To the Extreme

Though extreme sports surfaced years ago with activities like skydiving and surfing, these nontraditional sports--typically involving high levels of speed, height and danger--have yet to reach NFL proportions.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the March 2008 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

But the past decade has seen exponential growth in the number of extreme sports. In 1995, the first X Games were held, featuring various competitions in motocross, skateboarding and more. Two years later came the Winter X Games, which helped bring snowboarding to the Winter Olympics that year.

Today, extreme sports are garnering more popularity, as more companies are seeing opportunity in the market's hip, daring, 10- to 30-year-old demographic. "It's amazing to see where [extreme sports] are right now," says lifelong skateboarder Ryan Farrelly, 29. "It's because of what kids are doing: They're pushing the limits."

In 2003, Farrelly and partner Jason Galoob, 30, launched Freeline Skates using an innovative product Farrelly had invented. In the most basic sense, the skates consist of a skateboard chopped in half, which means each side can move independently on its own wheelbase. It's something the industry has never seen, creating a new way for extremers to test the boundaries--and pushing the San Diego company's 2008 sales projections to $5.5 million.

"The extreme sports market is all about innovation and creativity," explains Brian Spencer, 37, co-founder of extreme pogo stick company Vurtego. "If you give kids a high-performance product, they'll make it sing." Spencer and his dad, Bruce, first toyed around with the idea of a pogo stick for adults in 1999. The Mission Viejo, California, company demoed the stick at the 2002 Winter Olympics festivities to rave reviews and released the final product in 2006. Spencer, who saw sales of more than $250,000 last year, admits that introducing a new extreme sports product and category was challenging, but he's optimistic about the direction of the industry, and he expects sales to double this year.

Kiteboarding is another sport that's picking up speed in the industry. It involves a large kite that propels the rider across land, snow or water on a kiteboard, landboard, skis, snowboard or surfboard. Extreme sports enthusiast Alex Shogren got hooked on kiteboarding after selling his internet business to spend time abroad. "Originally, I looked at starting a kite company to write off my travel expenses," says Shogren, 39. "But when I researched the industry, I realized there was a huge opportunity." He started Delray Beach, Florida-based Best Kiteboarding ( in 2003, and it has since become a global name, generating eight-figure sales last year. Though Shogren estimates there are only about 250,000 kiteboarders, he sees tremendous potential as the sport becomes more affordable, easier to learn and safer--aspects his innovative Waroo kite, which hit the market in 2006, has helped improve.

So, as the market's thrill-seeking consumers crave bigger jumps, sicker tricks and more air, there will be room for further growth and innovation on the horizon, leaving plenty of extreme opportunities for entrepreneurs to look forward to.

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