The Big Idea
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ONCE THERE WAS A WORLD WITHOUT SNOWBOARDING. A world where mountain biking was a strange and obscure cult, kayaking fiendishly inaccessible. A world without fleece vests, single-walled mountaineering tents, down sleeping bags, or GPS. In fact, until the late seventies—around the time this magazine was born—the universe of outdoor recreation was a pretty impoverished place, stalked by overburdened backpackers, guys in camo carrying rifles, and people named Fred looking for fish.
But if you gaze back over the past 25 years of innovation in adventure—which is only partly a story of gear, since this saga also encompasses bold new ideas in travel, athleticism, style, nutrition, and fitness—what you see is a cultural revolution that has been largely American, in the best sense of the word. Above all, this eruption of creativity has involved a democratic transformation. Endeavors like climbing, backcountry skiing, whitewater paddling, and environmentally aware exploration—which used to belong exclusively to the rich, to professionals, and to maverick sons of the British aristocracy—suddenly opened up new opportunities to millions of people for soul-nourishing fun.
Today, the U.S. outdoor industry caters to 136 million consumers who fling $18 billion annually at everything from $2 trail-running insoles to $7,000 titanium bikes and $75,000 expeditions. In the pages ahead, you’ll meet our pantheon of innovators—the legends, geniuses, and (ahem) shameless hypesters who brought all this to life. “All this,” of course, being nothing more than the means to an end—the wild places, and everything you discover about yourself by being there.
THE OUTSIDE INNOVATORS
Jake Burton, Bob Gore, Yvon Chouinard, Phil Knight, and a horde of creative disrupters. ALSO: The explosive evolution of skiing, backpacks, mountain bikes, adventure filmmaking, and whitewater boats.
How the Austrian energy-drink company Red Bull leveraged extreme sports to build a billion-dollar brand.
By Rob Walker
Adventure athlete Will Glad wants to profit from doing all the things you do for fun. Is that so wrong?
By Brad Wetzler
ACTUALLY, IT IS ROCKET SCIENCE
Inside MIT’s Center for Sports Innovation, where young braniacs are reshaping the future of gear.
By Brad Wieners
PLUS The New Faces Revolutionizing Adventure Sports & A History of Modern Gear, From 1875-2002