slopes in Aspen simply doesn't offer the kind of high-stakes thrills they crave. For them, the only type of skiing that satisfies is heli-skiing, which involves being flown by helicopter to high mountain summits and negotiating untouched, virgin snow at top speed. Whistler Heli-Skiing, a company based in British Columbia, offers helicopter access to mountaintops for prices ranging from $815 to $1,150 per person. Skiers should be advised, however, that it's not just the skiing that's dangerous. Frank Wells, the one-time Walt Disney CEO, died during a 1994 heli-skiing trip when his helicopter crashed.
Scuba diving was once considered the exclusive province of marine biologists, Navy frogmen and Jacques Cousteau, but now couples honeymooning in the Bahamas and elsewhere regularly strap on a tank, goggles and fins to commune with exotic sea life. Scuba.com offers a "Scubapro Top-of-the-Line Warm Water" personal gear package that includes fins, boots, mask and snorkel for $410. All fine and good, but even the most experienced diver won't get very far with these things if there's no scuba tank to allow underwater breathing. So Scuba.com also offers aluminum tanks at prices ranging from $132 to $440. Divers will also need to be certified by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors in a course that costs $120.
Underwater Cave Diving
People who believe their experience with recreational diving is sufficient training for underwater cave diving are flat-out wrong. It's one of the most dangerous types of diving in the world and it's not widely practiced, mainly due to the skills required and the very expensive equipment. The masks, fins, wetsuits and dive lights used by recreational divers are completely useless for cave diving, so recreational divers wishing to engage in underwater spelunking will have to spend approximately $9,000 just for basic gear. Those who cave dive without the equipment risk getting lost due to lighting failure, or succumbing to hypothermia.
A wingsuit is a jumpsuit with fabric under the arms and between the legs that allows a human being to remain aloft in midair. Wingsuit enthusiasts still have to pack a parachute, so those wishing to pretend they are a part-man/part-falcon hybrid will have to pry themselves away from the illusion as the flight draws to a close. Still, it remains the closest thing to flying that a human being can experience outside of an airplane. Naturally, a high-quality suit is essential. The extreme sports website The Adrenalist recommends the Venom suit by Phoenix Fly, which retails for $1,500.
What are the costs associated with other extreme sports? View the complete slideshow on CNBC.com.
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