2020 XTERRA Adventures: The Beginnings - Premieres Thursday, August 6 on Outside TV at 9pm EDT.
While the first-ever XTERRA was “born on the beach” on the Hawaiian Island of Maui in 1996, the origins of the brand were rooted in events that took place in the late 80s.
In an effort to create more publicity for the Waikiki Oahu Visitors Association, XTERRA founders came up with an idea to host a made-for-TV lifeguard skills competition called the Hawaiian International Ocean Challenge.
“It was a competition for professional lifeguards, and it started out with just a few teams from Hawaii, California, and Australia but it grew to include watermen from all over the world – New Zealand, Japan, Canada, the UK … and that’s what started our whole event and television career,” explained XTERRA World Tour president Janet Clark.
Those early televised events spurred many more, with ESPN as the broadcaster and new events like the Waikiki King's Race and Diamond Head Wahine Windsurfing Classic.
“The concept was working, and Hawaii was reaping the benefits of the outdoor exposure the shows were generating on TV, so we kept going,” said Clark.
In 1992 they hosted the inaugural Tour O' Hawaii, which was hosted by non-other than Phil Liggett, and a few years later they hosted the Hawaiian Mountain Tour and the first-ever mountain bike stage race.
“This is where we met many future XTERRA greats like Ned Overend, Shari Kain, Melanie McQuaid, Steve Larsen, Mike Kloser, and host of others,” said Clark. “Now these races took place at Kualoa Ranch on Oahu, where the Koolau mountain range meets the ocean, and legend has it that after their races the mountain bikers would ride down to the beach and jump in the water to cool off. Which sparked an idea…why not have a mountain bike triathlon?”
And so they did and at the finish line of that very first race in 1996 it was clear that XTERRA was going to be more than just a one-off event. There was passion in the eyes of the competitors and an unwavering feeling that XTERRA was destined to become a lifestyle…a movement.
“I think we realized we were onto something pretty special,” said Clark. “The television show that we produced from the first one, then the word of mouth that went out was just fantastic. The legend kind of built instantly. And we were getting calls from people all over the world asking us to bring XTERRA to them. So we did do a few extras outside of Hawaii in subsequent years and by 1999, it became extremely apparent to me that this thing had a life of its own.”
It was a phenomenon with global appeal. Within three years of the original race on Maui, organizers had put together a 10-stop domestic tour, and as the new millennium dawned XTERRA began expanding all over the planet with events in Asia, Oceania, South America, and Europe.
XTERRA as we know it today is a competitive sport, a lifestyle, a calling that brings athletes closer to nature, and to each other. It calls on them to dig deep, to push hard, to discover and celebrate what they’re capable of. It unites thousands of outdoor enthusiasts across the globe and this community, this movement that is XTERRA, exists because of the spirit of the original adventurists who raced in 1996.