According to Encarta® World English Dictionary, an "extreme sport" is "a sport considered more dangerous and thrilling than ordinary sports and often involving hazardous airborne stunts and tricks.
Extreme sports include skateboarding, snowboarding, in-line skating, skysurfing, wakeboarding, and stunt bicycling."
A prime example of extreme sports take place annually at the Winter and Summer X-Games.
Being a former skateboarder myself (note: I was not at all good), I respect the X-Games. I watch them annual on ESPN. I hope to one day attend an event.
Since 1995, extreme athletes from all over the world have competed in the annual Winter and Summer X-Games.
X-Game viewers have seen it all, from skateboard legend Tony Hawk's 900 in the half-pipe to motocross great Travis Pastrana's double backflip on a huge mound of dirt.
The X-Games have been increasingly growing ever since the first year in Rhode Island and Vermont. The ratings, attendance, participants, publicity have all sky rocketed since the first games.
Like the Olympics, the X-Games involve bronze, silver, and gold medal system. Also, many valuable prizes are available for contestants to win.
Since the beginning of the games, numerous participants have flew in the air or did a grind on a rail.
With the recent conclusion of the 2009 Winter X-Games XIII, let's take a look a the greatest extreme athletes since 1995.
Danny Way may be the best skateboarder to ever hit the vert ramp. Way holds the world record for distance (79 feet) and unaided height (23.5 feet) while skateboarding.
Way won gold in 2004 at the first Skateboarding Big Air contest held at the X-Games at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, where he set his distance record of 79 feet.
On July 9, 2005, Way was the first ever to leap without a motorized vehicle the Great Wall of China and land successful. He repeated the same jump four more times. In 2002, a mountain biker attempted the jump and was killed.
August of 2006, Way won his third gold medal in X-Games Big Air.
Another notable feat for Way was in 2008. Way won silver in the 2008 X-Games Big Air. He did this after taking a brutal spill during his second attempt, which apparently left him with a broken foot.
Even with his injury, he completed his last three runs, landing runs three and five, much to everyone's surprise.
Sarah Burke is a prominent figure in the world of extreme winter sports, having been the first woman to stomp down 720s, 900s, and 1080s in the half-pipe.
Burke is a very important figure to the Winter X-Games in lobbying the X-Games to include female freeski events in the winter contest series
Burke is a three-time gold medalist in the Winter X-Games.
Burke also won ESPN's 2001 Award for Female Skier of the Year, and was voted 2007's Best Female Action Sports Athlete at the ESPY awards, the first skier to be so honored.
Bob Burnquist started skateboarding when he was 11 years old and turned pro at age 14.
Burnquist is best known for his open mind, creative and win-or-slam approach, he helped to revitalize and shape overall vert skateboarding in the late '90s in a huge way.
Burnquist is known and respected for his uncanny and unusual ability to skate equally well both regular and goofy-foot, the progression of trying tricks switch-stance (this means he can do most of his tricks backward as well as forward).
In 1995, Burnquist competed in Slam City Jam in Vancouver, BC and competed against every top skateboarder in the world. Unknown to most, he amazed everyone with his technicality and switch-stance lines, and ended up taking first place.
Burnquist is the only skater to go over a loop ramp with a gap in it. He is also the first skater to go through a loop while riding switch-stance, and the first to go all the way around a full pipe just by pumping up to speed inside it.
In 2000, Burnquist won the X-Games' best trick contest with his famous fakie 5-0, fakie Kickflip out off of the grind bar. He created a trick called "Burntwist."
Burnquist won his best competition in the vert contest in 2001 X-Games. Before his final run, Burnquist was sitting in second place behind two-time defending champion Bucky Lasek. Burnquist produced a flawless run, including multiple tricks that had never been seen before, and as a result, were unnamed.
Burnquist is a five-time gold medalist in the X-Games.
Tanner Hall is the most influential extreme skier of his generation, commonly know as freeskiing.
Hall has the most Winter X-Games Skiing medals with nine.
Hall remains the only athlete to have a three peat at the Winter X-Games. His attempts at a fourth gold in slopestyle was upset by Charles Gagnier and in 2009 a fourth straight superpipe gold was snatched from him by Xavier Bertoni.
Hall is practically perfect with a great stride for competing, and since January 2006 has won 6-of-7 superpipe competitions. His yearly battles with friend and pipe-nemesis Simon Dumont has made the Winter X-Games' men's SKI Super Pipe competition one of the most exciting events to watch.
Shaun Palmer is the most driven extreme athlete in action sports. He is a professional mountain biker, snowboarder, skier, and motocrosser.
Palmer doesn't believe in top 10 or even top 3, to him it's all about the win, and it's all or nothing. Until Shaun White's double-gold in 2006, Palmer held the record for most gold medals in Winter X-Games history.
