Photography By Luke Stones (@lukestonesuk)
So, I'm sure you want to know what it's like going on a ten-day tour of England's biggest cities with a plethora of talented athletes all with different training mindsets, personalities and ways of living. Well… It’s HECTIC! But, unbelievably fun and memorable.
Hi everyone, Max here!
So if you didn’t know, from the 26th of July to the 4th of August eleven of the Uk’s best Parkour athletes and filmmakers came together to tour nine locations starting in the North of England in Liverpool, and finishing in the seaside town of Brighton. AKA ‘Rainbow City’ AKA ‘BryGuy’ AKA ‘City of the Gulls’.
Breach Tour 2020 route map
The tour was funded and organised by ‘Breach’, a Parkour clothing brand created by Chris Illabaca back in 2018, whose main aim is to ‘connect people through collaboration and community projects’. A couple of weeks prior to the tours start, with creative help from @zalsum, Breach designed and released a limited edition T-Shirt on their website - www.breachapparel.com - with profits going towards funding travel and accommodation for the athletes and crew.
Keep reading for a more in-depth look into the workings of a ten-day Parkour tour such as this one; with insights from Chris Illabaca, the film crew and each one of the 11 athletes.
Who, What Where, When? By Chris Illabaca
Chris Illabaca on the last day of the tour. Still smiling strong!
“The idea first grew in my mind as a teenager aspiring to be like the skaters that I looked up to in the '90s. As a kid, I can remember saving all of my pocket money to buy the latest skate films on VHS that at that time were coming out of the United States. I remember thinking one day that I would love to make my own movies with my brothers and friends. Many years passed and of course, I ended up involved in Parkour and its early growth and content creation. Unfortunately, back then I really lacked the motivation and knowledge to make something on this scale happen.”
“As Breach began to grow, so did the vision for creating a long-form Parkour film and plans were soon underway to make it happen. Originally we had planned to hit Eindhoven and Amsterdam in February of 2020 with an amazing selection of international athletes and filmmakers to collaborate and produce a long-form pay-per-view film. Unfortunately due to coronavirus the whole trip was cancelled and left each of us having to apply for refunds on our flights and accommodation.”
“Determined to press on with the idea, we had planned to do a tour of England instead with a few athletes from inside the UK, but the situation was changing day by day at that point and before we knew it the UK and most of the world was in lockdown.”
“As time passed and the situation began to change and improve, the group chat started to kick off again with everyone really keen to break out of Covid-19 hibernation and take this project forward!”
“After a few months of planning, we departed on our 10-day tour of England with some of the best athletes from all around the UK. The plan was to train at some of the lesser featured spots/locations starting up north in Liverpool and working our way down south finishing in Brighton.”
“Along the way we collaborated with a variety of different athletes, filmmakers and creatives from within the community to help showcase the culture of Parkour here in the UK. And I think that’s just what we did.”
- Chris Illabaca
Who was involved?
Due to the fact that the tour visited such a range of different locations, it opened up the opportunity for people to join the tour later on down the line if they wanted to. We had an awesome variety of different athletes come and go, some joining later on and some leaving early, however, here's a list of the main athletes and film crew that stuck with us from start to finish.
Group photo + Storror, on the last day of the tour
So, we started in Liverpool, home to Britain's oldest ChinaTown, our very own Chris Illabaca and, of course, ‘The Beatles’. Within 30 minutes of arriving, I got egged by a passing moped hoodlum in a balaclava, ricocheting off my thigh onto someone's skateboard, covering the grip tape with slimy yoke. Apart from that, which was actually quite a welcome surprise and more of an honour than a shock, everyone had a great time at this first spot. It was a spot that the locals had only recently found, which was apparently extra exciting, as according to them, Liverpool was in need of some new spots.
This spot was a nice multi-walled entrance to an underpass of a roundabout, with the distance and height between the walls providing some decent challenges for all the boys to try out. About an hour into training, Joe Scandrett and Lawrence Rook (aka Big Pabs) turned up with signalling arms flailing out of the car window as they sped around the roundabout to join us. This nearly completed our group and with only a few more people to join down the line, spirits were high with excitement and anticipation as we all had our first training session of the tour.
So, from there, after hitting up a few more spots in Liverpool and stopping by ‘Airborn Academy’ for a short but sweet training session, we made our way into Manchester for a quick pit stop at Graystone Action Sports Center, where a new indoor Parkour Park had just been built. On our way back to our accommodation provided by Chris’ Mum and brother, Maxine and Esty, we stopped by a very iconic location known as the Pavillion. This spot was a local for Chris and his brothers as they were growing up, being only a 3-minute walk from his mum's front door. I think everyone was pretty stoked to lay eyes on this spot, as it was the location at which many high-level moves had been done and recorded in the early days of Parkour. When moves such as which were only being done by a few talented individuals due to the complexity of the moves and the level of understanding of how they were done. One of which was the first-ever ‘Kong Gainer’, done by Chris’ brother Daniel Illabaca back in 2007. This spot in Moreton, Liverpool is definitely one for the Parkour history books.
