Nantucket Portraits

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Michael Viveiros

Rob Smith

Where are you from?

"I'm from Pawtucket, Rhode Island."

What brought you to Nantucket?

"Maybe two or three years ago, my sister brought me here, saying that it was time to be an independent adult."

You practice Parkour... can you tell as a little about that?

"Parkour is a discipline of movement. It's also known as Free Running, some people call it Urban Gymnastics... I personally like to call it 'Adaptive Human Movement.'  Trainers try to use the body to really experience any given environment in the same way that a gymnast would experience a gym, or a martial artist would experience a dojo. To put it really simply, it involves a lot of running, jumping, vaulting and flipping, but in an open-air urban environment."

When did you start practicing?

"I was 12... I'm 21 now so about 9 years ago. I was in Junior High, and someone had dared me to climb a metal gutter-pipe on the side of our school. So I did that, I climbed about ten feet up. When I got down, one of my friends asked if I was doing parkour. And I was like, 'Par-what?' And he told me a little about it, and to go look up a video on Youtube. So I started watching some really experienced trainers online, and seeing what these guys could do with the human body really ripped open my impressionable 12-year-old mind, and I wanted to learn how they did that. But the sport wasn't very well-known back then... I didn't know anyone else who practiced so there was no real way to 'learn'... I had to study these videos and try and (carefully) replicate what they were doing."

Have you learned anything from your practice, besides the technical aspects?

"It's interesting... people who see parkour from a distance might at first think 'hmm, this person must be an adrenaline junkie.' Especially jumping roof-gaps. But interestingly enough, I find that parkour can induce a kind of zen. For instance, if I have a really bad day, I can go do parkour and then I'm just in the moment, and not all up in my head anymore. It's a physical type of meditation, I would say similar to yoga. I've also learned about overcoming fear. The obstacles are mental, as well as physical. And I've really learned to enjoy what I have, while I have it.

As I understand it, not everyone is too thrilled to see people practicing in public. Have you encountered any opposition to your training?

"Actually, I've been getting permission to get up onto a ton of rooftops lately, which is amazing. But that's certainly not always the case. Most people who frown upon it are worried about liability. They're afraid that we're going to hurt ourselves, and then sue them. I've personally never heard about a trainer suing anyone over bodily harm, though accidents and injuries do happen. As a community, we tend to be really respectful. We understand that we're responsible for our own bodies. Also, if I were to damage someone's property, I'd be perfectly willing to pay for it. Legally, it's kind of a gray area. Using your body to jump and vault over things is not illegal. But there's the issue of trespassing. A lot of places aren't posted, but If we ever get kicked out of somewhere, we demonstrate the utmost respect for whatever authority we're answering to, whether it's the property owner, a cop or what have you... Usually we're just asked to leave, and that's fine. There are plenty of other places to practice."

Any advice to people who want to start practicing?

"Absolutely. Don't be reckless. You always want to stay within your comfort level. Don't push yourself to do something you're not sure about. With more practice, certain obstacles come into your comfort zone. Until then, train within your limit. You don't want to do something that could leave you with an injury for the rest of your life."