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Psychology and Extreme Sports

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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00225

Ageing Adventure Athletes Assess Achievements and Alter Aspirations to Maintain Self-Esteem

  • 1International Chair in Ecotourism Research, Griffith University, Australia

Achievements and capabilities influence the self-esteem of skilled adventure athletes. Self-esteem affects individual mental health. Ageing commonly reduces adventure capabilities. To avoid loss in self-esteem, ageing adventure athletes are forced to adjust their aspirations. Here I examine this process using participant observation, ethnographic and autoethnographic approaches. The qualitative data for this analysis are derived from 60 years’ experience in outdoor adventure activities, and ~30,000 person-hours of participant observation. I argue that individuals assess their own capabilities against a set of specific feats. For some activities, successful completion of a specific feat is known as nailing it. The selection of these feats depends on factors such as activity and geographic location, as well as individual experience and peer comparisons. I examine the detailed process using a single feat repeated over a period of decades, the bubble-line kayak run through Lava Falls on the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. I compare other examples of nail or fail to construct a general framework for self-esteem in ageing adventure athletes, with both physical and psychological feedback loops. I also identify two key thresholds, as ageing adventure athletes recognise their declining skills. These may apply to ageing more broadly, beyond outdoor adventure.

Keywords: Health, Extreme, Outdoor, nature, rafting, Kayaking, Participant, Observation, ethnography

Received: 16 Nov 2017; Accepted: 09 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Eric Brymer, Leeds Beckett University, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Mike Boyes, University of Otago, New Zealand
Mark Hickman, University of Central Lancashire, Cyprus  

Copyright: © 2018 Buckley. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Ralf C. Buckley, Griffith University, International Chair in Ecotourism Research, Southport, Australia,