An athletic subculture overcomes walls and rails in urban Vancouver

As far as today's mainstream culture is concerned, many have not heard of parkour. Although parodied by The Office, the daredevil sport is no laughing matter as seen in the beginning of the film, Casino Royale. It combines gymnastics and human movement, but is performed in the urban landscape. The sport itself is still underground in Europe and North America, but the number of practitioners are reaching new heights.

Traceur, Jared Davis performing a precision jump.

On July 10, more than 90 participants showed up to the annual parkour jam session labelled "PKBC 4" at the Art Gallery in Downtown Vancouver. Traceurs and practitioners from Calgary, Langley, Metro Vancouver, and Montreal also showed up to attend this annual parkour gathering.

Parkour is an athletic activity in which the participant aims to move quickly and fluidly through an area, often an urban locale, by surmounting walls and railings and leaping across urban spaces, even over stairways and between buildings. This rugged subculture has been sweeping the globe since Casino Royale and The Office TV series began popularizing it.

Vancouver has a growing community of "traceurs" who practice parkour. More than 300 people within the Metro Vancouver area participate in PKBC (Parkour British Columbia). The online web community is www.PKBC.ca.

I caught up with traceur, Jared Davis, 21, at "PKBC 4".

"I train parkour because it opens up so many opportunities to grow socially, physically and mentally throughout one's training," Davis said. "Growing in these ways and still having fun makes parkour the perfect addition to my life."

Ask people what parkour is, and most people have no idea. Some know it from the opening chase scene in the movie, Casino Royale. Others see it as kids acting stupid.

What's the future of parkour in Vancouver? It may be on the verge of becoming popularized. On the other hand, property laws preventing such activity could be a bigger obstacle than railings and walls. One thing is for sure: all you need is a pair of runners and a little imagination to get started.

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