Arts & Entertainment | December 12, 2016 9:00 am

The Most WTF?!-Inducing Human Achievements of 2016

Starting with that lunatic who skydived into a trapeze net

Most are familiar with Thoreau’s famous mood killer: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

To which we would add: “… and limited expedition.”

Translation: We’re almost at the end of 2016. How many mountains did you climb? How many oceans did you traverse? Did you take time away from the humdrum of daily life to test your valor in the face of Mother Nature’s raw, brutal, inexorable power?

Because these men did. And we’ve compiled their transatlantic voyages and assorted world-record ascents, jumps and stunts not only to honor their achievements, but also to remind the rest of you (and ourselves) to do better than a climate-controlled drive to a luxury cabin in 2017.

It helps to know that Chris Bertish won the infamous Mavericks surf contest back in 2010. After besting waves that have claimed lives, Bertish voyaging solo across the Atlantic Ocean on a paddleboard seems slightly more reasonable. The 42-year-old South African left Agadir, Morocco, on the morning of December 6th in his $120,000 custom craft (it’s a little more durable than the paddleboard you cruise around on at the lake). He plans to arrive in Florida four months from now; you can track his progress on a map on his website.

Not sure what it is about 42-year-olds, but another one, Luke Aikins, jumped out of a plane without a parachute, wingsuit or any other means of survival besides a 100-by-100-foot net. Two days before the feat, the Times reported, “the screen actors’ union, issued a ‘do not work’ order barring its members from taking part in the production unless Mr. Aikins agreed to wear a parachute.” The order was dropped while he was in the plane ascending to 25,000 feet. 

In April, Martin Frey became the first person to scale the Seven Summits and sail the Seven Seas. If you’re interested in replicating his 11-year expedition, and maybe need a refresher on those summits and seas, he published a map of his travels that includes helpful points like the starting and ending ports of his nautical voyages.

In 2009, Valery Rozov became the first person to skydive into a volcano crater. In 2013, he set the world record for highest BASE jump — 23,680 feet from Mount Changtse, part of the Everest massif. This year, he broke his own record by leaping from Mount Cho Oyu, at 25,250 feet.

A photo posted by Pavel Blažek (@pavelblazek) on

And finally, this November, Adam Ondra became the third person to free climb the Dawn Wall of El Capitán in Yosemite National Park. Despite admitting to National Geographic that it “is the hardest big-wall rock climb in the world,” the 23-year-old broke the world record by completing the Dawn Wall ascent in eight days. That means 3,000 feet of climbing using only his hands and feet, instead of anchoring gear. Yes, his mitts look like Frankenstein’s.

Though we end with a 23-year-old free climber, the mean age of these gents is 43.

Are we saying you should hop on a paddleboard to Africa? No.

Are we saying you should turn off the computer once in a while and test your grit in the great outdoors? Hell yes.

Header image via Luke Aikins’ Facebook
Inline image via Alan van Gysen/Courtesy of The SUP Crossing