Jumps in London (Part Two)

Traveling Ninja: London Edition

Day Two

My second day in London began with another photo shoot for a project called See & Do (http://julieangel.com/blog-see-do/). I met the photographer, Violeta Beral, and a group of about five other girls (all local traceuses) at Canada Water and then we walked along the canal to find some cool spots for training and photos. We ended up at a red metal bridge towards the end of the canal and we stopped there to play. This was one of my favorite parts of the day because I really tested myself a few times.

It was a pretty easy climb up for me, although I was cautious because it was still a bit wet… and covered in bird poo. Lovely. But we all made it to the very top then back down without too much trouble. About halfway up the climb in the middle section of the bridge, one of the girls announced that she had a crippling fear of heights. I’m sorry, what? What are you doing up here? We told her she didn’t look crippled, and then I realized that she was really focused. You could see the fear during a few key moments but she was still up there. She explained that she keeps pushing herself and working through the fear, and that allows her to be in control of it. Amazing. What’s your excuse?

After the climb to the top, I went back down to the middle section which had some metal beams going across to the other side. Some beams were wide enough for two feet to fit comfortably, while others were only wide enough for one foot at a time. I was nervous yet curious and decided to walk out on the thinner beam to test myself. Maybe I was inspired by my new friend and her determination to conquer her own fears. Potential injury and a lovely landing on concrete awaited me if I screwed up but I felt comfortable, solid. I moved slowly and cautiously and I was aware of the height, but not anxious because of it. The only time I felt unbalanced is when I accidentally whipped my head around to look at someone who was talking… and then realized that I shouldn’t move that quickly… oops. I corrected myself almost immediately though and squatted down to avoid wobbling.

I’m not sure why I did what I did next but sometimes I just get these ideas in my head and the decision has already been made. Anyways, while balancing on this little metal beam high up in the air, I decided that doing a pistol squat was an appropriate action. And this is where I pause to finally acknowledge that it makes sense sometimes that “normal” people don’t understand people like me. Because seeing me do a pistol squat on top of a bridge makes absolutely no sense unless you’ve felt a similar urge to do something equally strange or crazy at some point in your life. It felt amazing to do it. But I really don’t have an answer to the question, “why?” I just… did.


A group of adventurous spirits climbing up. Photo: Violeta Beral. #seeanddo #womenmove


I consider this a normal Sunday. Photo: Violeta Beral. #seeandmove #womenmove

Between this bridge adventure and my last experience climbing the Dame du Lac (if you missed that, read about it here), I was very excited about my apparent lack of fear when it came to climbing new things at various heights. Or rather, my solid control of fear. I believe fear exists in all of us as a survival instinct; it is just a matter of how each of us interacts with it and how much control we let it have over us.

After the bridge climbing, we continued our journey along the river, out to a pier, and then over to a set of walls that made for a bit of fun jumping. I did another thing that scared me here. Apparently it was a good day for this. I tried a jump from a brick wall up to a little roof. I wasn’t sure if I would make it and I was getting ready to do a cat leap, but my body did the thinking for me and suddenly I was on top of it in a crane position (one foot on top, the other foot dragging behind providing support against the wall). Yay! Then it was time to get down… shoot. Remember all that talk about how I am fearless when climbing? Yeah, well, I am totally NOT fearless when it comes to downwards precisions. I hate them. And this one was down onto a slippery brick wall. I spent a few minutes going up and down on my toes on this random person’s rooftop, spinning in circles and talking to myself. And then I finally made the jump. I came at it with too much force, but it was a well-executed landing and no slipping or falling. I was very excited.

Eventually, it was lunch time and I headed over to Vauxhall to meet K and friends for food and training. She ended up having a whole crew with her which was great because I got to meet even more new parkour people. Yay new friends! Oh, and the best part? Girls outnumbered guys seven to five. It was a perfectly random training day, and no one was a girlfriend or there for any other reason but training. It was fantastic. We all started making jokes about how the guys felt being outnumbered for the first time in their lives. Sorry, guys.

After refueling with good food, we headed to The Chainstore Academy (parkour/freerunning facility in London) to hangout and play for a few hours. There were a ton of people there at first which was quite overwhelming but I got some good training in… and admittedly spent a lot of time on my ass because I was exhausted and overwhelmed. It happens. But it was still really great to see K and meet so many awesome new freerunners. I worked on some wall runs, cat leaps, kong precisions, and a bit of swinging. After things calmed down a bit, we had a tea and stretching session upstairs which was nice. I really wish I had more time to spend in London. There are so many awesome people there that I want to spend more time with and really cool spots to train at too! Seriously, I did not want to leave Monday morning. Clearly, I will have to return sometime soon.


