Tired of the same old family routine? Looking for something different to do with your family that will get you all active and enjoying quality time together? You should consider getting involved with an extreme sport to boost health and communication while creating solid family memories!
But which activity will be the best for your family? From what equipment you need and safety processes you should be aware of, to relevant trivia and a look at the origins of each sport, Chill Factore, home to the UK’s longest indoor skiing slope, explores the nation’s best extreme sports for families…
From moving up indoor climbing walls to scaling cliff faces outdoors, rock climbing is an adrenaline-pumping activity that is excellent for getting kids fully engaged in sport. But where did it all begin? Rock climbing started to become a loved sport around the end of the 1800s, with the Lake District considered one of three, major ‘birthplaces of rock climbing’ (the others are in Italy and Germany).
Of course, as popularity for the sport grew in the 1940s and 1950s, so did the demand for safety equipment and climbing aids, which made the activity more accessible for younger people and families. From steel carabiners to nylon ropes, technology has helped to propel rock climbing into mainstream sport. Today, you can climb all over the UK — both at indoor venues and on outdoor walls — and the sport has grading system that rates the difficulty of a climb and the climber’s skill to help make the sport even safer — but still just as exciting!
Benefits of rock climbing for families
- Builds upper and lower body strength.
- Enhances problem-solving skills (i.e. considering the best route for reaching the top).
- Encourages concentration.
Rock climbing as a family
As we mentioned, there are plenty of places to rock climb with your family. If you’re just starting out, make sure you choose an instructing company with a high customer rating — especially for safety and teaching. The Association of British Climbing Walls is a good place to start if you’re looking for a climbing wall in your area.
In rock climbing, you’ll notice that you use your lower limbs more than your upper limbs — great to boost fitness and strength but may be tough for little ones at first. Although you and your family will improve in time, it may be worth opting for a few indoor sessions until you’re all confident with the height and physical strain. Once your family feels ready and has learned a few techniques, why not book an outdoor climbing session? There are lots of packages at popular landmarks across the UK and you can even make it into a weekend away.
Snowkiting — or kite skiing — is an exciting winter sport that is growing in popularity. Generally, the snowkiting season runs from October until June, with the best time to go snowkiting being around Christmas time — ideal for a winter sun or festive family break with a difference. In snowkiting, your family will use the power of a kite to board or ski over snow. After time, you can learn to pull off big jumps and land with ease, plus you have the opportunity to snowkite over frozen lakes which offers an unforgettable experience.
Snowkiting has been around for only a few years as a serious sport, but it was born out of a fusion of snowboarding and the growing demand by sporting fans for foil kites (an aeroplane wing shaped cloth structure). Although the US and France are both touted as being the sport’s origin, snowkiting is now available across Europe and North America in resorts such as Tirol and Haugastøl.
Benefits of snowkiting for families
- Improves balance and coordination.
- Allows you to breath in fresh, unpolluted air.
- Uses all major muscle groups.
Snowkiting as a family
As the most popular time for family holidays tends to be during the summer, booking a winter getaway is a great way to beat the seasonal blues. When considering snowkiting as a family, bear in mind that this is not a simple activity to master and there are risks involved — so only book a session that is designed for youngsters by a reputable company.
Dressing can be your downfall. Snowkiting is an intense aerobic activity and you can easily overheat, so wear layers — including a helmet and snow shoes — that you can easily remove and put back on. You’ll also need goggles and gloves to make sure your vision is not impaired, and your hands stay warm and easy to move. There are excellent kids’ snow gear available online but check with the snowkiting company first to see if you can simply hire what you need on the day.
In snowkiting, you can wear a board or skis, so ask your child which they feel more comfortable wearing to help them get to grips with the sport. It also might be a good idea to book your child a few extra snow lessons at a venue in the UK prior to your holiday to make sure they’re refreshed on how to hold themselves on the slopes!
Rafting is a top extreme sport for families. Encouraging team work and a great way to explore British waterways and countryside, it’s no surprise that families opt for rafting experiences to enjoy quality time together.
Brits have rafted for decades and you can book rafting excursions from a huge range of watersports companies and tours. The British Canoeing organisation — the UK’s national governing body for paddlesports — has been around since 1936, while the International Scale of River Difficulty is adopted by most nations to rate rapids to help keep rafters safe.
With destinations like the River Tummel in Scotland, Tryweryn River in Wales and River Derwent in England; there’s no need to pay for flights abroad with this extreme sport. The UK is filled with waterways and sailing is obviously a huge part of British history. But did you know that the first rubber river raft was invented nearly 200 years ago by US soldiers?
Benefits of rafting for families
- Helps boost communication, as your family must speak clearly to each other to navigate the boat.
- Allows for family bonding — no time for, or place to keep, phones and tablets on board.
- Enhances self-esteem and gives a feeling of accomplishment. You and your family can track your journey and take on key roles on board to make sure you reach the end safely.
Rafting as a family
But what do you need to bear in mind when it comes to rafting with your family? Obviously, there are some risks involved with rafting, so we’d always recommend making group bookings that provide an on-board instructor. If you haven’t done this sport before, you’ll need to wear synthetic layers (e.g. long-sleeve shirts and trousers), life jacket, windproof jacket, and helmet. Renting a wetsuit might be a good idea, too, and you’ll need to make sure you have rescue throw bags, if your rafting company doesn’t provide you with these.
Get involved with an extreme sport today and help get your family become healthier and closer!