Charting Adventure: The Fun- to Risk-of-Injury Ratio

If we were rational creatures, we would maximize our chances of having fun while minimizing the likelihood of, you know,

006_risk_funIf we were rational creatures, we would maximize our chances of having fun while minimizing the likelihood of, you know, death. But of course there’s little rational about us, and we embrace highly risky pursuits with a hell of a lot more gusto than, say, mowing the lawn. Still, it’s illustrative to look through the cold lens of science and see how these things we love stack up against one another.

aj logo 35

Brendan Leonard is a contributing editor to Adventure Journal. Follow him at his blog, Semi-Rad.
Recommended Posts
Showing 35 comments
  • seth

    what exactly is skitching? I might want to try it!

  • acinpdx

    perhaps i’m just not familiar enough with it…

    can you explain how skimboarding rates as dangerous as it does?
    did the graph’s author have a bad day?

  • Tyler Smith

    As a road cyclist, I’m PISSED.

    It’s fun! I swear!


    Wow utter nans on mountaineering being the least fun. Author has no idea what they are talking about

  • ct

    powder skiing less dangerous than body surfing? there has got to be a reason why i spent hundreds on my avalanche gear…

  • Carson Stanwood

    Road Cycling is more fun than you’re letting on.

    And I’m waiting for the PO’ed Crossfit geeks to fill up the commets.

    • Joe

      I am a BASE jumper and a crossfitter. I must be a geek as you put it since I think crossfit should be further along the fun line.

  • Murph

    Another road rider here….man, biased much?

    You should have joined us in a charity ride I did on Sunday out in western MA. 65 miles, 5000+ ft of climbing, ~20 miles of dirt roads, beautiful scenery, and barely a car in sight for 90% of the ride. There was an 85-mile option, too, with 7500 ft of climbing and the same kind of scenic roads.

    Hey, I mt bike, too, but really, not all road rides are head-down hammerfests on straight, soulless roads.

  • David Jones

    Snow shoveling is should be in the upper right hand quadrant. Heart attack risk.
    But more importantly, the quiet of shoveling snow at first light can’t be beat. I am sitting hear trembling with anticipation.

    • RW

      I thought it was just me who stays up all night anticipating a quiet shoveling in the early morning all alone. Sometimes going out at 2am during the storm just so I can do it again at 5am.

  • Steve

    As a scientist (nerd), I think some error bars are needed. For example, powder skiing has to be like 95 +/- 2 % fun. While something like trail running (as opposed to ultra running which is just trail running with the fun pounded out) might be like 60 +/- 30 % fun. Then you can get into all these overlapping confidence intervals that tell you that the worst day skiing is still better than the best day of road cycling 🙂

  • Rob

    Love how runners, mountaineers and road cyclists try to claim they’re having fun but you never see them smiling. Coincidence? I think not.

  • Chris

    I would like to see larger circles representing these sports- for instance road cycling can be incredibly fun and incredibly painful and dangerous- so it covers a swath. In some cases it’s a circle but more likely these are diagonal ovals that would better represent Fun VS Risk in these sports.

    Also, there is a lot of “percieved risk” vs” real risk” going on here. BASE jumping off the Twin Falls Bridge might sound dangerous but it would be virtually impossible to get hurt falling into the water with a boat right there- still, it “sounds” risky. On the other hand BASE jumping at high altitudes in the mountains sounds dangerous and is dangerous.

    Just some thoughts.

    • Charley

      Twin isnt dangerous huh? Tell that to all the people that have died BASE jumping there.

  • alex

    Instagram more fun than mountaineering…

    Maybe it’s time to take “Adventure” out of your name?

  • Éric Martin

    Meeting a whale, at sea, surfing waves, be in total autonomy for 200 miles, facing storms and waves, that is sea kayaking not the boring thing you expect to show. It is much challenging than many other activities as car camping for example… should try before judging but may be it is too complicated to train properly for you…

  • brook

    I see you’ve got body surfing, but you’ve left out just plain ol’ surfing. I can tell you that surfing is almost as horrible as mountaineering. In fact, you probably shouldn’t attempt either of them. You definitely shouldn’t paddle out to my — er, I mean the break. Come to think of it, powder skiing isn’t that fun either. Especially backcountry. Its actually quite miserable!

