There are some activities that the traditionalists in the world of sport would be well advised to avoid. They involve too much daring, too much flair and far too much fun.
Yet while the emphasis in these pursuits might be on style and sheer enjoyment, they require as much skill, dedication and elbow grease as any of their traditional-athletics counterparts. Thus, the World Alternative Sportsperson of the Year is chosen from nominees who broke new ground in the areas of gravity, speed, balance and control.
Layne Beachley (Australia), surfer: To Beachley’s competitors, 2000 must have seemed like one long wipeout. The 28-year-old Sydney native finished the year as the top-ranked female surfer in the world. And in a rare double-up, she was the champion of the Assn. of Surfing Professionals and the World Championship Tour for the second consecutive year.
She accomplished the latter by winning the Billabong Pro in Australia, outdistancing her closest foe in the WCT ratings by 1,420 points; no other placing was separated by more than 545.
What’s more, though no one keeps score, Ballard is one of the few women accepted in the highly competitive boys club of big-wave surfers.
Tara Dakides (United States), snowboarder: In an endeavor where the tricks are the trade, the 25-year-old Dakides continues to dazzle the judges.
She won the Big Air contest at the 2000 ESPN Winter X Games in Stowe, Vt., as well as the Slopestyle event. The native of Mission Viejo, Calif., also finished first in the snowboard quarterpipe competition at the 2000 Gravity Games in Mammoth, Calif.
Standing just 5 feet 5 inches, she has also found world-class success in surfing and motocross.
Mike Horn (South Africa), equator circumnavigator: Horn, 34, first gained international recognition from fellow extreme adventurers in 1992, when he paraglided from the summit of Peru’s Huascaran glacier — an altitude of over 22,000 feet — and he’s been looking for new frontiers ever since.
Last year, he completed the Latitude O (degrees) project, a solo circling of the globe at the equator without the help of motors, using only his own power. He arrived in Gabon, Africa, on Oct. 28 after completing the circumnavigation in less than 17 months. He traveled 5,200 miles on foot and mountain bike, and additional 16,142 nautical miles by trimaran.
Davo Karnicar (Slovenia), skier-mountain climber: No one had ever reached the summit of Mount Everest and then skiied down — until Karnicar came along, that is. Others tried, but the 38-year-old Karnicar was the first willing to negotiate the treacherous Hillary Step. Karnicar tackled the 300-foot, 60-degree wall immediately after dropping off Everest’s summit.
In five hours, Karnicar skied from the summit to base camp– a drop of 11,500 vertical feet — without taking off his skis. He prepared for his adventure in the spring of 2000 by skiing both Triglav, Slovenia’s highest mountain, and Mont Blanc, the tallest peak in the Alps.
John Stamstad (United States), endurance mountain biker: His nickname is “Stamina Man,” and it requires a certain amount of stamina just to read his accomplishments.
Last year, he won the Iditasport Extreme, a mountain bike race that runs along the famous Iditarod Trail in Alaska. He came in first in the solo category of the 2000 Subaru Gorge Games 24-Hour Race, and he also triumphed in the 24 Hours of Snowshoe.
While he finished second in the 24 Hours of Moab last year, he did so while riding a single-speed bike. The 35-year-old Stamstad was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame last year.