5 reasons to try an extreme sport
PUBLISHED: 17:30 15 August 2018 | UPDATED: 09:53 08 November 2018
Barking and Dagenham is home to Better Extreme, London's largest indoor skatepark. Whatever your discipline, be it skateboarding, inline, BMX or scootering, there's a challenge waiting for you.
Extreme sports popularity is only set to grow thanks to skateboarding’s inclusion in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
Nearby Hornchurch is home to Europe’s only listed skatepark, built in the late 1970s, and Better Extreme, inside the Barking Sporthouse in Mayesbrook Park, hopes to carry the torch for extreme sports in the area for years to come.
Here are five great reasons to give extreme sports a shot.
1. It’s a great form of exercise
If you’re worried about your child being stuck inside during the holidays, or maybe staring out from a treadmill leaves you dreading your next workout, extreme sports are a great way to keep active.
Skateboarding in particular works your core, your legs, and helps build stamina. It’s also a great confidence builder.
“It’s very different to a team sport like football,” says Better Extreme duty manager Warren Stafford, himself a skateboarder of 15 years.
With British weather being what it is, a trip to Better Extreme is a great indoor activity for kids and adults alike, as outdoor parks can sometimes turn into swimming pools during a downpour!
2. Build confidence
Skateboarding, and other sports like it, is ultimately down to the individual; someone can show you a trick, but you need to work out how to do it your own way.
It can take 100s of hours of practice, but there’s nothing like the feeling of finally nailing a trick you’ve been practising for weeks or even months on end.
3. It’s safer than you might think
Skateboarding, BMX, and freestyle scootering are extreme sports, so they are not entirely without risk.
The park can hold 60 people all carving up at the same time. So it’s good to know that Better Extreme marshalls are on hand to make sure everyone is safe and having a good time.
Similar to lifeguards at a swimming pool, they are a big factor in why parents in particular choose to take them here.
However, the park users themselves play a part in keeping things safe as well, as Warren explains.
“Having marshalls who know the facility and have the same passion and enthusiasm as the park users is great, but a big part of the community is looking out for each other. Skaters don’t just look out for skaters here; everyone does their bit.”
If accidents do happen, it’s good to know that all marshalls are first-aid trained.
4. Make new friends
Something Warren and the rest of the park staff are trying to do is encourage more girls and women into the sport by hosting girls-only competitions and sessions.
Unfortunately, in extreme sports it can be quite a male-dominated sphere, but the response from everyone to the sessions has been really positive. Some of the girls now come down regularly, and have become part of the community.
“You see it week by week; individual groups who at first arrive separately begin getting to know each other and end up making friends.”
5. Try something new
“With skateboarding, BMXing or scooter riding, you can’t just be given a handbook and then you’re good to go!” says Warren.
“Knowledge comes with time, but we’re always on hand to help pass that on and help where we can.”If you or your little one is struggling to tell your nollies from your ollies, or want to learn a new trick, you can get some expert one-to-one advice at Better Extreme.
£10 gets you a one-hour lesson with one of the park staff members, and an hour’s freeskate session after. Included in the price is board, helmet and kneepad hire, so all you need to do is turn up on the day.
Better Extreme also has a shop on site stocked with essential supplies for skateboarders sourced from Altar Skateshop over the river in Dartford, and the team is on hand to help troubleshoot any problems with your board.
What’s in the park?
If bowls are more of your thing, Better Extreme’s unique, keyhole-shaped beachwood bowl is 6 feet deep with a 2ft extension, packing some perfect lines to carve and an ultra-smooth ride. There are also 3,500 square feet of mini ramp terrain for intermediate to advanced riders.
The street zone is packed with ledges, flatbars, eurogaps, hips, rails and A-frames to test any veteran street skater.
Professional skaters have discovered the park as well, and you can see the marks they leave impossibly high up the walls coming off the ramps.
“When the pros hit this place they absolutely kill it,” says Warren.
“It’s great seeing it used to its full potential. When the youngsters see guys like that they’re in awe, and so am I!
“Skateboarding gets a bad press, but especially in facilities like this you can bring people together regardless of their age or ability.”
How much does it cost?
Adults - £7.95
Under-16s - £5.95
If you’re planning on coming more than four times a month, a monthly membership will give you massive savings, plus you’ll get a wristband so you can come and go throughout the day.
Monthly memberships start from £34.95 for adults, and £24.95 for under-16s. Pay annually and the savings are even greater.
For park opening times, prices, and details on equipment hire, visit extreme.better.org.uk/barking