    Much more fun to stay inside and take instagram photos of your cat.

  • alpentalic

    you must have cropped the image a bit cause powder snowboarding is about an inch to the right of BASE jumping

  • Jeff

    As a road cycling, cross-fitting, trail-running general mountaineer, I feel compelled to defend the fact that there are probably other reasons we do these things besides fun and danger…

  • Craig Rowe


  • Steven

    Absolutely love the offended uptight folks defending their respective interests. Props to Brendan for lumping the NW quadrant with the best bait!

    Why so serious guys? Can’t take a little humor?

    • Brent

      fist bump.

  • DJ

    Agree, Steven. Road cyclists being defensive and Type-A? Odd. Try waving to one while you’re on a MTB riding up the same canyon. Then tell me they’re having fun.

  • Mountaineer

    Mountaineering is a ton of fun!!!’ You apparently have never experienced the joy and rush of reaching the summit of a mountain!!! You people have no sense of what fun really is if you put Instagramming that high

  • Ray

    This reminds me of the Dead Poets Society where they try to plot a graph for poetry. Fun is in the eye of the beholder.

    and for the record Facebooking would be WAY more fun then Insatgramming.

  • matt

    fist pump out the car window with the music turned up so loud it drowns out the wind. should be the ultimate on the fun scale.

    and seriously, the fact that people are pissed road biking or mountaineering isn’t higher on the fun scale just shows how little fun they are 🙂 lighten up, laugh at yourself, keep calm, and climb on.

  • RW

    skimbording? Do people die doing that? Growing up in CA it was just broken colar bones and it wasn’t even fun for longer than 10 minutes. Other than that I see the chart as fairly correct.

  • ian


    I think it is risk of injury dude, not necessarily the risk of death. I think skim boarding is right up there on the risk of injury list. In my experience a day of skimboarding always ends in pain. (I’m not great but I’m not bad either)

    Also where is long boarding? And I’m not talking about riding your long board to class. I’m talking about the kind of long boarding that you did in highschool involving large hills covered in patches of left over winter gravel, skitching, loud ska and no helmet. That sh@% was sketchy.

    Also @ Seth

    Skitching is holding onto a car while on a board (usually a long board). I wouldn’t recommend trying it. It’s really sketchy and I have seen lots of blood related to skitching and usually unexpected manhole covers.

    • RW

      good point. You were right, I was thinking death not injury. Like I said, lots of broken colar bones, usually one every trip in the first 10 mintues or so… I deserves it’s spot at the top.

  • Lee

    I think some of you taking this way too seriously.

  • Gil

    No way, Instagramming clearly leads to carpal tunnel, way higher risk than sunsets.

  • Sarah Wood

    yeah, I wasn’t cool enough to know what skitching was either. thanks for clarifying wiki. 4 shots and $2k in therapy later and I think snow shoveling just got scammed on the risk of injury.

  • kevin k

    How is car camping more fun than skiing?? If you’re only having fun on powder days then you’re not doing it right.

  • Oplopanax

    We just had two searches here in BC (Canada) for three missing mushroom pickers, none of whom were found.

    Based on 2005 statistics, they account for roughly 3% of our searches/rescues, same as the number of Mountain Bikers, Rock climbers, or Hunters — a very small proportion.

    6% of pickers were injured, 2% never found. It’s a significantly risky pursuit.
    60% of mountain bikers were injured, none died
    20% of rock climbers injured, none died

    Would seem to indicate that

    I know this “chart” is meant to be funny, but should also be thought provoking.

    Media reporting skews our perception of risk, exposure to risk is difficult to measure. Even measuring the accidents doesn’t tell us the risk because we don’t know how many people are participating in the sport.

    risk=hazard x exposure

  • Jeremy

    Well I generally agree with it, but the fatal flaw is that it does not specify what kind of fun it measures. If Type 2 Fun counts, then mountaineering is just right, for example.

Leave a Comment

Share This