Extreme sports from a personal perspective
February 6, 2003
Extreme sports aren’t for everyone. They are, well, “extreme” by definition. While some people enjoy participating in them, the X Games on ESPN proves that others prefer watching them.
Extreme armchair-athletes will enjoy a new book on adventure sports written by East Coast dweller Bruce Genereaux. Genereaux comes from a family of outdoor enthusiasts, and his style of writing is autobiographical and semisolipsistic.
The book focuses on his experiences pursuing extreme sports and examining what drove him to participate in them.
His self-examination isn’t boorish and overwhelming in the “Enough about me, what do you think about me?” mold. Instead, his tales are punctuated with insightful feeling and a sense of learning about oneself.
The title, “Beyond the Comfort Zone: Confessions of an extreme sports junkie,” shows what seem to be differing views of the book by author and publisher. The cover art and layout push the extreme sports angle, with chapters coming as one adventure after another in this author’s whirlwind life. But the writing is full of the emotional tumult that accompanies adventure, and tries to fit the events into the larger puzzle of life.
It isn’t all glory in this pursuit. Genereaux doesn’t hesitate to talk of his failure on Yosemite’s El Capitan. While inept partners seem to get the brunt of blame, what keeps the narrative from devolving into finger-pointing is the fact that he does admit to his own shortcomings and the experience toughens him for another try.
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Discussing an accident on the Kern Valley’s Dry Meadow Creek, Genereaux openly admits to backing off from running that particular stretch of river, and watches as the rescue scenario unfolds. His narrative is quick and lively, and keeps the pages turning during this and most of the adventures.
Black and white photographs sprinkled liberally through the book are nothing spectacular, but it’s not intended to be a coffee table book. The photos add to each chapter, helping to visually tell the tales without distracting from the text. The hand drawn maps are well done and orient the reader beautifully. The self-examination in the book doesn’t quite rise to the level of David Roberts — a more acclaimed outdoor writer who artfully achieves the balance between emotion and action in adventure stories — but it doesn’t distract too much either. And any reader can enjoy the wilds of Chile, New Zealand, Patagonia, as well as those of California, all without leaving the comfort of their living room.
Colin Hupp may be reached at email@example.com