Average Joe thinks that life is something to be ordered off of a menu. After waiting in line, he selects a main course, an entrée and dessert – his career, family and hobbies – and then patiently waits in the wings for fate to bake and deliver his order.
There are others, however, who treat life as a roaring river with white-capped rapids and tornado-shaped eddies. They grab an oar, hop a log and ride until the water ends. To borrow a phrase from Henry David Thoreau, they want to “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”
Living deeply often means living dangerously. After all, the closer one is to death, the more alive one feels, no? This has spawned a generation of heli-skiers, skydivers, surfers and other extreme sports athletes. These athletes gorge themselves on the threat of death and the thrill of avoiding it. Unfortunately, living deeply also often means living expensively. Many death-defying athletics are not covered by basic insurance policies, leaving Thor Heyerdahl or Alastair Humphrey hopefuls to dive, ride and swim at their own risk.
Yet perhaps living deeply also means living smartly. Cue extreme sports insurance.
Skydiving, BASE jumping, hang-gliding and wing-gliding are, perhaps, the preeminent extreme sports. Proponents say that plummeting towards terra firma at 120 mph is an experience unparalleled by any other. Opponents say that pretending to be a bird is merely attempted suicide.
Regardless, aerial acrobats should invest in extreme sports insurance. Besides the obvious risk of ending up as a heap of bloody mashed potatoes, aerial sports can cause injury due to botched jumps and rough landings. Financial costs include diving equipment and plane expenses. Insurance policies may cover emergency medical evacuations, physical therapy and hospitalization fees (marble tombstone and epitaph not included). Common policy conditions include the type of dive (tandem, static line or solo), the state of the weather, status of the equipment and the location of the jump. Some aerial extreme sports, such as BASE jumping, are usually illegal in North America and are rarely eligible for insurance, and what is available is costly.
Mountaineers suffer the full wrath of Mother Nature. Falling scree and talus boulders, rickety ice cornices, avalanches, snow blindness, hypothermia, pulmonary edema, cerebral edema, glacier crevasses and moraine labyrinths all linger to snatch the lives of the reckless and unlucky. Alpine mountaineers follow a simply mantra, Murphy’s Law: What can go wrong, will.
Thankfully, numerous insurance companies provide mountaineering insurance policies, including life, personal accident and travel insurance. Conditions may include height of climb measured from sea level, duration of expedition, credibility of outfitter and country of expedition.
Skiing is one of the oldest, most enjoyable and most useful extreme winter sports known to man. Archeologists have found cave carvings of skiers dating to 5000 B.C.E. For most North Americans, however, skiing and its close relative, snowboarding, are ways to enjoy the reign of Jack Frost. Popular types of skiing include alpine (downhill) and cross-country (backcountry); popular styles of snowboarding include half-pipe, slope-style and slalom.
In insurance parlance, snowboarding and skiing are generally considered Level Two risks. For comparison, kayaking giant waterfalls is a Level Four; golf is a Level One. Obtaining travel insurance for recreational skiing or snowboarding is generally simple. However, participants must be careful to snag the right policy. Some will benefit from single-trip policies, while others should choose annual multi-trip plans. Choosing the most appropriate insurance policy guarantees coverage of various medical expenses, baggage costs and travel fees.
Being a scuba diver is much like being an astronaut: Take off the suit at the wrong time, and you’re dead. Thanks to tremendous advances in technology, however, scuba diving is now regarded as safe. Scuba divers prowl coral reefs, subterranean lakes, abandoned mines, frozen fjords and more.
Exempting the few superheroes who delve into the blackness beneath 200 feet, scuba divers should rarely encounter difficulty obtaining the appropriate insurance. Some policies may require a diver certification course as an eligibility requirement. Different types of insurance programs include dive equipment, travel and personal accident insurance. Conditions may include depth of dive, location, experience and solo or guided tour.
Hell on Wheels
Southern California, known by residents as SoCal, has spawned a goodly number of four-wheeled extreme sports, including skateboarding, street luge and downhill longboarding.
Whether grinding a rail or dropping a hill, four-wheeled speed demons should consider two types of insurance: personal accident and public liability. Personal accident insurance may cover emergency evacuation costs, physicians’ fees, hospitalization costs and physical therapy. A public liability policy protects the participant in the event that he or she injures a bystander or damages someone else’s property. Due to the sports’ youthful, urban demographic, coverage may be difficult to obtain for amateur participants.
The Land Down Under
Caving, also known as spelunking or potholing, is the act of being a mole for fun. Caves house some of the most peculiar life and sights on the planet. Famous caves in America include Carlsbad Caverns, Mammoth Cave, Ape Cave, Wind Cave and Jewel Cave.
Although it has come a long way from its candle-lit origins, caving remains a hobby for the patient, the curious and the non-claustrophobic. While public cave tours are quite safe, expert explorers face risks from falling rocks, flooding, hypothermia, fatigue and going astray – “Which way did we turn again?” Spelunker’s insurance is a relatively new phenomenon, and is more popular in Europe than in North America. However, policies for dedicated cavers may cover emergency evacuation fees, search and rescue costs and – gulp – return (repatriation) of mortal remains.
General Insurance Policy Information
1. Preexisting conditions are generally not covered.
2. Insurance is generally easier to obtain for non-contact related sports than contact sports.
3. Professionals often require different insurance than amateurs.
4. Extreme sports of similar risk are often grouped in policy packages.
5. Unclaimed participation in extreme sports may disqualify policy holders from their regular life insurance coverage.