Palmer has earned his nine gold medals in four different winter sports, and even though he's the oldest snowboard competitor in Winter X-Games history at 40, he still schools all those teenagers.
Palmer is also one of snowboarding's most famous names, a self-proclaimed loud mouth, a CEO of his own company, and character in a self-titled video game, Shaun Palmer's Pro Snowboarder (which was my first game ever for the PlayStation 2).
Mat Hoffman is nothing less than a living legend in the world of BMX Freestyle.
Hoffman has been dedicated to breaking down boundaries, building up the platform current riders are launching from today.
The quintessential godfather of Freestyle, Mat Hoffman is a huge advocate for athletes and fans alike with his relentless contributions not only to BMX, but to every aspect in the world of action sports.
Mat is a 10-time World Vert Champion and six-time X-Games medalist.
Mat has inventing more than 100 revolutionary tricks. The first to land a 900 in 1989, and a no-handed 900 in 2002. Mat also invented the Flip Faki, a back flip landing backwards and the Flair, a back flip with a 180-degree turn.
Dubbed the "Condor," Mat also landed a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for highest air (26.5 feet) on a BMX bike above a 24-foot vert quarter pipe, propelling more than 50 feet off the ground.
The 2002 ESPN Action Sports Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Mat continues to be a leader setting the standard for generations to come. Mat was recently elected President of the International BMX Freestyle Federation, and is forging ahead and working with the Olympic Committee to add BMX Freestyle Vert to the 2012 Summer Games.
Mat is an innovator in every part of his life. He may be B.A.S.E. jumping, vert riding or designing new bikes for his young kids, Jet and Giavanna, Mat is what it means to be an action sports athlete.
Travis Pastrana is one of the biggest names in all of action sports. He has been seen competing in supercross, motocross, freestyle motocross, and rally racing. He is most commonly known for his double backflip in X-Games XII.
In 1999 at X-Games V, Travis won the first ever MotoX Freestyle where he scored the highest ever run of 99.00 points.
At X-Games VI, Travis goes back-to-back with another gold medal and also attempted the first backflip at the X-Games.
X-Games XI marked Pastrana's fifth gold medal in Freestyle.
In 2006, Travis Pastrana becomes the third athlete to ever win three gold medals at one X-Games. He won gold in MotoX Best Trick, Freestyle, and Rally Car. Pastrana also performed the first Double Backflip in competition, scoring a 98.00, the highest score in the Best Trick competition at the X-Games.
Recently at X-Games XIV, Travis took another gold in Rally.
Dave Mirra dominates the world of freestyle BMX. He is considered the best BMX rider of his time, notable park and vert style, and one of the most respected names of the extreme sports' scene.
Mirra has medaled in every X-Games since they started in 1995. He holds the record for most X-Games medals with 23. He also holds the record of most gold medals with 14.
Mirra has won everything from "Freestyler of The Year" by BMX Magazine to the ESPN Action Sports and Music Award for BMX Rider of the Year in 2000.
Mirra is famous for going big, getting major air, and throwing down those tricks you couldn't even begin to imagine.
Mirra's popularity goes beyond the world of extreme sports. In fact, Mirra is listed as one of the top 10 most recognizable names in sports today, an honor he shares with the likes of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.
Dave Mirra has been dubbed the "Miracle Boy."
"The Flying Tomato" is this professional snowboard/skateboarder's popular nickname. Who is this super-star extreme athlete you ask?
Shaun White, one of the most notable names of the world of extreme sports today.
White was born with a congenital heart defect and had two cardiac surgeries before the age of five.
That has not stopped him!
White has competed in every Winter X-Games since 2002, winning eight medals including the first four-peat by a male athlete in one discipline, the slopestyle.
White has recorded 16 X-Game medals in snowboarding and skateboarding.
In 2006, White won the gold medal in the men’s halfpipe at the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.
In the 2008 Summer X-Games Shaun landed his new signature trick, never been done before, entitled "The Armadillo." Which is a frontside-heelflip-body-varial 540.
Just recently, White is the first snowboarder to win back-to-back gold medals in the Winter X-Games Superpipe.
Tony Hawk is skateboarding.
Tony Hawk is harder on himself than anyone else ever could be. He original and relentless. He has a monstrous list of skateboarding tricks invented, a huge bookshelf of trophies and gold medals, and is easily the most recognizable name in skateboarding.
Hawk has won 16 X-Game medals, 10 of them being of the gold variety.
Hawk is the first recorded skater to land the 900 in the air before landing back on the pipe during the televised June 27, 1999 X Games, for which he received an enormous amount of attention.
Hawk has taken on the business world in many forms, from companies started to charities raised.
Tony Hawk has never settled for anything but his best, and his best skateboarding has earned him the position at the top.
Do I even need to mention the amount of merchandise named after him (e.g. video games)?