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The 11 Greatest Daredevils Ever

by: Esteban On  Tuesday, October 16, 2012

greatest daredevils in the world of all time

Over the past several months, we’ve seen two different daredevils performs highly publicized stunts. First, back in June, we had Nik Wallenda walk across Niagara Falls on a tight rope. That was broadcast live on ABC. Then, just Sunday, we had Felix Baumgartner set a new world record for highest skydive and fastest speed of free fall. That was watched by 8 million people on YouTube.

If you’re keeping track at home, that makes two times in the last 6 months that the whole world was talking about the insane exploits of daredevils. And I don’t know about you, but I think it’s awesome. We all need a little excitement in our lives, something to distract us from the daily grind. And what better to do that than watch some guy jumping over a canyon in a motorcycle, or climbing a 40 story building without any ropes, or jumping out of a weather balloon from the edge of space?

So today, in honor of Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking skydive, we’re going to see where he stands in the pantheon of great daredevils. Some of these people you’ve heard of. Some you probably haven’t. But without a doubt, they’re some of the craziest, most entertaining people of all time.

Have a look.

11. Tanner Foust

This professional stunt driver currently owns three world records, and I’d be willing to bet he’ll set a few more before he calls it quits. The most recent record set by Foust came back in June, when he and fellow professional stunt driver Greg Tracy set the Guinness World Record for largest loop-the-loop in a car—60 feet—at the 2012 X Games. However, the most awesome is his record for longest jump in a four-wheeled vehicle—332 feet—which he set at the 2011 X Games.

In case you’re really bad at math, 332 feet is more or less the length of a football field.

10. Seth Enslow

No daredevil has attempted more motorcycle jumps than Seth Enslow. And, given the frequency with which his jumps end in spectacular crashes, it’s probably a safe bet that nobody has lived through more motorcycle jump crashes. (The guy has two titanium plates in his forehead thanks to a spectacular crash back in 1999.) However, after all the injuries while attempting to break various world records, Enslow finally got one for himself in 2010: the record for longest jump on a Harley Davidson. In fact, he broke the record twice in one day because. On the first attempt, he jumped an incredible 175 feet. But then, after realizing two-thirds of the press that were supposed to be there had missed that attempt, he jumped again—this time going 183.7 feet.

The old record? That was just a measly 157 feet.

9. Travis Pastrana

Travis Pastrana burst onto the extreme sports scene at the age of 15 in 1999, when a scored a near-perfect score of 99 in the Moto X event at the X-Games. Then he cemented his status as a motocross legend in 2006 when he landed the world’s first double backflip on a motocross bike.

However, it’s not Pastrana’s motocross prowess alone that makes him one of the world’s greatest daredevils. No, he’s achieved that status by doing things like setting the world record for longest jump in a rally car, and, in the video above, jumping out of an air plane with no freaking parachute.

Now that is a stunt.

8. Alain Robert

Alain Robert, aka French Spiderman, has become famous for climbing skyscrapers. He does it all over the world—almost always without permission and without any kind of harness or safety mechanism. Such noteworthy climbs include the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the Sears Tower, both Petronas Towers, and, last but not least, the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa—though on that last one he cheated and used a safety harness.

7. Chuck Yeager

Chuck Yeager is a badass. After serving in the United States Air Force during WWII (dropping Yeager bombs, I suppose), the guy became a test pilot. And it was in that capacity that, on October 14, 1947, flying the experimental Bell X-1 aircraft, he became the first human being in the history of the world to fly faster than the speed of sound.

But you want to know the best part? When another test pilot named Scott Crossfield became the first man to travel at a speed of mach 2 and was about to be honored as “the fastest man alive,” Yeager made sure to get up in the air and break that record by going mach 2.4—which is 1,857 miles per hour.

6. Philippe Petit

This guy makes Nik Wallenda’s Niagara Falls highwire stunt look like amateur hour. Not only did Petit most definitely not have permission to string up a wire between the two twin towers, and so not only did he have to plan his stunt for 6 years and take arial surveillance photos and create phony IDs to get his team up on the roof. He also performed the stunt without a safety harness and did much more than just walk. For the 45 minutes Petit was up on that wire on August 7, 1974, he was walking back and forth, dancing, and jumping…a quarter mile above the ground. And then he got arrested.

5. Jeb Corliss

Jeb Corliss is a BASE jumper. He’s taken the leap from many of the world’s historic and iconic structures, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Space Needle in Seattle, and the Petronas Towers in Malaysia. However, he’s also taken more extreme leaps, like the time he used his flying squirrel suit to steer himself through a 100-foot archway in China’s Tianmen Mountain. Of course, sometimes he breaks fibulas, ankles, and various other bones, but that just comes with the territory.

4. Robbie Knievel

Sure, he’ll never be able to live up to his dad’s reputation and legacy. But in terms of actual daredevil achievements, Robbie Knievel is actually pretty solid. Over the years Evel’s son has made over 350 jumps, set over 20 world records, performed replicas of his dad’s stunts, and done crazy ones of his own—like the one in the video from 1999 in which he jumps over a section of the grand canyon…and then wipes out, breaking his legs.

3. Felix Baumgartner

Though he’s now famous for becoming the first human to break the speed of sound in a free fall (traveling over 800 miles per hour) while setting the world record for highest skydive—from 128,100 feet—there’s more on Baumgartner’s daredevil resume than just the Red Bull Stratos project. You see, he’s also quite the BASE jumper, having set the records (at the time) for highest BASE jump from a building, off the Petronis Towers in Malaysia, to the lowest BASE jump, off the famous Jesus statue in Rio de Janeiro. So, in other words, give this guy a parachute and he’ll jump off of anything.

2. Joseph Kittinger

As awesome as Felix Baumgartner’s record-setting skydive was, the fact that it took somebody 50 years to break it is a testament to just how insane the original record actually was. I mean, Colonel Joe Kittinger set the original record of 19 miles back in 1960. And it’s not like they had the technology back then that we do now. So I’d say Kittinger’s jump was at least 25% more ballsy than Baumgartner’s. (That makes him a whopping 675% more ballsy than me.) Plus, he wasn’t doing it to sell energy drinks. He was doing it to test the conditions pilots would face when ejecting from high-altitude aircraft.

1. Evel Knievel

When you say “daredevil,” only one name really comes to mind: Evel Knieval. Was he “good” at jumping over stuff on motorcycles? Well, not really. His most famous world record, officially certified by Guinness, is actually for most bones broken in a lifetime: 35. However, what Knieval had was a flare for the dramatic and a sense of pageantry. If you watched one of his stunts, you knew you’d be entertained whether he landed safely or broke his collar bone. That’s why, for example, he was able to sell 100,000 to back-to-back performances at the Houston Astrodome in 1971.

Do you think anyone else on this list could do or have done that? Answer: no way. Knievel is the king.




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