November 16, 2012
By Benét J. Wilson
Steve Conklin, creator of the Extreme Bucket List, is a former bobsledder who has leveraged his relationships in sports, including aviation, to create a list that allows people to experience the extreme.
“I was in real estate and that business tanked. But because of my bobsledding experience, I know a lot of people who did a lot of extreme things. I’ve known people who have climbed Mount Everest, folks who swim with great white sharks and numerous aerobatic pilots, which are all at the gambit for doing extreme stuff,” said Conklin. “When I Googled extreme adventures, no one was doing it. There was a site that was doing niche things, but that’s it.”
So Conklin decided to create the website to put extreme experiences in one place. “I’ve spent the last two years signing contracts with companies to do these extreme experiences,” he said. “I’ve established relationships with different companies, like Skip Barber Racing School. I didn’t want to have people beat me on great experiences.”
Some of his extreme aviation adventures include flying with the now-disbanded Red Baron Squadron and the Blue Angels—within 24 hours of each other. “I had the chance to fly with the Blue Angels because I was at the right place at the right time,” Conklin recalled. “I was working at an airshow as a vice president and liaison and the reporter who was supposed to fly with them chickened out, so I got to go.”
Conklin worked with NASCAR racer Geoff Bodine, who was building his bobsled and ended up doing a charity event where he taught NASCAR drivers how to bobsled. “We traded crash stories, and I told the drivers about flying with the Red Barons and Blue Angels,” he said. “A NASCAR guy said he’d do anything to fly with the Blue Angles, so I made some calls and arranged for him to fly in a MiG 29. He told the story and folks started calling asking for their own crazy experiences.”
Some of the aviation adventures on the site include hang gliding and paragliding with The West Coast Soaring Club in Vancouver; flying on Zero Gravity Corp.’s modified Boeing 727-200, known as the vomit comet; working with Zenith Aircraft’s Sebastian Heintz to build and fly your own airplane; and wing walking in England.
Conklin emphasizes flying experiences not just because of his love for the industry. “There isn’t anything you can do that gives you the same rush than going from zero to 30,000 feet above the earth,” he said.
From showing a reporter the joys of gliding to doing extreme flights with an Afghanistan vet who’s a double amputee—all are situations that can change a life, said Conklin.
AOPA eNewsletter and Social Media Editor Benét J. Wilson joined AOPA in 2011. She is working on her private pilot certificate.
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