Youth flip for first NZ parkour competition

Cody Veenvliet practises parkour on Brighton beach before heading to the first New Zealand...
Cody Veenvliet practises parkour on Brighton beach before heading to the first New Zealand national competition this weekend. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Dunedin youngsters are going flipping crazy for parkour.

Classes at the Dunedin Gymnastic Academy are bulging with youngsters eager to learn how to spend time upside down.

Head parkour coach Alex Pearson, a former gymnast, said defectors from traditional sports had helped quickly fill this term’s 100 available spots and a waiting list was in place for next term.

The programme had been growing steadily since 2012 and he put its recent explosion in popularity down to the way social media allowed fast sharing of photos and videos.

‘‘Most of these kids have got Instagram and a lot of them have got trampolines and they see their friends doing tricks and they want to do it, too.’’

Parkour started in France in the late 1980s and was developed from military obstacle course training as a method of getting from A to B in the most efficient way possible.

The internet is full of hair-raising videos of exponents leaping between rooftops and backflipping off walls.

The Dunedin beginner classes are a little more sedate, starting with basic jumping, climbing, rolling, vaulting and swinging, all within safe falling distance of the academy’s padded surfaces.

The benchmark for progressing an advanced level is the ability to execute a standing backflip, after which the more complex tricks begin to flow.

At the moment the classes were boy-heavy — the inverse of the academy’s traditional gymnastics programme — but more girls were starting to sign up, he said.

This weekend, five of Dunedin’s Pro-Motion parkour team, led by Mr Pearson, will be at New Zealand’s first national parkour and freerunning competition in Auckland.

Fellow competitor Cody Veenvliet (16), of Brighton, is another former gymnast who wanted a challenge and saw the ‘‘parkour guys doing cool stuff’’.

The weekend will be about doing his best after a recent back injury.

Injuries are an occupational hazard but parkour was not to blame.

‘‘That was after walking down the stairs,’’ Mr Pearson said.

‘‘The triple backflip he just did was fine. It was the stairs that were the problem.’’

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