01/12/1998 at 01:00 AM EST
Like tiger woods assessing the 18th hole at pebble Beach, Mike Sherlock surveys a twisting canyon road from a ridge about 1,000 feet above La Jolla, Calif. The third turn is kind of blind," he muses. "I mean, you can kind of freak." Especially if you're hurtling downhill on your back at close to 70 mph on an unprotected, oversize skateboard, and a car happens to be coming the other way.
Sherlock, nicknamed "Biker" after his passion for dirt-bike stunt riding, is the first street luge celebrity, an extremely foolhardy sport that combines all the speed and thrills of its Winter Olympics cousin with additional hazards, such as, oh, tractor trailers and Winnebagos. Sherlock, who holds the unofficial world speed record (78.8 mph), feels the danger is exaggerated. "They say luging is the extreme of the extreme," he says with a shrug in his office at Dregs, his luge-and skateboard-manufacturing company in Pacific Beach. "I say, get a clue. It's actually quite easy."
Easy enough for Sherlock, 29—who grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Seton Hall University—since he seems congenitally attracted to the higher-octane leisure activities. "I get full adrenaline pumps only from big-wave surfing and sometimes when I'm snowboarding some super-gnarly stuff," he says. The son of Mike, a retired NBC executive, and Anna, a homemaker, Sherlock came to street luge nearly two years ago after hearing about it from a friend. At the end of his first day with veteran lugers, he says, "no one could beat me." He has won three gold medals at the X Games, ESPN's annual extreme-sports competition, and now is organizing four luge events in North America. Pedestrians are advised to look both ways before crossing the street.