Florence teen Ezra Darnall may have what it takes to become a stuntman someday.
At 17, Ezra can run several steps up a wall and dismount with a radical back flip.
He jumps off high places, tucks, and rolls, to guard against injury upon landing.
He sprints and dives at picnic tables, planting his hands, pushing off, and propelling himself onto or over it in a maneuver called a “kong vault.”
To him, park benches aren’t for sitting. They are springboards.
“I work on tricks all the time,” Ezra said. “Some I can’t quite get right yet. I just need to get past the point break — my fear threshold. The fear is the hardest part. The fear is always there. But once I get lucky and do a trick once, I know I can do it again.”
He doesn’t just talk the talk. He does parkour.
Parkour or free running is an extreme sport in which people move rapidly through an urban area, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing, often garnishing actions with acrobatic flair.
Ezra can leap up onto a retaining wall flowing directly into a handstand, and walk on his hands. He does handstands on handrails and “lazy vaults” over bike racks. And, he does it all without any protective gear or a safety net.
“Mom doesn’t like it, “Ezra said. “She worries, but I tell her that’s why we’ve got insurance.”
Ezra’s parents, John and Kristi Darnall, have talked about the risk of injury involved in his increasingly adventurous parkour maneuvers. However, Ezra said his dad instilled an early interest of acrobatics in him.
“Back when I was like three or four, dad used to challenge my brother Ethan and me to see who could stand on their head the longest,” he said. “Dad can still stand on his head.”
John Darnall said it made Ezra mad every time lost family competitions.
“He used to have meltdowns if he couldn’t do something right,” John said. “I don’t know where he gets it, but Ezra is a perfectionist, for sure. I can’t walk on my hands anymore, I’m too old and fat, but I think Ezra was about five when he got to where he could push up on his hands against the wall and walk around me while I stood on my head.”
By the time Ezra was in middle school, he had developed a reputation for acrobatic antics.
“There was a school program where he was dressed as an elf and did some back flips across the stage,” John said.
Ezra and his parents looked into gymnastic classes, but never actually enrolled in any, he said.
Instead, Ezra developed his gyroscopic tendencies at the Florence pool performing diving board tricks. Wrestling also helped him become aware of how his body moves in space.
Eventually, he heard about parkour and began researching tricks online.
Ezra encourages friends and family to parkour with him.
“I more into the climbing,” his friend Jarrett Johnson said. “I don’t do as many flips. They can be hard on your knees.”
Ezra’s brother, Brock Mitchell, films him with his phone sometimes.
“I never really try any moves,” Brock said. “I don’t like doing flips off stuff. I think about hitting my head. I just film him.”
It takes a lot of strength and agility to pull off some of the moves Ezra does.
“He’s only 130 pounds and the other day he cleaned 450 pounds at weights,” John said. “Maybe since he’s a little guy he feels he has to go big to prove himself.”
Ezra also likes to watch “American Ninja Warrior,” an action-packed television series about competitors who tackle challenging obstacle courses, which Ezra said he would love to attempt someday.
Ezra has entertained the idea of attending a stuntman school in Washington after graduating from Marion High School next spring.
“It sounds like an awesome school,” Ezra said. “I hear you can make good money as a stuntman.”
Time will tell what Ezra does with his talent, but according to his dad, one thing is certain.
“Ezra’s pretty extreme,” John said. “He’s not fearful of very much, and he’s always pushing the envelope.”