BOUNTIFUL They looked a little out of place at the park playground one afternoon after school, three teenage boys too big for the equipment they appeared to be trying to use.
Then one of the boys ran up a slide, jumped off near the top and flipped in midair before landing and rolling in a layer of tree bark. The teen's so-called "parkour movement" was videotaped by a friend for a possible posting on the YouTube Web site.
The upstart acrobat, Zachary Moss, 15, is one of several teens from Bountiful High School trying to form an official parkour team, with logos and uniforms. The goal is that his group will draw from other areas in Davis County or inspire kids in nearby high schools to form their own teams.
"A part of me thinks it is so cool to do that," his mother, Lisa Moss, said while watching her son. "And then the mom comes out."
Parkour can be dangerous if you start out trying to do too much, or as you take it to higher levels, like jumping from building to building. Participants do get hurt.
But kids like Jared Fadel, 16, are using common sense as they approach parkour for the first time. Fadel methodically takes on each new parkour movement, practicing until he is ready to try something more difficult.
"These are good kids," said his mother, Tammy Fadel, while watching Jared and his friends run, jump and fly through the air. "They support each other and build each other up."
Jared Fadel is one of four founders of a growing group of parkour enthusiasts in Davis County. After practicing for only five months, Fadel is considered one of the best among his friends at the park.
If you haven't heard of the French-inspired word, and sport, "parkour," then maybe you've seen examples of it in movies like "Casino Royale" or in video clips your son found on the Internet.
Parkour is thought of as an art form, discipline, philosophy and exhibition sport. The simplest explanation of the term is to describe its participants. Known as "traceurs," they use only their bodies and objects or obstacles in their surroundings to move on foot from point A to point B usually at a fast rate of speed.
Frenchman David Belle, 34, is widely known, typically among young men interested in parkour, as its founder. As a teen Belle was inspired by his father, Raymond Belle, who as a French soldier followed the "principles of physical training" penned by French Navy officer Georges Hebert. Based on Hebert's teachings, the French Army developed "parcours du combatant" to describe a type of training that involves an obstacle course and that's where Belle's father picked up on the discipline, which he passed on to his son.
Parkour is now known and practiced around the world. In Utah, more informal groups are popping up. There is a Web site, www.slcpk.org, that claims to be the home of the Utah parkour community.
A recent Web search of the word parkour turned up 7.9 million hits. Popular Web sites in this country include American Parkour and Parkour USA, which provide some background on Belle and the spread of parkour.
Parkour even has its own lingo, words and phrases like the "monkey" vault, "wallhop," "Tic-Tac" and "precision jump" to identify certain moves. Except for maybe a new pair of sneakers, there is no cost involved to get started. The shoe company K-Swiss sells a $100 shoe designed specifically for parkour traceurs. Moss owns a pair of the shoes.
Moss returned to the public playground, known by locals as Rocket Park, for some of his group's more organized gatherings.
As the group sat down for a moment, Jared Fadel talked about why he likes parkour.
"It's not competitive," Fadel said. "Anyone can do it. It's just self-discipline."
The rest agree and offer other insights, such as how traceurs set their own pace for progress.
There's no coach "breathing down your neck" or yelling at you, said Greg Hanks.
"It's just seeing what your body can do," while overcoming mental blocks, said Cache Hawkes. His brother Josh likes the adrenaline rush.
They all say the risk of injury is there, but several know peers who have been hurt or had broken bones from playing in organized, school-sanctioned sports. The parkour group is trying to get support from Bountiful High School, but Fadel is finding that will take time and more talking with school officials.
Ryan Nelson loves it that just about any place can be a traceur's playground, provided someone hasn't posted a sign banning parkour or trespassers. One of the Bountiful boys recalled being chased away from the University of Utah by campus police.
Those in the group currently known as Bountiful Parkour say their teammates, ages 15-17, are their friends. Together they learn physical and mental discipline that some say transcends to other sports, such as gymnastics, wrestling and track and field.
"It definitely gives you confidence to do other sports," Cache Hawkes said.
But wait where are the girls?
Shana Black and Melissa Stowell lay in the grass, doing homework, talking on the cell phone and watching their friends.
"I'm too scared I'm a wuss," Stowell said. "I think it's a thing for the guys."
Stowell said if she was in the right mood and feeling hyperactive she might try parkour. "It's so sweet watching them," she said. "They do the sweetest tricks."
Black said she thinks few girls are doing parkour because of an "insecurity thing," that if the girl in a group of guys can't do a particular trick they'll think she's dumb. Black admits parkour kind of scares her, although she hasn't ruled out joining in.
Overcoming feelings of fear is big for Jared Fadel. And it's a process, evidenced by watching Fadel squat atop a chain-link fence, staring across an expanse of concrete steps, figuring out how he'll make a jump so that his form and movement fit his expectations as he lands atop a small piece of fence on the other side of the steps.
"It's just the greatest feeling," said Fadel about reaching his parkour goals.
His mother has seen the benefits, physical and mental, her son has received from parkour. But she hasn't always been on board.
"If I tell you no, you'll go out and do it behind my back," is about how Tammy Fadel recalls one conversation with her son. "I just say a prayer."
Lisa Moss prays, too. And she laughs about a deal she struck with Zachary, who must pay the insurance deductible if he needs medical attention after a parkour accident.
"I'd rather have them outside instead of inside in front of the TV," Lisa said.
With her younger son Taggart, 10, watching Zachary effortlessly redefine the intent behind playground equipment, Lisa said her main concern is actually that the older boys don't interfere with the younger ones at the park.
"He thinks this is the coolest," Lisa said about Taggart. "If I could, I would be out there in a second," she added.
She and Tammy Fadel also worry their sons may think they're invincible, afraid they don't know their own limitations. It's the jumping from buildings that really has Tammy uneasy.
"I just get a pit in my stomach," she said. "He says, 'I'm careful."'In the next breath, however, Lisa quickly points out what a "nice, all-inclusive guy" Jared is. Lisa and Tammy watch as Jared takes time to work with other kids on their parkour moves. His mom nods and says, "He's a cool kid."
E-mail: [email protected]