Plenty of entrepreneurs have turned to extreme activities to let loose. Oracle's Larry Ellison, an avid sailor, once had to sail through a hurricane, while Google co-founder Sergey Brin has been known to enjoy an acrobatics class or two. But perhaps no entrepreneur is as synonymous with adrenaline-inducing activities as Sir Richard Branson.
Since he opened his first Virgin Records store in 1971, Branson has made almost as many headlines for his business accomplishments as for his near-death experiences. Here are some of the craziest hobbies the Virgin Group founder has taken up--and the life lessons he's gleaned from them.
One of Branson's first splashy attempts to break a world record occurred in 1985, when he was part of a crew trying to break the record for the fastest transatlantic crossing in a speedboat.
The $2.1 million boat, dubbed the Virgin Atlantic Challenger, sunk 138 miles away from its end destination, and Branson and his crew had to be rescued by the Royal Air Force. "'We won't be beaten,'' Branson told the New York Times after the crash. ''Although none of us wants to go again, none of us will give up that easily. We will build another boat and try again.''
In 1986, Branson and his crew did just that, successfully breaking the world record with the Virgin Atlantic Challenger II.
2. Hot Air Ballooning
In 1987, Branson and Swedish adventurer Per Lindstrand set out to be the first two people to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a hot air balloon. The pair successfully traveled across the Atlantic after taking off from Maine. But they had to be rescued by the Royal Navy off the coast of Western Scotland after their landing attempt failed. Branson told the New York Times that he and Lindstrand were "very lucky to be alive" and took a break from hot air balloon escapades.
Four years later, he attempted to cross the Pacific Ocean with Lindstrand, where he again had to push his luck to survive. Branson told Inc. that, only 1,000 miles into their nearly 7,000-mile journey, he and Lindstrand realized that they had lost two-thirds of their fuel. The pair had to rapidly increase their speed--to nearly 180 miles per hour--if they wanted to make it to land. Branson and Lindstrand did just that, crashing in the Canadian arctic and walking away unharmed.
In 2012, Branson, then 61, became the oldest person to kitesurf the English Channel, but his love of water spots hasn't slowed since then. In February, he was spotted kitesurfing in the British Virgin Islands with former President Barack Obama.
Branson said in a blog post that he goes kitesurfing every single day that he's on his privately-owned Necker Island. "It's great exercise, recreation, relaxation, and stress management," Branson wrote. "I 100 percent recommend it to anyone with access to the water. After all, life is a lot more fun if you can make time for sport."
As with everything that he does, Branson takes his love of cycling to the extreme. In August, he was in an accident while cycling in the British Virgin Islands. He was thrown over his handlebars after riding too quickly over a speed bump, injuring his knee, chin, and shoulder.
After the accident, Branson wrote, "My attitude has always been, if you fall flat on your face, at least you're moving forward. All you have to do is get back up and try again."