DREW TAYLOR

Pioneer of Parkour

DOB: 25 July 1994

Place of Birth: Horsham, England

Occupation: Parkour

Meet Drew – since the age of 12 he has been jumping, running and flipping over things most people would see as a wall or rooftop. He pioneers the space of parkour and managed to make a career out of 'running' the most impossible routes. With a world record for the longest front flip (6.18m), Drew proves nothing is impossible. He says his secret key to freedom is enjoying what you 'do', trusting yourself and never listening to the voice of fear.

"I am not limited by what other people say, I am set free."

How does it feel to be a leader in a space of a new breed of sportspeople?

It is surreal, we are the guys pioneering the infrastructure of the sport. Like skateboarding has massive brands around it but it was started by guys who just love skateboarding so much they wanted to make a professional career around it. There is also a new sense of pressure – when you start you are just a kid messing around but now people are watching our videos and we want to please our audience. This gives a different spin on everything we do. It is a constant battle between pleasing the audience and just doing what you want.

"When you see it, it looks impossible but what you don’t see is the 10 years prior."

How and when did you start free running?

When I was really young my mom bought a trampoline for the back garden. I used to mess around with it and as I was getting older I was getting into competitive trampolining. Then at school I met a friend, Benj. Him and his brother had already started parkour in 2006 after seeing a documentary. One day we were just in the park and he and his brother started back flipping off this thing. After seeing that I was just obsessed with the idea of being able to do impossible stuff. So literally from then I started and it has never really gone away. The original appeal is based in seeing stuff that is impossible and being able to push yourself to do stuff that you originally thought was impossible. That is where it came from.

"When you see it, it looks impossible but what you don’t see is the 10 years prior."

How does a runner make the leap to suddenly becoming a free runner?

People don't see the process we went through. We have been doing it for 10 years and are at the top of our game. When you see it, it looks impossible but what you don't see is the 10 years prior. We are just messing around in the park, throwing yourself off stuff, landing on your back and going through a process of jumps that are lower. 10 years down the line you are doing things that for people is looking impossible but for me it is normal and easy because I am in that headspace of progression. It all starts with having fun, playing around with the human body, seeing what you can do and then it develops. It is not a sudden thing of going from running to free running.

We say sport is setting people free, and our mantra is BE SET FREE. How do you feel when you hear this?

It fits so well with the philosophy of parkour because the whole thing is about doing stuff that seems impossible and just making it possible. In a sense that is setting yourself free. You only think it is impossible because you have never seen it, or because you have been told it is impossible. The skill of parkour and the process is ignoring those limits set by external factors and trusting yourself, knowing your limits and what it possible for you. We are setting ourselves free through discovering what is possible and what is not. This sets you free from everything else. I am not limited by what other people say, I am set free.

"Parkour is training yourself to free your mind from fear."

How long does your feeling of satisfaction last before you start longing for a new run or jump?

As long as I am not injured, I always want to move. It is just moving, jumping, flipping so I am always in that headspace of 'that would be cool to do here'. Even when I walk through town on a casual day I keep seeing new things that I want to try. It's a different mind-set. To an extent the feeling of achieving something you didn't think was possible is addictive. That feeling in itself is challenging the voice in your head that is saying you can't. Once you really start conquering that voice, you can't stop. It is like a snowball because you realise you are not limited by the voice in your head that is saying you can't do stuff. It spreads from there to all aspects of life. If you are scared to go on a date with a girl it is the same process that you go through when you're scared of a jump. You just overcome the voice in your head and that feeling is addictive once you have done it. Parkour is training yourself to free your mind from fear. Everyone should try to do stuff that they are afraid of, it is just good for confidence and many other things on deeper levels.

What goes through you when you jump from one skyscraper to another?

It is so good! So fun! It is an overwhelming sense of freedom [from] the moment I step off the roof. In that moment I have broken through the barrier and am suspended in nothing. I always get this sensation that my thoughts go really fast. When you finish the jump you remember all these thoughts that you had in a split second. You are aware of so much that you just feel total freedom and contentment. Your mental process goes so fast that after the jump I realise how much went through me in a split second and you only notice that after the jump. It's like, 'how did I think of all that in a split second in the jump?'

The stuff you ‘do’ seems pretty dangerous. What is it that keeps you doing it? Does It charge your body, mind and soul?

When you are really passionate about things, you never really stop to ask yourself why. You never analyse the pros and cons. You just see it and you want to do it because it is fun and I enjoy doing it, so why would I stop? But as you get older and people ask you in interviews these kinds of questions, you can’t help thinking about it on a deeper level. It comes back then to a sense of addiction. Addiction to overcome challenges and proving to yourself that you can do stuff that you originally did not believe you could do. That is what keeps me going. Parkour is at least 50/50 mind and body. The physicality isn’t complicated, it is just running, jumping, climbing. In caveman times everyone could do it. It is nothing new that we are doing but we forgot about it. There is so much philosophy behind parkour and it is that whole idea of becoming who you want to be. Parkour at its core is about setting challenges and building up to achieve them and that is satisfying and enriching for your soul.

Will you ever go back to being a ‘normal’ park runner?

I don’t think I can. Once you see obstacles in the way that we do, you can’t un-see it. Once you see two walls and realise you do not have to walk between them. You could go up, stand on one, jump across and you can never un-see that. I spend all day every day in that headspace.

What is Drew doing in the future?

I am not slowing down because I feel I have not yet reached my physical peak of what I can do. But for the long term future I want to create an infrastructure in the sport that can support up-and-coming talent for the next generation. We dreamed about making Parkour sustainable as a career. We don’t want to get a normal job so we started with management for commercial stuff; we have a clothing brand, we are shooting films and long term I want to be able to support kids doing parkour. When I am 40 I want to be able to pay the kids to do parkour because there is an infrastructure for the sport like we see now in surf and skateboarding, for example.

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