08 September 2016
Red alert! Extreme sporting action ahead
Red Bull have become synonymous with every kind of extreme sport, from wakeboarding to wingsuit-flying. And in our Year of Adventure, it’s no surprise that they’ve adopted Wales as the perfect adrenaline destination.
They’re holding two of their global events in Wales this month: Red Bull Cliff Diving on Sunday 11 September, followed a week later by the toughest downhill mountain bike race in the world, Red Bull Hardline.
Both events are sold out (boo!) but if you didn’t snag a ticket, you can still watch them online – and, may we humbly suggest, come and have your own epic adventures in Wales. So here’s everything you need to know about Red Bull’s passion for flinging themselves off/down tall things in Wales… and how you can get a piece of the action.
Red Bull Cliff Diving
The 2016 series is the biggest yet, with nine stages around the world. This is Red Bull’s third visit to the Blue Lagoon, one of the most dramatic spots in the entire 186-mile Pembrokeshire National Park coastline (and, for that matter, the whole 870-mile Welsh coast). It’s an old slate quarry that’s been picturesquely swamped by the sea.
So what does cliff diving actually involve?
The competitors – 14 men and eight women – jump off a platform 27m above the water, which is roughly the height of an eight-storey building. They perform a series of acrobatic twists and somersaults during their three-second descent, hit the water at around 85kph, decelerating to zero in less than a second. They land feet-first. They’re not daft.
Sounds fun. Can I have a bash?
No, sorry. Red Bull take the 27m diving platform away with them. They need it for the final rounds in Bosnia, Japan and Dubai. But you can still swim in or paddle around the Blue Lagoon any time you like, for free. It’s managed by the National Trust, but anyone can enjoy it – it’s a five-minute walk (or kayak) from the car park in Abereiddy. You can also go coasteering there.
Excuse me? Coasteering?
Coasteering, the adventure sport invented here in Pembrokeshire. It’s a mixture of swimming, scrambling and jumping along the coast. Quite a few companies do it, and Abereiddy is a hotspot. You don’t have to, but there’s an optional 15m jump into the Blue Lagoon. We’ve done it, and it’s brilliant. Mind you, we were wearing a helmet, wetsuit and buoyancy aid, and not just a pair of little Speedos.
Anything slightly less adrenaline-y to do?
Loads. The coast is a stunning place to walk, packed with bird and marine life. There’s also kayaking, canoeing, surfing, paddle-boarding, rock climbing, foraging, rock-pooling – in other words, adventures for all ages, with as little (or as much) scary-factor as takes your fancy.
This is the hardest downhill mountain bike race in the world, designed to stretch the boundaries of what’s possible on two wheels. This year they’ve invited 19 of the world’s best riders to tame the beast, a hellish four-minute descent in the heavenly surroundings of Dinas Mawddwy, in the south-east corner of the beautiful Snowdonia National Park. It happens on September 18.
So how hard is it?
On a scale of one to ten? Ooh, about ninety-four. Put it like this, in 2015 only eight riders made it through the practice sessions intact to tackle the final run. It’s brutal. This year’s course has been tweaked slightly, but it’s still teetering on the impossible. We’ll find out soon enough.
Whose idea was this?
Dan Atherton, elder brother of fellow pro-riders and multi-world champions Gee and Rachel. Born in Salisbury, the three moved to Wales because, well, that’s where the best mountain biking is. Red Bull gave Dan the funding to create the world’s toughest course – and Hardline is the result.
Extreme Mountain Biking
Have you got anything less, um, gnarly?
Sure thing, chicken wing. We’ve got seven purpose-built Mountain Bike Centres dotted around Wales, and 10 Mountain Bike Bases (specialist areas with waymarked or mapped trails). Between them, we’ve got hundreds of miles of off-road, ranging from the easy-peasy novice-friendly, to the scary-elephant experts-only.
I look better in neon Lycra
Don’t we all? Wales is superb for road cyclists, as Sir Dave Brailsford told us: “Wales has some of the most unbelievably fantastic scenery and roads. Cyclists like quiet lanes, and cyclists like climbs. The environment, the topography, the scenery, the lakes, the coast, the relatively calm traffic – it all makes it just brilliant, one of the most untapped areas of enjoyable cycling.”
Where to watch
Both Red Bull events are sold out, sorry. Ticket numbers are limited to make sure everyone stays safe. But you can watch all the action online here:
Sunday 11 September, 2.50pm
Sunday 18 September
Wet n’ wild activities in Pembrokeshire
MTB and cycling in Wales