The coach of the San Francisco Forty-Niners visited California’s Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and performed push-ups with a 1,750-pound walrus. Bazaar as that seems, Jim Harbaugh’s push-ups with a walrus is only the latest crazy athletic stunt.
Free-falling from nearly 130,000 above the earth, surfing with a Great White shark and doing “Dillies” into a pool are a few of the others that would have made Harbaugh proud. Austrian sky diver Felix Baumgartner set a world record when he jumped from a balloon some 24 miles above the earth. Wearing a special pressurized suit to protect him from the extreme velocity and cold air, he reached a speed of Mach 1 during his descent. His jump lasted four minutes, 19 seconds, just short of the world record for time during free fall.
One of the most extreme stunts was pulled off, literally, by a 25-year-old Australian surfer. Oceanside spectators watched with curiosity as he rode along on his surfboard pulling a large chunk of bloody meat behind him attached to a fish line. But then a Great White Shark took the bait and swam with away, pulling the surfer with it. The man rode along at some 30 mph until he let go of the fishing line. The spectators were alarmed, but he wasn’t bothered, as the Great White swam away, still holding the chunk of meat.
Men are not the only athletes doing crazy things. The Clemson women’s diving team performs a stunt they call “Dillies.” In the beginning of the stunt, one woman stands at the end of a diving board high above the pool. The other sprints to her and they lock arms and do a somersault in the air, landing feet first in the water.
There are more examples to prove Jim Harbaugh’s push-ups with a walrus is only the latest crazy athletic stunt. Birdmen and birdwomen free-fall like sky divers, but land without a parachute. Instead, they wear birdman suits, sky diving suits with webbing between the arms and legs and body that actually act as wings. The athletes leap from airplanes, balloons or extremely high towers. They glide for up to three minutes and land when a rip cord is pulled. The sport began in the 1930s, and it’s estimated that 72 of the first 75 participants were killed. A safer suit was developed in the 1990s, and the population of birdmen and women today numbers more than 2,000.
Jumping high while a speeding car flashes underneath your feet is not a stunt for the faint-hearted. But a number of athletes relish the opportunity. Among them is basketball start Kobe Bryant, who tested his famous vertical leap while an Aston Martin sped beneath him.
One memorable athletic stunt was not crazy at all; it was the game between Michigan State and North Carolina on Veterans Day in 2011. The game, attended by President Barack Obama, was staged aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and was attended by more than 8,000 of the ship’s servicemen. The game was intended to honor all U.S. armed forces and the court, lights and seating were all placed on the ship’s flight deck.
With all of these extreme stunts in mind, it clear that Jim Harbaugh’s push-ups with a walrus is only the latest crazy athletic stunt.
By B. David Warner