Jumps in London (Part One)

Traveling Ninja: London Edition

Last week, I traveled up to Cambridge, England to visit my family and then spent the rest of the weekend jumping around in London.


Cambridge, England

It ended up being a parkour-dominated trip, of course, and I was going non-stop from Friday night to Monday morning with various projects and training sessions. I had a few bruises, sore muscles, and a bit of sleep I needed to catch up on at the end of it all, but it was such an awesome weekend. I did not want to leave!

The weekend in London began with an early morning photo shoot for Bodies of Action, a campaign in the works to showcase images of women in action sports. And not the stereotypical images you often see in the media, but the reality of female athletes. For the shoot, we went up to a beautiful park on a hilltop where you could see a foggy panoramic view of the city. It used to belong to a Lord (how English is that?) and there were some old brick ruins that made for the perfect little parkour playground. I did a bit of jumping, climbing, and messing about on the cold, wet bricks while the all-talented photographer Emma Shoesmith got some great shots with her nice camera, the new GoPro, and a super old-school polaroid camera. I also got to play with the new GoPro for a few minutes which was awesome.

After the shoot, we went back to E’s for breakfast and then headed to our film location for the day, Abbey Road. We were there to start filming for Board of Media, a documentary and non-profit campaign about action sports and the media. They just launched their Indiegogo campaign so please go check it out and show them some support! I first learned about the project at the Women in Board and Action Sports (WIB) conference I went to earlier this fall (if you missed that post, click here), and I am just so excited to see it becoming a reality. Head to my Inspiration page for more on this and other exciting projects.


Action shot from filming for Board of Media in London. Photo @boardofmedia

It was a funny experience for me filming this weekend. I have done acting work in the past and a bit of stunts as well, but this is the first time that a shoot was really about me, Adrienne, not a character or anything. I felt a bit awkward at times, but it was a lot of fun. Most of the time, we stuck to a strict schedule. They knew exactly what they wanted so we worked through everything pretty quickly. And then sometimes I would be playing around while the crew was working out the next shot and I would discover an interesting new route or challenge to try. It was fun because it was part okay, we want you to do this specific thing and part here is a backdrop we like, what can you do here?


Filming for Board of Media in London. Photo @boardofmedia


Climbing around “on set” aka exploring the city of London. Photo @boardofmedia

Something I noticed both with photo shoots and filming is that I am comfortable with moving and acting, but when I have to “act natural” I have no idea what to do with my face. That sounds ridiculous, I know, but I don’t know where to look or if I should be smiling or what. I just feel awkward.

Anyways, we got all of the footage we needed, and then it was time for the interview portion… which is when I got a bit nervous. What if I stutter or clam up? What if I babble on about nothing? How is my posture? Is my hair okay? All of these thoughts and more were running through my head.


Interviewing for Board of Media. Photo @boardofmedia.

I ended up sitting on a rail (above), which oddly made me feel more comfortable (natural environment of a traceuse and all), and I took a deep breath and started talking. I felt pretty good about my answers. Occasionally I would backtrack and say no wait, I really meant x, y, and z instead, but it went really well overall. I enjoyed having the opportunity to share my experiences and to speak out about some important issues like sexism in sports and in the media.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to interviewing on a rail. My butt started getting numb after a while. Awkward. We made it through though! And then it was time to wrap up and head to a local pub for lunch. Normally I try to be healthy, but since I was training all weekend, I decided to order a burger and fries, or chips as the English say. Lunch was good and it was nice to hangout with the crew for a bit and talk more about the project. I am so happy that I could be there to be a part of Board of Media. I had so much fun and I really can’t wait to see the final product and the longterm evolution of this project!


Photo @boardofmedia

After lunch, I headed into the city to meet my cousin for a few hours of family bonding and fun, and then I eventually made it back to E’s where I collapsed on the couch.

E and I met at the WIB conference a couple of months ago, but we didn’t get much time to hangout at the event so it was really great to spend the weekend with her. We stayed up having tea and watching YouTube videos Saturday night, chatting about action sports and all kinds of different stuff before finally making ourselves get in bed and get some rest.

I had another long day ahead of me on Sunday! To be continued…

Spontaneous in Switzerland

Spontaneous (adj.): (of a person) having an open, natural, and uninhibited manner.

Nothing could feel more right. I love this word. I love its meaning. I love the idea of behaving naturally, without prompting or premeditation. I think it’s good for the soul.

