There is another, little talked about, but definitely up-and-coming silent sport, one which, if you want to stay upright, demands your entire presence of mind.
It is unicycling.
Cody Shaide, 21, of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, currently a student at University of Wisconsin-Barron County, is an avid unicyclist and founder and president of the Rice Lake Area Unicycling Club. But even for Shaide, unicycling was not love at first sight.
"The first time I got on a unicycle I thought, this is so not happening," Shaide said. "It's so hard it's ridiculous."
But when a friend of Shaide's provided him with a second chance, Shaide became intrigued. By that time he had seen professional unicyclist Kris Holm.
"He was better on one wheel than I was on two," Shaide said.
There are few sports Shaide did not participate in as a child. While he now prefers sports that allow lifetime participation, he grew up playing team sports like basketball, football and track.
But unicycling is the most challenging sport Shaide has ever tried.
High degree of difficulty
"It's impressive how difficult it is," he said. "The unicycle is fixed so you're always pedaling. And you're balancing not only from side to side but also front and back. Not only that, you are constantly falling forward. It takes a lot of ambition to learn to ride a unicycle."
And because the unicycle has one fixed gear, a rider's feet must be in the exact right position when approaching an obstacle. A rider of a two wheeler can adjust their pedals as they gauge the distance.
"Your feet have to be flat and you have to stop at the exact right spot. Usually people are only confident with one of their feet forward. Everything has to line up perfectly," Shaide said.
This, in a nutshell, is also why Shaide loves unicycling: The satisfaction that comes from accomplishing a stunt is even greater when the challenges are numerous.
Shaide was 14 years old when he first started learning to unicycle. In the beginning he tended toward off-road unicycling. He and his friends would practice on the ATV and snowmobile trails in the Sherwood Forest behind the Bear Paw Company, a sporting goods store in Rice Lake.
For Shaide and his friends, unicycling started to be about more than just riding interesting terrain. As with mountain biking, the natural progression was for the boys to start building their own obstacles.
"That is where I was at in mountain biking. I wanted to replicate the same movements in unicycling," Shaide said. "We constantly made it more challenging, upping the ante, and once the obstacles were in, the tricks started following naturally. You soon realize that you can practice a lot of these tricks in your own driveway. Then you begin to find obstacles around town."
Seven years in, Shaide has taken unicycling to an entirely new plane. He now considers himself a part of the street unicycling movement.
Most of us have a picture of what a street skater does, but we sure don't see many street unicyclists around. This has its advantages to unicyclists like Shaide.
"You don't necessarily get harassed like skaters do," he said. "I've been places with my buddies who were on their skateboards, where they get kicked out and I don't."
Still, unicycling is not yet given the respect it deserves as an action sports, Shaide says. And there is a downside to that lack of recognition.
"People think of it as a circus act," he said. "They make these clever comments, 'Hey, do a wheelie,' or 'I didn't know the circus was in town.'"
Shaide has no problem with circus-style unicycling, but he believes the activity deserves to be taken seriously, too.
So Shaide's mission is to help legitimize unicycling as a sport, and he believes that the way to do this is through greater exposure. He's made YouTube videos and gives demos and lessons to share his passion.
"I would like to see unicycling at the level of recognition that skateboarding has today," he said. "Sanctioned, televised events would certainly help."
July championship in Madison
Right now, Shaide is training for the North American Unicycling Convention and Championship in Madison, Wisconsin, on July 23-30. His plan, he says, is not to go really big, do dangerous or really technical stunts. Instead, Shaide feels his forte is his style.
"I try to make everything look as fluid as possible, controlled, refined," he said.
He tends to avoid obstacles that he does not find interesting and focuses on the ones he likes. Shaide has also invented tricks he would like to demonstrate in Madison. "I love grinding. And I do a lot of foot planting tricks," he said.
Shaide, who works part time at Grinders Sports in Rice Lake, used his creativity and a reclining tricycle to invent something he hopes can change the entire world of unicycling: a coasting unicycle. As a Torker Unicycling Team Member, Shaide is working with the bicycle company to manufacture this new unicycle, a process somewhat slowed down by pending patent issues. Nevertheless, Shaide is excited about the prospects and where his invention might take the sport in the future.
"It could lead to a whole new discipline," he said. "You would have a lot more potential. My goal is dirt jumps, mega ramps, you name it."
Eva Apelqvist is an avid outdoorswoman, freelance writer, author of children's books and a professional translator. She lives in Spooner, Wisconsin.