Current City: Los Angeles, CA
Hometown: Traverse City, MI
In a few sentences, please tell us about yourself:
I’m just kid that never stopped playing, my playground just got a lot bigger. I’m a professional freerunner, artist, and co-owner of Tempest Freerunning and Clark & Madison.
When did you decide to pursue your current career path?
When I was 14 years old my martial arts teacher told me about Parkour. In the pre-YouTube w
orld I had to wait for the re-run the following week but minutes after the episode finished I was out with my best friend filming our first video.
At the time there was no world of Freerunning and so it was up to me and a few friends I made over the years to try and build a community by hosting the first statewide event in Michigan, then helping to organize the first Nationwide jam in NYC at 16, up to Toronto to make it the first International Jam the sport had ever seen. By the time I got into college in Chicago I was the first American sponsored athlete for the sport and managing sales and marketing for a brand I helped start in DC that launched the first dedicated parkour facility in the world.
How do (or did) you go from idea to execution?
I left school to travel, toured briefly with Madonna on her Confessions World Tour and ended up in China for CBS’s Survivor which I conned the producers into letting me audition for even though I was underage. I knew I wanted to create a world for this sport beyond corporate sponsorship and reality tv and it seemed like the best place to do that was in LA. Years earlier I had introduced a few friends and we started a team called Tempest and now we’re launching a gym in LA and I set to work branding the new clothing line as we prepared to release the first shoe designed by freerunners specifically for the sport. I had been competing for years but I knew the one thing the sport was missing was a voice, so I started MC’ing every event I could get to around the world. From LA to Vancouver, Sweden, and now every year in Santorini, Greece for the biggest competition in the sport, the Red Bull Art of Motion. The Academies market to a diverse demographic but focus on younger kids. In addition to being the best age for the curriculum we developed they also build a lifestyle out of the world they are around. Through a series of targeted social media that went viral, branded events, and strategic partnerships we created an underground street culture that was also super accessible. The world of parkour and freerunning has grown in the years since I first saw it on Ripley’s Believe It or Not and when I look at where it is now I can still see some of me as a young kid staring out the window in class daydreaming of being a pro athlete in a sport that didn’t exist.
Do you have a mentor?
I didn’t have anyone to look up to in the sport because there was no one doing what I wanted to do yet so I had to look outside of my own world and to myself for a lot of inspiration. Besides Bruce Lee, Kanye West, and Ghandi I imagine myself ten years in the future. I have great advice on how I got to be a successful, good looking older gentleman. It’s where my fashion forward old man style comes from and my confidence that everything is going to turn out great.
How does the city you live in influence your creativity?
LA is the smallest big city in the world. There’s such a tight knit group of creative, open minded, motivated people that are always looking for the next big thing. If you’re willing and able to ride that wave then this city will take you places. And it has great tacos.
Has rejection ever affected your creative process? If so, please describe.
When I started training in this sport people laughed at me. I was not good, and they had no reference for what I wanted to do because it didn’t exist. The bigger we grew and the higher up we tried to take it there would always be people that didn’t believe in us. You have to be willing to be your own biggest fan to start off because there may not be anyone else.
Name 3 lessons you’ve learned from building your business:
- You don’t have to take direct route or even the fastest one to get where you’re going. Sometimes innovating means forging a new path and getting lost.
- Don’t sacrifice passion for security. There’s always another job you hate waiting for you drag yourself to, the ones you really want are hard to come by. Chase those, and if they don’t exist, create them.
- If you start your own company you get to make your own job title but you also have to wear a lot of hats you may not want. In the end there’s no easy way, just the one that gets you where you want to go and then the rest.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to pursue the same career as you?
Start local and find people to connect with near you. Not only can you learn from them but they become ambassadors for you as you grow your brand/network. Take your work seriously, keep yourself healthy, and make sure to have fun because nobody wants to work with someone who can’t have a good time.
What has been the pit and peak of your week so far? (a low and a high moment)
A peak would be a commercial I shot in South Africa last year just released. I got the chance to work hand in hand with the director on the creative side as well as performing is so was fun to see how the finished product turned out. The low point was the circus ending. I grew up watching the circus, being amazed by the wonders of the world and the incredible talents that people had. I was fortunate enough to work on the last Ringling Bros & Barnum Bailey show choreographing the free running and slackline acts. I know that it’s a different time now and people don’t want animal shows anymore but that used to be the only way people got to see those kinds of things if they lived in a small town. It was an honor to be a part of a 145 year old tradition and I’m sad to see it go.
In your words, what does it mean to be a “creative”?
Being creative is fun because you’re free to do anything but being a creative is about the challenge of a specific problem with no solution. Having to create an answer that fits into a box is the best test of your ability to think outside the box.
Top resources for creatives and why you chose them
The public library. The inside is full of free art and knowledge and the outside usually has great architecture for freerunning or at least a decent handicap ramp rail set up. If you’re creating a new world or building a sub culture you can’t just look inward you have to find inspiration in other areas but don’t get too caught up drooling over other people’s instagram feeds, go out in the city, use your actual feet to walk around and see what’s happening. The original social network started with a stiff drink and good conversation.
What are you working on that we should know about?
We just opened our new Academy right outside San Diego, it has a full size private jet you can play on and a life size Legoland Ninja Warrior section. Our new limited edition shoe the Black & Wilds are killing it right now. Clark & Madison has a new collection releasing exclusively on our redesigned ecommerce platform and I have a new brand Freshman & Co. that’s launching this year.
Finish this sentence:
I want people to remember me as: legendary.
If I only had 24 more hours to live, I would: throw an unforgettable party.
If I had to choose a theme song to represent me it would be:
Frosty the Snowman - Jackson 5
Recently published on BUNCH Magazine