SURREY â€” Call it urban gymnastics. Call it free running. But don’t call it reckless.
Parkour is a recreational training discipline that challenges practitioners to athletically move through any street environment, approaching cityscapes as though they’re concrete jungle gyms. Millions of videos on YouTube demonstrate the activity, including a handful from a local chapter.
West Breden, who co-founded Parkour Surrey in 2007 and has been practising parkour since then, describes it as a form of artistic expression and likened its creative nature to martial arts.
"That may sound weird, but a martial art is using the body to master one’s self, essentially," said the 26-year-old. "What separates it from just play is that you’re creating a movement and the definition that most would agree with is you’re getting from point A to point B. How you do it is up to you."
Breden took up parkour after having a vivid dream in which he scaled walls in an urban landscape, similar to stunts he’d seen performed by Jackie Chan. He went online and found parkour, as well as a Vancouver based group that regularly trained in it.
"Long story short, instead of a group of us going out there and getting together and training, I decided, let’s just start a local group," he said.
(Story continues below video of Parkour Surrey group members at Holland Park)
Eric Berard, 22, joined Parkour Surrey when it started and trains semi-regularly. The group’s YouTube channel is littered with videos of him, Breden and others performing tricks in the city, though they aren’t always well-received.
"For the most part, when training, if it’s an area that we’re new to, there’ll usually be some form of security," said Berard, noting the group tries to perform only on public property, such as Holland Park, and respect private grounds.
"They don’t want to see us get hurt." Breden and Berard said parkour is perceived as a dangerous sport, and while they admit that injuries happen, part of the training is knowing your limits.
"If you don’t know you can do it, then don’t attempt it because that’s your body telling you that you won’t succeed," said Breden. "It’s very rare that someone gets a serious injury in parkour. And anytime somebody has had a serious injury, it’s because they didn’t trust themselves to do something."
"You need to be able to gauge what you think you’re able to do, take things slow and have fun with it," added Berard.
When asked what types of environments are most suitable for parkour, both Breden and Berard said they try to look for something new in all kinds of architecture, rather than common obstacles that they’ve faced before.
"Sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for and you find a place and you see potential," said Breden. "Or sometimes we get so used to an area that when someone new comes along, they do something that we never thought was possible."
And as of late, the sport has headed indoors, with gymnastics centres catering to parkour enthusiasts by offering programs and customizable courses.
"It’s sort of the holy war of parkour â€” some people believe that the idea of parkour, the essence of it, is that it should be practised in areas that aren’t built for pampering you to learn something," said Breden. "If you’re practising somewhere that you know you’re 100 per cent safe, then you’re not really ever training yourself to overcome something."
However, Berard said gyms allow them to create environments and paths they otherwise wouldn’t come across.
"It’s easier to practice some moves in a safer environment sometimes," he said.
While parkour is more popular in surrounding areas, it’s catching on, prompting the City of Surrey to draw plans for a parkour course at Hazelgrove Park in Clayton Heights. The group hopes to increase its numbers and generate more environments for urban thrill seekers.
"We’re trying to just do as any parkour community does and spread awareness about it," said Breden. "You can do it anywhere."