The next part of the trip spent in Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby made up a considerable chunk of the tour. That next morning we headed from Liverpool up to Leeds for a full day of training before jumping in the vans and heading back down through the Peak District, leaving the city of Leeds behind us, towards Sheffield, where we would spend the next three nights. Our accommodation was pretty much perfect for what we needed. It was a community centre which doubled up as a food bank for the local people. Luckily, the majority of us had the idea to invest in a £6 air mattress from Tesco earlier that day, so as soon as we got to the accommodation, we filled a conveniently empty room at the back of the building with our mattresses, in a ‘Tetris’ sort of manor. Despite not having showers, this place was awesome; with a massive kitchen, chill-out area with a pool table, a basketball court outside, and an unlimited supply of ‘Kelloggs’ Rice Krispies and corn flakes cereal, and by unlimited, I mean many many boxes! - Which actually wasn’t as good as it sounds, because I'm pretty sure those are the two most bland kinds of cereal in the universe. Anyway, a solid 8.5 out of 10 for Parkour accommodation locations.
“Probably the funniest moment was the time I left the food bank accommodation to quickly go and drop David Nelmes off at his car, I returned after 20 minutes to find that everyone had FINALLY figured out how to use the Decks and sound system in the main room, and everyone was throwing gun fingers and holding a wide variety of cereal boxes.” - Noah Harwood, athlete from Derby and owner of ‘Street Media’.
“My favourite part was definitely the vibes, I loved getting to know people a bit more outside of just seeing their videos on social media. It's like putting a personality to a persona online if you know what I mean. I just really enjoyed chilling with everyone.” - Ben Reddington, athlete from Leeds.
So, as I said, we were here in Sheffield for the next three nights. The plan was to alternate between Nottingham (famous for its many contributions to the world, including ‘HP Sauce’, the invention of traffic lights in 1866, the ‘MRI’ machine, ‘Boots’, ‘Ibuprofen’ and many more.) Derby and Sheffield, and then leave for Bristol at the end of Day 5, halfway through the 10-day trip.
What does an average day on tour look like?
The next three days were filled with many banging training sessions and good vibes as we attempted to cover as many locations and spots across the three cities as possible. As the days rolled on, everyone started to get used to the routine that we had created for ourselves, in terms of getting up, getting ready, organising locations, and most of all, getting footage for the video.
So, we would all wake up, normally half on the floor due to the deflation of our really expensive, high-quality air mattresses. This would normally be around 9 to 10 O’Clock, or just whenever the first few people woke up as that would create a chain reaction of noise as more and more people got stirred from sleep. We would then have breakfast and attempt to be ready and in the vans as early as possible. Luckily, our accommodation in Sheffield didn’t have any showers, therefore the normally long-winded morning activity of having a shower was crossed off the to-do list for those three nights at the food bank, meaning that everyone was ready that bit sooner. Whilst waiting for the last of us to exit the premises, we would then play basketball on the court outside, trying to avoid hitting the hire vans or any of the people waiting in line for the food bank. Conveniently, Phil Doyle had brought a basketball with him on tour. Legend! So for a couple of mornings in a row, basketball was our warm-up game of choice. Which I think all of us would recommend, it definitely gets your blood pumping and muscles moving.
“One of my favourite memories from the trip was made up of a collection of events that happened one morning at our accommodation in Sheffield. After waking up and getting sorted, me, Phil Doyle and Ed Scott were playing our morning warm-up game of basketball together on the court outside the community centre. We then decided this would be a good time to try and film Phil’s intro, which ended up being Phil looking like a badman, schooling me and Ed at basketball. Moments later, out of nowhere, it was then time to film my intro. I ended up doing the splits between the two hire vans. It was a very eventful, pre-training, morning.” - Danny Pierce, athlete from Dorchester.
After a normally very eventful morning, we would decide on which spot or general location we were going to start at and then go from there. The next hurdle of the day would be finding cheap parking for two big hire vans. Preferably in areas where the vans wouldn’t get scratched or broken in to. Most of the time, this wasn’t a big issue, however, we had the occasional days where it either took us far too long to find a space, or we had to walk quite far from the vans to the spots.
“The other stress were the two vehicles we had hired to move everyone about in, not only did I worry about the safety of the vans but the parking certainly threw up some challenges, a little more planning for the parking in advance of our arrivals would have helped for sure. I learnt some tough lessons regarding that whilst we were away.
I try not to let stress get to me usually, often looking for the best solution to the situation at hand and not allow myself to waste too much energy being upset, however, fatigue certainly played its part.” - Chris Illabaca
The main thing that we had to get used to throughout the duration of the tour, was organising the filming of content and parkour lines whilst we were out in the city so that we got as much content as possible in the most effective and enjoyable way.
