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Casey Wilson

Boulder, Colorado

Parkour Through the Lens of Casey Wilson

Parkour is more than jumping off buildings and landing on your feet. It’s cultivating community, facing your fears, and sometimes playing a very intense game of tag. (Yes, tag. Like, “Tag, you’re it.” On an obstacle course. With teams of full-grown adults. Broadcast by ESPN.)

Boulder, Colorado–based barista Casey Wilson jumped into the world of parkour 10 years ago, when he saw a friend do a flip off a wall and thought, I want to do that too. Now he’s pushing the sport forward through photography and dedication to the community. We talked with Casey (twice, actually, because our first call didn’t record…) about his decade doing double backflips. The interview (condensed for clarity) is paired here with some of his photography.

(You can see more of his photography on his Instagram @caseywlsn or on his website caseywilsonphoto.com.)

Photos by Casey Wilson

Hey Barista

First of all, for anyone who isn’t familiar with parkour, what is it?

Casey

There’s parkour and freerunning. The classic definition of parkour is getting from one point to another as efficiently as possible. That includes running, jumping, vaulting, whatever. Freerunning is more on the creative side—doing flips off walls, on the ground. Overall, it’s being creative in how you move from place to place.

Hey Barista

How did you get into parkour? Tell me about your current team.

Casey

Ten years ago I had a friend who knew how to do a flip off a wall, and I wanted to learn. We started going to a gymnastics gym because there were no parkour gyms at that time. Eventually an actual parkour gym opened, and then we really started training together and realized we wanted to put out videos as a group. That’s how our team formed.

Hey Barista

And you’re called Try Hard Collective. What’s that about?

Casey

It’s more of a joke than anything. There are a lot of parkour teams that put out one video and immediately start selling T-shirts. They try to make a profit off of parkour, and we just think that’s ridiculous. We don’t try that hard. We make videos because we film the things we’re proud of. We go out and train just for fun.

Photos by Casey Wilson

Hey Barista

Tell me about the community aspect of parkour.

Casey

Everyone is super open and inviting. No matter what skill level you are, everyone wants to train and be together. Because it’s still such a small sport, everyone tends to know each other, typically through social media. You can meet people across the country or world by following their accounts and seeing their videos, and then people travel to hang out.

Hey Barista

Have you ever gotten into major trouble for doing parkour in a place you weren’t supposed to?

Casey

Not major trouble. We’ve definitely been on rooftops and the cops will come, but they’ll usually just say you’re not allowed to be there. Otherwise it’s security yelling at you to get off things. Parkour people are understanding, though, so when we get kicked out of a place, we’re very polite and apologetic. [We] reassure them we’re not going to sue the building if we get hurt.

Photos by Casey Wilson

Hey Barista

It seems like a dangerous sport. How do you keep yourself safe?

Casey

A lot of people think parkour is dangerous, but compared to other sports, it tends to be safer. In order to do something you’ve never done before, you have to overcome the fear of trying it for the first time. That fear is what keeps us safe, because if you’re too scared of a move, it probably means that you’re not ready for it and you need to keep training. You can figure out ways to learn and progress to overcome it.

Hey Barista

Is there a benefit to training in groups?

Casey

Totally! Friends will come together and talk specifically about what you’re scared of, like maybe it’s hitting your hand against a wall or landing on your head. People can help if they’ve done the move or have seen other people do it and understand how it works, and they can give you tips on how to overcome it. At the same time, they can spot you so you don’t fall on your head.

Hey Barista

Is there a central hub for parkour? Or, if you were to go on a Parkour Pilgrimage, where would you go?

Casey

Parkour started in France, and to this day that’s still where everyone tries to go. The spots where parkour was invented still exist, so it’s almost a dream for people to go there. So historically, people would go to France, but right now England is definitely the biggest hub for parkour. They have some of the best athletes, so England would be my second choice to visit.

Hey Barista

You’ve been at parkour for 10 years. What has changed in the sport?

Casey

The movements have gotten bigger and it has really progressed. When people film videos, they are showing the hardest things they have done, and then that becomes the standard. When you watch that, you want to push further. Every time a new video comes out, it’s crazier and bigger movements, and that sets a new standard. Parkour is constantly working off of other people’s best, which pushes everyone further and further.

Photo by Casey Wilson