Hyde Park Longboarding Hazards

If you’re thinking about propelling yourself through Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens on some kind of object with wheels, here are some things to watch out for:

  • Twigs – Seriously, why do trees do this? You’re coasting along quite happily, when suddenly your wheels hit a practically invisible wooden deathtrap shed from a nearby tree and you go flailing off your board like a twat.
  • Horse manure – The symbolism of the local upper class parading through the park in their fancy horse carriages, leaving piles of shit for everyone else to deal with, is incredible.
  • Playful dogs – They absolutely WILL leap in front of your board and stop dead, wagging their tails happily. One once ran in front of me, dropped a stick directly in front of the wheels and ran on. See “twigs” above.
  • Dogs with retractable leashes – Basically, mobile trip lines.
  • Frolicking children – Much like dogs, they love to run in front of you and stop dead. It’s a shame my stopping skills aren’t great.
  • Soldiers – Skating along, and suddenly – CROWD OF SOLDIERS. Please don’t shoot me, army guys.
  • Boris bikes – Wobbly tourists riding 3 abreast vs wobbly longboarder flailing and screaming at the sight of a twig? Someone’s going to end up in hospital.

That wall is too damn high

Freerunners are amazing, aren’t they? Have you ever been in a group of them throwing themselves up a wall well above their own height, well-developed muscles rippling as they pull themselves up and over with the power of chimpanzees on steroids? Isn’t it fantastic?

Yeah, well, it’s very impressive but you try following them when you’re five foot one and have all the upper body strength of a newborn deer. So what do you do in a situation where you’re in a training group when you are failing to get up that wall?

Well, there are loads of excellent ways to train and improve. You can build up your pull up using resistance bands until you can do them unassisted, even with some weight attached! You can train your climb ups. You can do general conditioning, you can drop excess weight if you have it… all these things are great, but your mates aren’t going to hang around on that wall for 6 months while you run off, do them and then come back. So what do you do RIGHT NOW?

You look around, and you use your brain. As someone who is not actually very good at parkour, I have been in this situation plenty of times, and there is almost always a way to get around it. Here are some sneaky, resourceful ways to bypass a hellish wall run that you seriously don’t think you can do:

  • Bins and infrastructure. If you look down a stretch of wall, you’ll often see a large bin somewhere along it. If you’re in a council estate and the gods of the weak yet resourceful are smiling upon you, you may even see a big metal or plastic skip right up against the wall. That can cut your wall height by half. However, be cautious – stick to the edges, as the lids of covered skips can give way. Also, watch for tipping if it’s empty, and movement if it has wheels on. You may also find one of those dark green metal boxes that probably have some kind of purpose beyond a step up for short people trying to climb a wall. Use those.
  • If you’re failing because you can’t do a climb up yet, look to see if there’s any part of the wall with a railing along the top. This is a game-changer. Once you have a solid grip on a railing, you can literally just walk yourself up the wall.
  • Why is there a massive wall here in the first place? Is there a way for normal people to get past it, like a gate? Awesome. If the gate itself is climbable, you’re golden. Even if it’s smooth, horrible metal, take a look at its hinges etc. It might be usable.
  • Unless you’re trying to get up the Great Wall of China, the wall you’re looking at probably joins onto something else at some point to create a corner. What is it? Is it at 90 degrees with a railing, or a smaller wall? If so, winning.
  • Old fittings and holes. Quite often, there will be old, rusty nails or hooks or other hazards stuck into a big wall, even if it initially looks totally flat. Use with caution. Try to avoid tetanus. You may also find random gaps and holes – even small ones can be more usable than you think.
  • If you’re actually quite close to making the wall run, try doing it cooperatively. Can someone on the wall grab you and give you a hand up, or can someone on the ground offer a shoulder or linked-hand boost? Climbing on people is weird, but if they’re up for it then why not? Teamwork is awesome.

There are lots of workarounds out there for those of us who are actually not particularly athletic. They don’t remove the need to improve strength, fitness and ability. Nothing does. However, they do show that you don’t need to put parkour on hold until you reach a standard that may seem very far away or even unattainable, and that when your strength fails, you can still work your brain.

Fuck You Step Vault

So you are in a massive sports hall full of scaffolding, balance beams, different-sized boxes (and no mats. Mats? Ha). You (short, uncoordinated, and terrified) are cowering at the back of a group of tall, fearless, athletic-looking guys. The coach, who moves like he was bitten by a radioactive spider or something, is demonstrating how to fly over all these objects with the grace of a cat, and seems to be suggesting that you should try to do the same. It’s not going to happen. You can barely climb onto this stuff. What do you do?

Let me introduce you to the wonderful technique of the “Fuck You Step Vault”. Do you want me to do a butterfly kick over that railing? Sucks to be you, because you’re getting a step vault. Kong that wall? Yeah… no. I’m doing a step vault, sorry. Slide monkey that box? No. Fuck you. Step vault.

Basically, I learned to do a step vault and that was it. I am completely reliant on that one technique to get over everything I can realistically get over. I am so stuck on step vaulting that if you give me a slippery metal railing in the pouring rain, I’m probably going to step vault it and nearly break my neck doing so while everyone else safely turn vaults it. I’m trying to break this habit and it’s hard, because in my head, vaults straight over an obstacle as opposed to on and then off work something like this:

  1. Jump and grab obstacle
  2. ???
  3. Am I still alive? I’m not sure. Hey, I’m on the other side. How did I get here?

I’m coping with obstacles my own hip height, but god only knows how. I’m utterly convinced I’m going to die every damn time, but somehow I don’t. Fuck you, step vault. I won’t be stuck with you forever.