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Cowabunga, Baby: Sports Are Getting Extreme.

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From her bird's-eye view at the top of this industry, Ulmer says not all is perfect, but there is still a lot to offer. She says "extreme sports is a superficial world ... [but] these are people who have a lot of something ... a lot of energy, a desperate need for identity. If you are that type of person, it's better to put your life into something like sports than to waste it. It teaches people what it feels like to follow your passion."

Ulmer adds a word of caution. Extreme sports -- especially at her level -- are "pretty dangerous ... life-risking," she tells WebMD. "Certainly anything you see in the X-Games is life-risking. There are infinitely more injuries than people think."

From what she's seen, Lawson has safety concerns, too. "They skate on concrete and metal and don't wear head gear. Elissa could have fallen any day and cracked her head open. ... There are not a lot of places for kids to skate. They end up skating in the streets and getting yelled at by cops. And, granted, they should respect other people's property, but they just have no place to go."

Lawson's words of advice: For girls and women, extreme sports can be an unlikely avenue for success. "If you're a guy, there's a lot of competition. They're lucky to get in. Because there are so few females, Elissa's been lucky. I think a lot of her success is, too, because she has a real good personality. She goes with the flow, just a real nice kid."

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