A sport once overlooked and underrated takes flight in Tampa, FL in January 2018

A sport once overlooked and underrated takes flight in Tampa, FL in January 2018

Jan 19th 2018

With the USA Parkour Cup competition comes the new parkour web-series. Witness weightlessness in person or online.

I’ve always held a deep love of trail running, purely for the opportunity to grace the surface of rocks and boulders with the faintest of touch and agility of a doe on the run. Running on streets and sidewalks never set well with my knees, but the feeling of flight as I race along a mountain trail, over and around the rugged terrain seemed to condition my body in a way that felt natural for my physical design.

To maintain our physical strength and agility, we find ways to challenge ourselves. Some take a dance or capoeira class, others gravitate toward Crossfit, many of us simply balance on our toes standing in line, and then there is a community of people who, for decades, have conditioned their bodies by practicing freerunning or parkour.

“It’s the closest to flying we can get.”
Justin Sheaffer, Executive Director of USA Parkour

Historically, man’s ability to naturally maneuver around obstacles in their path with grace and creativity was a basic way of life. Today, our lives may be different, but our bodies are designed the same. I sat down with Justin Sheaffer, Executive Director of USA Parkour, to learn more about how I might incorporate this practice into daily life.

“All you need is a pair of shoes (optional) and a desire to start playing again. Developing a sense for adventure and exploration. How well do you know your neighborhood? Every corner, nature trail, every rock, every shop, etc.? Start there.” I paused for a moment and looked out the window. What did I see? What do you see out your window right now?

Sheaffer continued, “Explore your environment and you will naturally want to expand your horizons. Touch everything you see, stand on everything, balance, feel the friction of your show on the surface. Now ask yourself…Can I get up there? Can I jump to that?”

The idea of this style of playfulness and conditioning combined into one I found invigorating. I could walk outside right now, jump off the porch steps toward a boulder, then lunge into a controlled 360 spin and land with ease as I continue my jog down the driveway to get the mail. Simple as that.

The real reason why I wanted to pick Justin’s brain, however, was to learn about the competitions and the massive growth rate of parkour in the USA. I know, parkour exclusive training facilities are now in all 50 states. What I learned is that USA Parkour has certified over 600 instructors, provides insurance for over 100 gyms and 100,000+ practitioners. That’s a lot of people, considering this individual sport is still under the radar of mainstream media.

Caption: This April 2017 competition in Las Vegas, NV will be in Tampa, FL January 27-28, 2018.

World Freerunning and Parkour Federation (WFPF) and USA Parkour have designed a pilot episode for a new web-series starting at the USA Parkour Cup this January. They wanted to create more competition opportunities in the US since most of the opportunities have been overseas. Sheaffer discovered there are a lot of unknown talented kids right here in the US, and it was time to give them the opportunity to showcase their hard work. This month the USA Parkour Cup will be in Tampa, Florida January 27th and 28th. JumpSport Trampolines will be a sponsor of the event and showcase an  AlleyOOP PowerBounce 10’ × 17’ Trampoline for athletes to test their skills on. Better yet, the overall winner of the event will go home with a rectangle trampoline of their own!

Caption: See a PowerBounce Trampoline in action.

So how does one train for an event like this? Sheaffer expressed the importance of air awareness - the awareness of where your body is in relation to the ground throughout a 360 degree axis - as the most important skill in any sport. He elaborates, “A trampoline is hands down the BEST way to simulate that. Trampolines are essential in Injury Prevention and Recovery. Considering Parkour athletes primarily train on concrete it is important to let the body heal by training on surfaces that produce less impact and trampolines allow Parkour athletes to maintain their skills in times of recovery and future skill development.”

At the conclusion of the interview I found myself inspired to research what it would take to attend a parkour competition in the US, simply as a spectator. Sheaffer had said that to witness Parkour in person is truly spectacular with the size of the jumps put into perspective for wide-eyed fans. As the sun peeks out from behind the clouds, I close my computer, put on my running shoes, and opt to begin my training on the cushioned surface of my backyard trampoline before hitting the streets. At age 36, I’ve learned to utilize familiar equipment as I ease into a new practice.

The 2018 USA Parkour Cup will be held in Tampa, FL January 27th and 28th. To attend as an athlete or spectator, go to WFPF USA Parkour Cup.