X-treme: High and dry
Saturday 02 May 1998
"It's totally awesome," says Mike Frost who, as a skydiver, has been throwing himself out of flying objects for years, and sky-surfing for five. "Sky-surfing is one of the most extreme sports in the world. There's virtually nothing that can touch it. People talk about extreme sports, but this is really out there on the limit."
Like a fantastic plot from a DC comic, 25-year-old Frost is a suit-wearing city financier on the ground. When in free-fall mode, he's the current British Sky-Surfing Champion, the extrovert guy who's pictured sky-surfing in the Extreme Polo Sport advertising campaign, and the last person that you'd expect to be frightened of heights (but maybe he just said that to make me feel better after I hastily turned down his offer to jump with him).
"I saw sky surfing on television and thought it looked incredible," he reveals. "They were `carving' at speeds of over 120 miles an hour. When you're up there getting thrown around the sky, it's the best feeling that you can have."
Frost first jumped with a snowboard, before progressing to a specially designed board made for sky-surfing. Costing around pounds 600, these weigh a mere three pounds and offer greater rigidity than a flexible snowboard. The former "feels like standing on concrete," according to Frost.
Most sky-surfers will have at least 100 skydiving jumps behind them before they take up the sport and know exactly how the human body can be manoeuvred in such conditions. Safety can never be compromised and sky-surfing is essentially a sport of discipline.
"Imagine spinning at five revs a second. The blood pools in your arms because you're spinning so fast," Frost claims. "It's faster than a jet pilot will experience. It's very demanding on the body and I train a lot to stay fit. When you're doing lots of jumps in one day you become physically shattered and you're in bed by 6pm."
One of the highlights of his career was finishing fifth in last year's World Air Games. Frost and his partner Andy Ford (who films the action), are sponsored by Sony Playstation, and were the only amateur team to beat professional pairs from around the world.
Twenty three teams competed over 10 rounds, with points being awarded for artistic merit and camera work. As both men fly through the air, Ford's camera work is just as important as the aeriel manoeuvres that Frost performs for the 50-second duration of the routine. The judges award high marks for camera shots that are aesthetically innovative and difficult to execute. The best teams meticulously choreograph their routines and always work as a unit.
"Andy films about three feet away from me, so we have to know how close we are to each other," Frost says. "I can accelerate and spin at incredible speeds, so we both know the routines inside out. A lot of trust is involved. When he dives over the top of me, we pass within a foot of each other. He flies at my head and I drop to an inverted position. At the same time, Andy inverts his position as he passes over me. In the viewfinder, (and the picture on the screen that the judges see), it looks like I'm standing still on the board but the world goes upside-down
"We didn't expect to place that high," he continues, "and we were really pleased with our performance. But the work we did then isn't a patch on the routines that we can do now."
Ford and Frost are the only British sky-surfers invited to this summer's X Games (extreme sports' equivalent of the Olympics) in California this June. For once, British competitors will be head and shoulders above the competition.
Mike Frost runs the School of Modern Skydiving at RAF Western. Courses include eight lessons with qualified instructors, for around pounds 1,500, plus a skydiving qualification on completion. Telephone 01869 343 343 for an information pack on skydiving
Extreme Polo Sport is designed for all extremists of action or attitude with a passionate need to be different. We have 10 bottles of this new fragrance to give away. For a chance to win "Adrenaline in a Bottle", send a postcard to: Extreme Polo Sport Comp, c/o Alister Morgan on X-treme, The Independent, 1 Canada Sq, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL by 18 April
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