Tucked into a corner of Riverfront Park, near the big red wagon, are a pair of large, concrete planters, one uphill from the other.
At least, that’s what most people would see. Jarrod Swanson sees opportunity. He scans the city landscape – garbage cans, railings, stairways, benches – and asks: “How can I play with it?”
He sprints at the planter, leaps onto the front edge of the first one with both feet and tries to spring upward and onto the second one – but he loses his balance and falls backward.
“Dude!” calls his friend Nicholas Murray. “You’re leaning back!”
“I know!” Swanson answers.
Swanson, Murray and Penchoen are trying to make the most of life and Riverfront Park, finding opportunities to leap, vault, roll, spin and otherwise play on the built environment of the Lilac City.
Swanson and Murray, both 20, are Medical Lake High School graduates who run track at Spokane Falls Community College; Penchoen, 21, is also from Medical Lake, and he attends Eastern Washington University. They all have various athletic interests. Murray is a former break dancer who turned away from gymnastics for something with less structure.
Swanson, Murray, and Penchoen are cautious and anylytical traceurs.
They warm up extensively. They plot and discuss their moves. They evaluate them after the fact. They coach and goad each other. When they get their moves polished, they shoot video of them, analyze them for improvement and post them on YouTube.
But what is it, exactly? What is all this running and jumping around?
“I don’t honestly think it’s a sport. It’s not a competition with others,” Swanson said. “We just call it exercise when people ask about it. Or an art form.”
Prayer Parkour. That is not a reference to religion, Murray said, but to the notion of operating under something higher.
“We think about the flow as something higher,” Murray said.
Of course, it often doesn’t look like such a high-minded affair to outsiders. A bunch of young men jumping around on public property – they often get treated like vandals or hoodlums. Twice, they’ve been kicked off the grounds of the Thomas S. Foley Federal Building, a parkour wonderland of architectural features.
“That place was great,” Murray said wistfully.
But the guys insist they’re not out to do damage or cause trouble.
“They don’t understand we’re not there to terrorize them, we’re just there to exercise and show our flow,” Swanson said.
At Riverfront Park earlier this week, the members of Prayer Parkour showed their flow. Murray and Swanson are the more experienced of the three, and they coached Penchoen. Murray did running leaps onto the large concrete blocks by the red wagon – springing off into a flip called a “front Webster” and landing with a roll on the grass. That roll – from one shoulder to the opposite hip – is a critical for traceurs, in that it allows them to absorb a lot of impact without getting hurt.
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