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Curious Concepts with Zack Karro

Zack Karro of the illustrious Beans Out the Can stands out amongst the ever surging sea of innovative parkourists thanks to his creativity and unfettered passion for movement. He fits in well amongst the other Beans, his highly technical, innovative and deceptively powerful style adding something entirely unique to this already heavily stacked deck of shenaniganizers. I sat and spoke with Zack about his parkour, inspiration, exploration and his new video “ITERO.”

Me: So I watched ITERO a couple of days ago and I thought to myself, “Fuck I gotta talk to this guy.” 

Zack: Hahaha hell yeah, good to hear!

Me: You’re one of the non-Denver based Beans right?

Zack: Yeah, I’m originally from California, but I live in Boston now and go to school here. Me and Spencer are both out here in Massachusetts. 

Me: So can you tell me a little bit about your movement background?

Zack: So I’ve always been super active. I grew up in southern California, so of course I’m gonna skateboard. Same with surfing. But I latched on to skateboarding when I was eight or nine, and spent like four years completely focused on skating. Then when I was 12 or 13 I found parkour through random YouTube videos. I remember seeing a Jesse La Flair palmspin tutorial and trying it on my bed. I had a trampoline in my backyard, so I was able to teach myself backflips and stuff as well. I was in diving classes for about a year, but I really didn’t like it. I felt so pigeonholed, like there was a trampoline at the diving center and I would be on it doing weird fulls and dub-sides, and the coaches would look at me like, “What are you doing?” I wasn’t trying to have my form be perfect or anything, I was just trying to do a “cool-funny-air-flip.” So that was a phase. Then I did track and field all throughout high school, so long jumping, triple jump, and high jump were my three events. I was really into triple jump, and that definitely contributed to me having the strength to do a lot of freerunning stuff. 

Me: What is it that makes you gravitate towards parkour then?

Zack: Great question, I think there’s two main things. The first one is kind of shared across a lot of people, but it’s the least restrictive form of movement there is. There’s nothing holding you back, it’s just you and your body anywhere. In theory I can do parkour in the comfort of my home because it’s just my body. And so many other sports require some kind of apparatus, something tangible you can grasp; a soccer ball, skateboard, whatever. But with movement arts, it’s just you, your body, and the world, and that’s something that intrigues me. The second part, which is common in most action sports I guess, but it’s the feeling of literal air time, that freedom is incredible. 

Me: Where do you find inspiration for your practice?

Zack: I get a lot of information from old school tricking. I did pure parkour for a short time, and then I was only a tricker for like a year and a half, watched a lot of Rasmus Ott, early Micheal Guthrie, watched a lot of Vellu, and people like them still inspire me to this day. I feel like there’s this entirely different vibe from old school to new school tricking, where back in the day people were doing all kinds of weird shit just to do it. Seeing old Rasmus Ott samplers, every single one has some combo in it that leaves you like, “What the fuck is he even doing?” For ITERO, the ideas were based on that feeling. So it’s a combination of that and the people I train with, the Beans, specifically Josh and Trevor. Because fairly often I would go to Temecula where they used to live, just to train. Watching their movement always inspires me. I think those are my main avenues of inspiration, the contemporary freerunning scene that I’m a part of, and old school tricking.

Me: So let’s talk about ITERO. I wanted to say I think it’s a really interesting video. It reminds me of “Man Out of Time” and those old Oleg Vorslav jungle gym videos.

Zack: That’s such a compliment, holy shit thank you!

Me: Of course man, I really enjoyed it. How did you come up with the concept? I read that it was about two moves and the connections or something along those lines.

Zack: Yeah, so I do a lot of raiz and a lot of b-twists. To me those moves are very much two sides of the same coin. If you do them, then the second half of the moves are essentially identical. But, at least to me, doing the two of them feels so different. B-twist feels like a summery, 80’s synth pop song, like I’m floating; while raiz feels a little more gritty and sad, if that makes any sense hahaha. Like raiz is edgy hahaha. So the concept was that I wanted to take these two moves, and see how I could do one connected to another in various ways. There was raiz-vanish raiz, raiz-carry through-raiz, raiz mega-vanish raiz, like all these ways you can connect the same move together. And that was the same with b-twist: with missleg b-twist, skip b-twist, backswing b-twist, etc. I really just want to show that there are so many intricacies to these moves that are taken for granted.

Me: That’s really cool, and I get what you mean. You see a lot of big triple twists and b-twist back outs now in parkour, and less of the really grimy technical transitions that are huge in old school tricking. 

Zack: Exactly, yeah. That’s exactly the type of stuff that I want to bring to freerunning, and to show people that you can do this. You can go out and do this and it will be fun and it will be shit you’ve never tried before. I hope someone is inspired to do some crazier shit with the fundamentals.

