Felix Baumgartner Named Nat Geo People’s Choice Adventurer Of The Year

Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner has been named the National Geographic People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year following an online poll, which saw more than 55,000 votes cast. Baumgartner edged out nine other Adventurer of the Year candidates that included men and women who have pushed the envelope in terms of exploration and outdoor adventure in the past year.

Baumgartner’s initial inclusion on this list follows his epic skydive from the edge of space last October. The world breathlessly watched on as the 43-year-old rode a specially designed helium balloon to the edge of space, then popped open the hatch and stepped off into nothingness. At that point he was more than 127,000 feet above the Earth’s surface and far higher than any other skydiver had gone before.

During his descent, Baumgartner managed to set several new world’s records, including becoming the first person to break the sound barrier without the use of an aircraft. During his free fall, Felix reached speeds in excess of 844 miles per hour or Mach 1.25. He officially jumped from his balloon at an altitude of 24.2 miles, which is of course a record height as well. He even experienced 25 seconds of weightlessness on the way down, before pulling his ripcord and slowly completing his descent back to Earth.

While Baumgartner was clearly the most well known Adventurer of the Year candidate amongst the general public he still faced stiff competition from a number of outdoor personalities. For instance, ultrarunner Lizzy Hawker isn’t exactly a household name, but she is an absolute legend amongst endurance athletes. Hawker won her fifth Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc trail race, which is grueling 103-mile run through the Alps. Similarly, kayaker Steve Fisher is one of the best paddlers in the world and last year he managed to run the biggest rapids on the planet on the Congo River. Those feats didn’t receive nearly the amount of attention that Baumgartner’s did, but they are impressive nonetheless.

To read Felix’s thoughts on winning this honor, what role adventure has played in his life and much more, check out the Nat Geo interview with the man himself.

[Photo Credit: Red Bull Stratos/Red Bull Content Pool]

Meet the 2012 National Geographic Adventurers of the Year

On Monday of this week, National Geographic announced their list of the 2012 Adventurers of the Year, bestowing the honor on eleven men and women who have pushed the envelope in their particular fields over the past 12 months. This year’s group includes mountaineers, a professional surfer, a long distance hiker, a mountain biker, and more.

Several of the names on the list will certainly be familiar to Gadling readers. For instance, we told you about Jennifer Pharr Davis when she set her new speed record on the Appalachian Trail a few months back and we took note of climber Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner when she summited K2 in August, ending her quest to become the first woman to climb the highest peaks in the world without the use of supplemental oxygen. We even told you about Lakpa Tsheri Sherpa and Sano Babu Sunuwar, the two men who paraglided off the summit of Everest last spring. Others earning Adventurer of the Year status include mountaineer Cory Richards, who became the first person to climb Gasherbrum II in the winter and snowboarder Travis Rice, who rode some of the toughest mountains in the world, in style no less. To view the entire list of winners and read more about their exploits, click here.

With the announcement of these recipients, Nat Geo has also opened an online poll that allows you and I to weigh in on who we think deserves the most recognition for their accomplishments this past year. Readers are encouraged to vote everyday until the poll closes on January 18, 2012. Then, in February, they’ll announce the winner of the 2012 People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year Award as well. Click here to cast your vote for your favorite adventurer.

Finally, to catch these men and women in action, check out the online photo gallery that National Geographic has put together to highlight their selections. Not only are they fantastic photos, they also capture the winners in their natural habitats, namely mountains, oceans, forests, and so on.

Congratulations to all the winners.

[Photo courtesy of Cory Richards]