Children, Adventure, Extreme Sport and Death

This is a bit of a controversial post. You may have strong views about what you are about to read. Please check out the poll in the end, and also give your valuable constructive opinion.

July 5 2013 the 12 year old Tito Traversa died in a climbing accident in Italy. Tito was an experienced and strong climber. Manslaughter charges has been filed for his death . You can view a clip of the suspected mechanics of the failure leading to his death here. Soon thereafter in August a 16 year old died in a whitewater rafting accident, while on a commercial trip in West Virginia.

Adventure Sport is growing in popularity among children. It provides activity that is fun, generally not set in a ‘I-must-win-or-else’ environment but still provides morale boosting challenges. It also has that ‘cool’ factor at school. Children are capable of amazing feats. They are agile, and have not yet developed decades of limitations and fears that are programmed into an adult’s mind over time. The following clip below is of a 4 year old kid lead climbing, and showing a lot of skill and technical finesse:

Some kids even become masters of their sport, and can compete side by side with adults (which in itself I think is awesome). Check out the clips below of 11 year old rock climbing genius Brooke Raboutou, white water kayking whizz Sage Donnely and a clip on Ski Kids:

Now fatal accidents in adventure and extreme sport is very rare. As a matter of fact accidents in these activities are rare in general. My opinion is that firstly, the risk of ‘mundane’ and ‘safe’ activities are generally underestimated, secondly that where an activity poses potential for serious harm or death we become more vigilant and safety aware.

Most people take safety very serious when children are involved, as can be seen in the session in the clip below:

The topic of children participating in high risk activities has been debated for a long time. The Sports Law Canary, a blog by specialists in sports legislation discussed this three years ago under the topic Child Endangerment and Extreme Adventure. It seems that adventure and extreme sports remains unregulated until people die – even more so when children die.

Parents starting lawsuits when their children die also encourages government regulation of activities. Fatal accidents in adventure dampens the growth of the sport and its industry (which many people rely on for a living). The bottom line – nobody wants to see a children die.

Now should the participation of children in high risk activities be stopped? Should this program, developing autistic kids be canned – just because other kids died in related activities? Should the family in the clip below be prevented by a government to spend time with their kids in an activity of their choosing?

Personally I don’t think so. Adventure has so much potential to develop children into well balanced adults. It is a tool in the rehabilitation and development of kids with disadvantages in life. It provides opportunities to build that important and often neglected family bond.

In my opinion the catch lies not with the children, but with the parents. In todays demanding high paced life many parents find it just too convenient to transfer their responsibility to a group (commercial or non-profit) who can keep their kids ‘busy’ for them. Parents who push their children to achieve the dreams they themselves could not achieve and in doing so put their children at risk.

I feel that if a parent want to expose their child to adventure and extreme sport, they should firstly take the responsibility onto themselves. Get familiar with the activity. Get personally involved in the activity. Where physically possible, join with the child in the activity (where not, get personally involved in the organization of the activity). Know the risks you expose your child to.Accept the risks you expose your child to. Make yourself competent to do so. Accept the potential consequences before exposing your child.

Please vote, and give your opinion in the comments.


About Franz Fuls

Adventurer Freelance Journalist Photographer Bunny Hugger Engineer January 2014 I depart on a 2,500km eco-expedition called Triwaters Tour. The website link is in my profile. Go check it out.

12 comments on “Children, Adventure, Extreme Sport and Death

  1. Great article Franz, keep em comin man!

  2. I do believe that in this world of extreme commercial activities just like adults, parents too rely on their guides to make the correct call. The reason why people go to commercial operators is due to the obvious, they have not sufficient knowledge for themselves to do the activity. Where ever you have a death in activities you should always have an investigation, whether it be children or adults. So in my opinion that is why you have guides in place to make these calls for the families and individuals alike.

    Great topic, keep it up Franz..!

  3. In general, the smaller and cuter a person is, the sadder it is when they are injured, therefore the more precautions must be taken. In many places, exceptionally tall or ugly children don’t even have to wear helmets.

  4. Reblogged this on The Trailblazer Guide and commented:

    Im keeping this post open for a while before I do an analysis. Please vote on the poll and share!

  5. I have been guiding adults and kids on all sorts of adventure activites for 18 years now and there is no specific age that I can think of that one can say this is a good age to start at. The biggest limit to a childs ability to handle adventure/fear/stress/life in general is the parent.
    Example 1, Dane & Emily Jackson Kayaking superstars. Their parents are both adventurers and so both kids have been outside taking and dealing with risks since an extremely young age ( I met them when Dane was 5 and Em was 8 or 9 and they had both been outside and adventuring since they could walk) both kids by then could judge their physical and mental limits in most situations better than most adults.
    Example 2. 85%-90% of the couple of thousand children I do adventure activities with every year.Many Kids are protected by overly protective/paranoid parents from any potentially stressfull/fearful/selfsupporting(not sure if that is a word)/physically challenging/mentally challenging situations. These kids generally have no idea of what their mental or physical abilities are. any situation that the child finds stressfull/difficult is then seen by the child as a situation that they cannot handle and they give up becuase they believe they can’t do it, it takes a lot of motivation/coaxing to get this child to carry on with the adventure at hand. This is not becuase the child is physically or mentally un-able to do the adventure but purely because parents are overly protective/paranoid and instead of allowing children to push themselves in controlled environments and learn to assess their own abilities/comfort levels the parents make the decision for the kids and the kids eventually believe they cant do anything by them selves/have no faith in their own abilities. It is this debilitating fear that is the problem in adventure activities wether high or low risk.

    So there is no correct age for starting out youngsters on adventure activities, it varies to much, general guidelines from companies are set for the average youngster out there and often min age requirements are not from the companies own experience of youngsters on the specific activity but just an accepted industry norm. But often the choice of whether a child is to be allowed to do an activity is up to the guide/professional.

    In my own opinion a suitable age fr exposure is from as early as possible 6mths-1yr( I am not saying take the baby down the Zambezi in a topo-duo but I am saying take the baby with when you are going to spend the day playboating at gatsien on the Vaal) because hopefully by then the new parents have become accustomed to the child and realized that the child is tough as nails and the earlier you get them out there missioning around the safer and happier they will be able to handle it when they become bigger.

  6. […] In August I posted a piece on Children participating in extreme sport and high risk activity. I asked you to think about recent incidents, but also to see kids having fun in a serious environment. […]

  7. […] this one on the preparedness of adventurers for an emergency and analysed risk in adventure, like this story on children in high risk […]

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