Me: What inspired you to choose those particular skills for the video? A lot of the movements are really round, circular lines. Was that intentional?

Zack: The round combo style is a thing in tricking called either “circle combos” or “tribal combos” which comes from a couple of ancient YouTube videos of this tribe in Africa doing raiz circles, and it’s really incredible. But it’s a style of tricking and it’s a style that I’ve always liked and wanted to push. Also it’s just really fun, it’s entertaining to do moves like that, where you’re just kind of rotating. 

Me: There are so many moves that would work well in that style too. 

Zack: Exactly, there’s so much to be done in that realm.

Me: I’ve noticed from Instagram that you’re particularly good at bringing skills from outside of parkour into the sport, how do you go about exploring and experimenting with that kind of movement?

Zack: Definitely an interesting question. I grew up watching a lot of skiing in general, like before I knew what a front full was, I knew what a misty 7 was. It’s funny because when I first started parkour I would call moves by those names, until I learned the actual naming conventions. Now we’ve circled all the way back to using the skiing terminology because it can illustrate the axis better than our own skill names do. A lot of that stuff is watching skiing, all of us Beans watch a fair amount of skiing. But we’ll see people do some shit like a rod 1, or a misty 5 held to 3 type beat. And we’re like, “Huh, I wonder if we can do that ourselves?” The way that often happens is taking a fundamental trick, like raiz for instance, which can be either a bio 5 or a misty 5 depending on how much you invert it, and then playing around with the raiz motion, like holding it back. There’s a section in the video where, from a raiz setup, I do a 7, 5, 3, 1, and 0. It’s all from the same setup, and so having a good grasp on the setup or fundamental move, allows you to add or remove rotation or change the axis of rotation. 

Me: That’s cool as hell, I like thinking about it that way, breaking apart the axis of rotation and the degree of rotation seems like a much more specific way of thinking about skills.

Zack: Yeah me too! They can be super different, like you can do a full completely inverted, or barely inverted, and it’s still a full. 

Me: So what are your aspirations in parkour?

Zack: Damn that’s a loaded question. I think they have changed a lot. In October I broke my foot pretty badly and the recovery was almost six months. And so my goal now is to inspire people. I want people to see that there’s so much more to be done with the intricacies of the movements we take for granted. I think before the injury I would have said that I want to keep making banger video parts, like skate parts and release like two sick parts a year. I think post injury I’ve realized that I’m really drawn to the more conceptual stuff. That’s something that I think people can be inspired by. Like if I do one of those transitions in a line, a few people might notice it, compared to dedicating an entire video to those movements. There’s a video on the Bean channel called “zack the frisbee collector” which is the first conceptual video I made, and the concept was comboing out of frisbee in every single stance. So I think that’s where I want to continue to move toward in the future. I have some plans.

Me: Can you tell me anything about those plans?

Zack: Yeah, so the stances thing, I want to expand that. I want to do either b-twist or swing gainer in every stance, both of which would be significantly harder than frisbee, but doable. Then the other stuff is kind of like ITERO, where it highlights something specific, maybe a skill, maybe a transition, maybe a spot. But highlighting a micro-aspect of movement and blowing it up.

Me: What are your goals and aspirations outside parkour?

Zack: I’m in college for communications and marketing. Ideally I want to work with small businesses who are generally doing good shit for the Earth. I like our generation in relation to that, I feel like people in our generation are on good paths in that regard, and I want to help with that. Then I do a lot in the local music scene in Boston, so that too. I want to try and intertwine those with parkour in some way, of course.

Me: Final question, what is your preferred shoe?

Zack: You picked a good person to ask, because I’m very into skate shoes. I have been for a long time. Let’s see… I think the basic answer, if you’re a freerunner and you’re doing weird shit, it sucks but Vans Ultraranges are so goated. But I think if you’re willing to look into some stuff, then Vans Wavy are great, Nike Dunks are insane but overpriced and hard to find. Lakai Cambridge if you want a vulc shoe, what else… I’ve been skating the Tiago 1010’s a lot, which are a New Balance shoe, and they’re really really good for parkour as well. I think those would be my rec’s. 

Speaking with Zack, it’s obvious how deeply attached to parkour and movement art he is. This comes across in spades in ITERO. I meant it when I referred to Oleg Vorslav in comparison to Zack’s production, because they bear the same palpable joy of expression. ITERO feels like a welcome resurgence of Freudian id in parkour media: oblivious to the outside world, and unaware of the passage of time, a liberated model of self expression. This is a direction of parkour that's little explored in more recent media, but I personally hope to see much more.

 Media credit: 

Photos by Yaron Erkin, Noah Heath, Spencer Hovel, and Caleb Whelan

Video courtesy of Beans Out the Can and Zack Karro