So in the spirit of spontaneity, I went to Switzerland last weekend on a bit of a whim. A girl I met at a parkour jam earlier this summer lives in Basel and we’ve been trying to find a way to meet up again and train together. We found that excuse in the From Here to There Doc screening and jam in Lucerne last weekend. I finished my schoolwork in time for the midnight deadline Friday night, then got on a plane to Zurich the next morning. A couple of trains later and I found myself at the Grandstand Parkour Park for the FH2T Jam! Finally time to play!


I know, we’re beautiful.

The park is a really cool spot. It was built in some old football stands (hence the name) which provides interesting levels and added obstacles. They had all sorts of walls, bars and rails set up, and they even had a trampoline! I was pretty tired that day but I played on the tramp a bit and tried some fun challenges. Mostly, I was just happy to be surrounded by awesome people, like this guy (Jesse La Flair) on the left who is currently traveling around Europe with Cory DeMeyers screening their documentary, From Here to There, and hosting jams in different cities with the local parkour and freerunning communities.

After hanging out and training for a few hours, we said our goodbyes and headed back to the train station so we could make our way to Zurich where we would stay the night.

At this point, I was exhausted. It had been a rough week and although I had a lot of fun at the jam, I just wanted to go to sleep. I was annoyed when we missed the first train but when D suggested we go sit by the lake I thought sure, that will be nice. Water always makes me feel better.


Instead, we found ourselves in the middle of a big town fair/carnival with food booths, games, prizes, trinkets, bumper cars, and rides.


We wandered around a bit, bought some chocolate-covered fruit and went on one of the rides before we headed back to the station.


Chocolate-covered strawberries!! (No, I can’t make normal faces)

I can’t remember the last time I was on a roller coaster or any kind of carnival ride, but it turned out to be exactly what I needed. I had a huge smile on my face the entire time (sort of like the photo on the left), in this weird mix of joy, screaming, and laughter. It was like that slow-motion clip from the movies of a kid spinning on something at the playground. I was that kid. Pure joy. Pure fun. In that moment, all of my stress, pain, sadness, and anxiety was ripped away from me and sent flying into the air, as I spun faster and faster around the platform in this tiny car listening to ridiculous dance music from the 1990s in the middle of Switzerland. If you ever need to get out of your head a bit, my recommended therapy is going to a carnival.

By demand of my rumbling tummy, we eventually pulled ourselves away from the fun so we could eat a real dinner in Zurich instead of candy and chocolate-covered everything.

We stayed the night there, and in the morning we headed to a popular training spot in the city that I couldn’t pronounce. Here’s the thing… I am okay with romance languages, but German makes absolutely no sense to me. I sound like I’m gargling hot marbles when I attempt to speak it. Thank goodness D knew where she was going (or could at least ask for directions).

I was nervous that I wouldn’t be up for much because I was so tired, but when we got to the spot and I saw all the fun things to play on, I quickly changed my mindset. There was so much to do there. I was like a puppy coming home for the first time, running to every corner of the playground, barely taking any of it in because I was so excited.

I eventually calmed down and got a great session in. I also did my first backflip off a higher ledge outside! I used to keep flips completely separate from my parkour training. I was a gymnast/cheerleader until my first year of uni, and when I started training parkour I wanted to learn how to be strong, powerful, and focused. Flips were something I did as a cheerleader, not as a traceuse. It was a different mindset for me. I was also adverse to it because I felt like flips were for them, not me. And I train parkour for me, not to show off, join the crowd, or do something that looks cool. But I’m starting to throw in some extra inutile moves just for fun every now and then. Because when you get down it, flips are just that. Fun. As I said earlier, I like to act naturally and follow my instinct (spontaneity), and my feeling that day was saying I want to stand on that log and do a flip off of it. Not even I want to or I can, but more like it was just what I was going to do next. I can’t explain it. But it was the first time I had a real urge to do a flip while I was out training.

Here is a little video of our training clips from the day in Zurich: 


After a while, I was hungry again so we started heading back towards Zurich. We had a wonderful carb-overload meal of bread, potatoes, and the most delicious cheese in the world (I couldn’t go to Switzerland without eating fondue!), and then D took off and I went to explore the city before going to the airport.

I walked for about an hour in each direction along the river, people-watching and listening to the street musicians. I walked and walked (and jumped around) as I observed the strangers around me. The performers, the couples, the grandparents with their mischievous grandchildren, the readers and writers, the child throwing a fit, the inebriated man on the verge of riding his bike into the water, the up-to-no-good teenagers, the man making giant bubbles, and the woman feeding the birds. Then, I refocused on the non-human. The mountains, the layers of colorful houses and buildings in the hillside, the water reflecting the colors of the world around it, and all of the sailboats still out there. It won’t make sense to you unless you’ve felt it yourself, but in that moment, I felt so small yet perfectly free, calm, and at peace. I thought to myself, what a beautiful life.