Sunday, May 8, 2016

FISE – The International Festival of Extreme Sports (2 of 2)

What are we doing here in Montpellier, in France? A large part of it has to do with seeing what is going on in the rest of the world. Much of it interests us. Some of it doesn't. Some things that we'd never consider "back home" seem inexplicably fascinating here in a different context. Extreme sports events is in this latter category. How far would I travel to attend such an event from my home in Los Osos? Not far, honestly.

But now we've come thousands of miles (5968 miles, actually), and we've stumbled (almost literally!) on this world-class event. How can we not take an interest?

A tiny part of the crowd on Friday

The next day, Friday, we took the tram for the first time, back to the river and the on-going Festival. The tram stop left us further down river than where we had been the day before, and we ended up in the BMX (bicycle motor cross) area. The whole river, both sides, was packed with people! Some areas, further from the action, we pleasant, not so crowded, and under the trees.
Cool and relatively quiet out here!

We stayed for several hours, moving slowly through the crowd (as if there was any other way), trying out various viewpoints. We saw some pretty amazing moves, with the bikes coming off the jumps rising high in the air and seeming to hang for moments, while the riders spun and flipped (and some – less experienced – managed to just hang on).

It was extraordinary, and mostly good. Not so good, however, when we got frozen into the human glacier moving imperceptibly towards the exit. Oh, and they were playing the Worst. Music. Ever. (OK, so I’m older, and still stuck on Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, but that head-banger music with a guy screaming his tonsils out on some inane phrase like “Don’t call me white!” over and over really doesn’t make it for me). But it seems to be what the skateboarders and bike riders like… keeps the adrenaline pumped.
But the views are better closer in.

Still, the sun was shining, the river was sparkling, the beer was flowing, and everybody was having a good time. And there were a lot of kids, little knee-high rug rats thrilled to be there, so near their big heroes. Plenty of family activities, too: zip lines and climbing walls, and these funny water “hamster balls.” (The kids get inside and throw themselves at each other, completely protected by the air-filled plastic cushion.)

Kids love the "hamster balls"
Finally exhausted by the energy and intensity – not just of the activities of the contestants, but by the enormity of the crowd – we were ready to leave. We managed to extract ourselves from the press of humanity, and find our way to the tramway, horribly overcrowded today in spite of the extra trains added for the event. And soon we were back in our own quartier of town, and climbing the spiral stairs to our apartment, our new home.

Here's some short videos to give a sense of the dynamic action.

Next up: Gee, I don't know!

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