Thankfully, we had a bunch of very talented camera operators with us on the tour which made filmed content of all sorts much easier. Travel between spots, funny moments, and all those in-between shenanigans was captured, which is great for the final film and couldn't have been done to the same standard if it wasn’t for these guys that always had a camera in hand.
Chris Thompson filming the guys in Rottingdean, Brighton - Day 10
“Biggest take away for me was connecting as a group. For a lot of my work, I'm isolated or working with people over a short period of time. Also, the willingness to sleep in not the comfiest environments but it actually being more enjoyable than times I've spent in hotels on work trips. That's something I had forgotten about Parkour, just sleeping in your mates living room after a jam. There was definitely a strong group spirit which made the project a success.” - Chris Thompson, C.O. from Brighton.
A lot of the time we would split up into more than one group so that the spots weren’t overcrowded and people had space to train and film lines. We had a WhatsApp group running the whole time we were on tour which was the hub for communications. It was a very useful tool for dropping location pins throughout the day and communicating between groups. Sometimes we would have two camera operators at one spot, and another the other side of the city with a smaller group. Sometimes, that smaller group would be Joe, Lawrence and a few others scouting for descents or more high-risk areas. It was very useful to have multiple cameras, as it meant that smaller groups like such could go off and potentially scout locations that were more prone to kickoffs.
“I really enjoyed the focus of the trip. We were aiming to get the best out of every single day, and to be able to organise consistency and quality when it comes to the filming of such high-level movement is rare and invaluable! After many long and hot days out in the hectic urban environment, I would often feel quite exhausted, however, simply from the group moral and community vibe, I felt inspired to help out where I could.” - Dan Hempenstall, C.O. from London.
Most days were very productive, with a variety of footage captured by the end. You would think that ten days might not be enough to create a long-form pay-per-view film, however, having four cameramen and eleven plus athletes scouting the cities each day, a lot of content was captured. Of course, it was inevitable that some athletes would have down days when some would be ready to train and vice versa, however, because there were so many of us, this worked out well, with a nice flow of ups and downs between the athletes. However, that being said, to be quite honest there weren’t many days where we would lose an athlete for an entire day. The group morale was always so high and full of energy and inspiration, that I think we all managed to carry each other in a very organic way. The only way we lost an athlete was through injury… Unfortunately, George McGowan twinged his ankle pretty early on in the trip so throughout the ten days he was fighting an annoying niggle.
George McGowan enjoying a lovely day out training in Wandsworth, London - Day 8
Travis Verkaik also hurt his ankle trying a big kong cat (catpass arm jump) at GreyStone Parkour Park on day one of the trip. I’m sure most of you out there know how frustrating it can be hurting yourself early on in a trip or even right at the beginning of a training session. By the second half of the trip, both of the boys were rested and on their way to full recovery, managing to train again and get some clips for the video. Travis was determined to heal and get training as soon as possible so he did try and push through the pain on occasion, which I think worked out okay for him. Hopefully, his feet will forgive him.
“My favourite part was simply being around all my good friends, of whom doubled up as some of my favourite athletes at the same time. Being around such a big and diverse group of people was so interesting and unique. There were so many different relationships and social dynamics, but it worked so well, everyone was bouncing off each other and it was easy to come up with new creative ideas for what to do, what to film or where to go. It all worked so well.
This also meant that there were so many different styles of training happening at once, even though sometimes the group would be split between 2 spots. Having a few injuries and niggles to deal with was a shame, however, the whole vibe of the trip inspired me to train hard every day and most of all try different things and play around with different styles. So I managed to push through.” - Travis Verkaik, athlete from Dorchester.
Travis Verkaik at Dorothy Stringer High School in Brighton - Day 9
We would finish up each day by organising a meeting point and heading back to the vans. The hire vans were such a nice aspect of the tour in my opinion, and I'm sure the others would agree. After a full-on day of training and action, it was always nice to head back to the vans, get some tunes on, chat about the events of the day and watch our passing surroundings as we headed through some more uncharted territory on the way back to our accommodation. Big up to Philly G, one of Chris’ mates, who sacrificed some of his time to drive one of the vans and ultimately make it possible to have so many people involved in the tour.
“A personal journey back to many places I’ve lived throughout my life; my birth town bristol etc, and acquiring lots of new friends along the way. Seeing all the boys throw down definitely whet my appetite for Freerunning, or at least to stay fit. It has also enabled me to view spots from a Freerunning point of view, not just through the eyes of a skater. Cheers.” - Philly G, Van Driver, Gardener, Skater and all-round Gangster.
“I want to say a massive thank you to our second driver, Philly G, who stepped in with just 2 days' notice, your enthusiasm and curiosity for Parkour was just great. It really could have been anyone stepping into that role but I'm so glad it was you. Thank you for your energy, excellent driving skills and most importantly your patience.” - Chris Illabaca
End of Part 1
Stay tuned for Part 2 - Down South, coming next week.
Photography by Luke Stones (@lukestonesuk)