LSA 2021: Vince Eade

It might be risky: ‘but you just feel really at ease with yourself, at peace’.

The popular leisure sports of skiing, horseriding and motorcycling carry considerable risks to health, or even life, to those engaging in these activities; consequently they have been largely dominated by men whom our culture encourages to take risks. That these risky sports have attracted little prior research attention from social scientists and that women dominate the participation in much riskier leisure horse riding have motivated a sociological study. A mixed methods design, based on semi-structured interviews and a self completion questionnaire survey with adult male and female British skier’s horse riders and motorcyclists, provide analysis of three themes. Belonging, risk and wellbeing are examined phenomenologically through a social constructionist lens to determine what and how personal needs are fulfilled through practising their particular sport. Analysis of the collected data has been guided by the lead-questions: What factors influence the voluntary participation in risky leisure sports; why do people engage in risky leisure sports and what do they get out of it? Findings indicate that, contrary to its inherently risky nature, men and particularly women within and across all three sports feel increased self-confidence and enhanced global self-esteem when performing their sport, which often positively influence their everyday lives. Furthermore, participants attain similar feelings of ‘being-in-the-moment’ a state usually attributable to much riskier so-called ‘adrenaline’ sports and a central feature of mindfulness and positive mental health.

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