The Oxford Dangerous Sports Club was a group of adventurers based out of Oxford who were dedicated to performing very strange, very risky feats of questionable athleticism.
The club was created in the 1970s by four men: David Kirke, Chris Baker, Ed Hulton and Alan Weston. It wasn’t that they were adrenaline junkies; what made them notorious was that they were innovative ones. Their enthusiasm and the lure of oddity quickly drew others to join. The club began what became an international phenomenon by performing the first engineered bungee jumps, off a bridge in Bristol, England. Follow-up efforts included events like whitewater rafting on a mattress, hang-gliding from the top of volcanoes and performing some of the earliest BASE jumps.
Their most famous member was Monty Python comedian Graham Chapman, who was offered to participate on an expedition to the Andes, from which they were to perform one of their volcano hang-glides. Chapman took them up on it, but had no intention of putting himself in the air over an active volcano. He went with the expectation of standing around while others flew, as he’d only wanted to go mountain climbing on the Andes.
As it happened, Chapman got his wish. The group he was with lost their way on their push to the volcanic top, and, running out of available time, simply went back down the mountain. Chapman felt chagrined that he’d been accepted as a member without risking bodily injury, and proceeded to join them on their next outing, which was a ski trip.
This was one of many ski events the club had enjoyed over the years, and they were all similar: a challenge among the members to ski down a slope in or on something unusual and, on first (and even second and third) glance, completely unsuitable for skiing. Ironing boards, inflatable elephants, double-decker buses, and more.
This, Chapman participated in. His first entry was an operating table on skis, where he was dressed as a surgeon and was performing a medical procedure while skiing, “operating” on a faux cadaver which was actually a blood-drenched side of beef.
As odd as Chapman was, he was simply fitting in with the group, which petered out in the late 1980s for the simple reason that they were having trouble creating new odd ways to risk their lives.
To their credit, no member of the ODSC ever died during the decade-plus of its existence, although sadly one member of a group which had splintered out of the ODSC did perish in 2002, during a human trebuchet accident. Mostly because he was a human being who was fired out of a trebuchet.
Here are links to a film made about the group:
Question of the night: What’s your favorite work by one or more of the Monty Python troupe?