Running across a graffiti-filled wall and momentarily parallel to the ground below him, for a few seconds, Bryan Greene has found a way to defy gravity.
Across from him, grown men and women flip from a seven-foot ledge into a sea of bright blue foam, while others hop between iron monkey bars.
If it sounds like an adult playground, it’s because that’s exactly what it is. Welcome to the Tempest Freerunning Academy, the first facility in California solely created as a space for aspiring freerunners and parkour athletes to play.
“It has this freedom to it where you can really play in your own environment, like you did as a kid,” said Gabe Nuñez, one of the Academy’s owners. “In the end it’s a big jam for us.”
Open since April 2, the academy functions as a gym and obstacle course for those interested in the world of extreme.
Although often confused, parkour and freerunning are two different techniques. The object of parkour is to get from one point to another in the most efficient way possible, while freerunning involves an aesthetic flair that often includes flips. Imagine the look of gymnastics performed while aggressively jumping off of and between walls.
Any person who’s climbed a tree or flipped off a diving board can see the appeal of achieving these physical feats on a larger level. The sports are attracting those who enjoy finding new ways of pushing themselves physically, including gymnasts, climbers and stunt men and women.
Dan Mast, 22, one of the members of Team Tempest, enjoys the freedom of movement that comes with freerunning.
“There’re no rules. I know it sounds weird, but I came from gymnastics, where everything is pointed toes and straight legs. Here, I don’t have to do any of that,” Mast said. “I love exploring my physical self in what I can do and what I can’t.”
Nuñez, Victor Lopez, Paul Darnell and Rich King are the four owners of the Academy, and represent the initial Team Tempest that began training professionally five years ago.
The small group of four eventually grew to a team of 11 athletes, passionate about the practice and growth of freerunning and parkour.
The world they’ve created at the academy is an ode to an amalgam of inspiring training spots from around the world. There is Little Rio, with its small pastel-colored concrete walls, the brick-looking Pershing Square and the warped wall, based off of the famous obstacle featured in “Ninja Warrior.” There is even a section devoted to Mario Nintendo, who Nuñez describes as the “first freerunner.”
These relatively new hobbies have been picking up momentum over the last few years (the 2003 documentary “Jump London” brought the hobby of freerunning to light in the U.S.), and the timing of their popularity couldn’t be more perfect for the opening of the gym.
“This is the first year I can go up to a stranger and ask them, ‘Have you ever heard about parkour or freerunning?’ and they almost always say yes,” Nuñez said. “Last year, that wasn’t possible. So it’s been cool watching it grow to that point.”
And judging from the numbers they are regularly attracting to their open gym, there’s a growing market for the sport. According to the management, since its opening night, crowds of 40 to 60 people have been coming nightly, and nearly half of them are always new-comers.
Some are drawn into this world of parkour and freerunning because of the accessible community they find. Bryan Greene, 19, has been freerunning for two years, and said the welcoming environment he discovered in the sport has been unique.
“You meet so many awesome people, and everybody’s out there doing the same thing. It’s just really easy to talk to people,” said Greene, CTVA major at CSUN.
As groups of people clump together on the gymnastic spring floor to watch each other perform tricks, there’s a sense that this is more of a challenge in creativity, rather than a competition of machismo.
“It’s more about experimenting what you can do in your environment, not so much of what you can do compared to someone else,” Nuñez said.
Although it’s a recent phenomenon, those involved in the sport recognize that using one’s body as a medium for expression is an eternal idea. According to Nuñez, the idea behind the academy is to remind people that they’ve always been able to do this.
“Let’s get everybody to remember that they can move. Everyone started doing this as a kid. You were jumping around from one rock to another, you were trying to skip, trying to jump off of something,” Nuñez said. “We’re trying to get people to remember, ‘yeah, you can do that, and it’s still fun!’ And now there’s even more options.”
$80/month, 1 class per week
$120/month, 2 classes per week
$150/month, 3 classes per week
$7 per open gym session
$50/month, unlimited adult open gym
19821 Nordhoff Pl. #115
Los Angeles, CA 91311