Bay Area Parkour

Train Hard - Stay Humble

After years of people telling me I should go, I finally went to Burning Man this year. Now that I'm back, I can safely say that it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

For those unfamiliar with the event, it's basically a place where human ingenuity and creativity go to flourish in the desert for a week, then fade back into dust until next year. This massive amalgamation of people (almost 50,000 this year) is called Black Rock City. The most amazing art you'll ever see is strewn across an incomprehensibly large, flat playa in northern Nevada. You can go walking or biking across open desert and suddenly find yourself at the foot of an enormous piece of art thinking "Wow, that's amazing! How did they get this thing out here?"

I went there with no expectations other than that I knew I would find very unique things on which to practice parkour. The overriding credo of Burning Man is radical self-expression, and that manifests itself in me as an unstoppable desire to vault and climb things. I was really surprised to find that a Google search for burning man + parkour turned up no relevant hits. I'm sure I'm not the first person to do parkour at Burning Man, but apparently I'll be the first person to talk about it on t3h int3rnetz.

To be completely honest, the opportunities for parkour at Burning Man are not fundamentally great. Black Rock City is a gigantic tent city and not an urban environment, so you won't find things like concrete blocks with gaps for cat leaps or rails for underbars. But what it lacks in traditional parkour it more than makes up for in the uniqueness of the things you practice on. I konged off the side of a giant duck, and I palm spun a huge copper tree that was on fire. I found the most efficient path from the ground to the top of a giant plywood Hummer (called The Bummer). It was all so much fun.

Just like in our normal practice of parkour, you have to be respectful to your environment at Burning Man. I didn't do parkour on anything that I didn't safety check and make sure I wouldn't damage, and as a result I think I was very well received there. I had people telling me left and right that it was really cool and they loved watching me climb and vault the various art pieces out there. I even had a guy tell me that he knew the artist of one of the pieces that I was doing vaults on, and he filmed me because he knew that the artist would love seeing my alternative use for the piece he created.

Now I didn't go to Burning Man solely for parkour. I saw and did some very cool things that didn't involve parkour, like watching cage fights in a full replica of the Thunderdome, riding a 25 foot tall teeter-totter, and firing a flamethrower. :) Incidentally, the fire spinning and other fire art there is literally the best in the world. I'm not a huge pyro personally, but the fire art absolutely floored me. Very, very cool. And whatever you may have heard about Burning Man being about nothing but sex, drugs, and a bunch of crazy hippies, all I can tell you is that no matter what you are interested in, whether you want to be completely intoxicated or completely sober the whole time, surrounded by people or totally on your own, I guarantee that at absolutely any time of the day or night, there is something going on there that you want to be a part of. And finding that thing and all of the interesting things in between are what make the experience worth all the trouble of getting out there. I was there for almost the entire week, and I felt like I was just getting started when I had to leave.

I am very seriously putting forth the idea of a parkour camp for Burning Man 2009. If anyone out there is willing to spend the money, endure the heat and the dust, and throw everything away for a week next August, I am sure that you wouldn't regret it.

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Comment by Deejay on July 11, 2009 at 9:07am
Just noticed this excellent post from a fellow Burner!
This year I'm not available, but BM '10 - yes, let's get a few folks together and go crazy!!
Comment by lethalbeef on September 21, 2008 at 8:51pm
A Burning Man parkour camp would be totally awesome, and I bet we could get the support of a bunch of people in other national communities to help out too. Go for it.
Comment by Iliketovaultthings on September 11, 2008 at 4:29pm
Flamethrower???? Thats baadass
Comment by orem on September 11, 2008 at 2:12am
BMPK 2009. I will be coming, oh yes.

And excellent song choice I might add, not that everything else wasn't awesome too ;)
Comment by mtn-goat on September 10, 2008 at 1:01am
Yeah, Dana this was perfectly put together: sound design, narration, your personal experience and establishing shots with broader perspective. Just enough Parkour moves to whet my appetite for more--too bad I'll have to wait a whole year! Definitely sign me up for camp Parkour--will be fun to build BM's first run-climb-kong structure!
Comment by Bio on September 9, 2008 at 11:19pm
Thanks a lot everyone!
Jodie: Excellent, awesome, I'm so glad you liked it. And just so you know, every single palm spin in that video happened because you showed me how to do them way back when. :)
Giorgio: Ditto on Faye's comment, I busted up laughing at what you wrote.
Matt: Exactly, it doesn't have to be an excuse to be wasted at 10 in the morning if you don't want it to be. Don't get me wrong, it certainly CAN be, but it's no less enjoyable without drugs. All of that was filmed with my little point and shoot digital camera or my brother's digital SLR. The hand held shots were either filmed by my brother, his girlfriend, or one of the other people in my camp (I went with a pretty loose congregation of people). For the still shots, I got one of those flexible mini tripods and used my piece of crap bike that I got for free as a stand. I wound up decorating that bike entirely with stuff I found on the ground.
Comment by kingtheking on September 9, 2008 at 10:31pm
awesome...just awesome
Comment by Sin on September 9, 2008 at 10:17pm
Growing up in SF people always tell me I should go to BM. I have never gone because the invitation always envolves some form of constant drug and alcohol use. And while I am not necessarily against those things, i failed to see the point of driving out to the desert in order to do them, when I could just sit on my couch, get stoned and play XBOX.

Over the past year or soI have started thinking more and more about the art of BM and not just the possibilities for intoxication. I would have to say your video really sealed the deal for me. I would definitly be down for a BAPK camp in 2009. Maybe not for the whole week, more like the last few days or so, but I think it would be great to go with a community of our own.

Otherwise, truly an excellent video. Who else were you there with (who manned the camera). and I hope you don't mind if i share this one around because it is just a great showing of parkour and the attitude we should all bring to our adventures.
Comment by Anthony on September 9, 2008 at 9:47pm
wow nice vid dana
seemed like a fun trip! i liked that cubicle in the desert
Comment by Seng on September 9, 2008 at 8:05pm
Nice job, Dana. I've been pretty anti-burn for a while now but your post actually makes me consider going. What an excuse to make some (really elaborate) portable obstacles, right? Until then, I'm going to take Giorgio's suggestion and make myself a Nutella and fig jam sandwich.

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