A trick across to Daniel (or any catcher) and back to the pedestal takes about 13 seconds. For the flyer, it feels like a jog around the block.
A trick across to Daniel, up to Jeremy, back down to Daniel, and then back to the pedestal takes about 20 seconds. For the flyer, it feels like a marathon.
The way time slows down and the amount of communication that goes on during that short time is truly incredible. Let me tell you about my climbing “marathon” tricks yesterday to give you an idea of what goes on each action-packed second.
Here’s a video of a climb I did in rehearsal back in Chiba (December). It was my first time climbing in about eight months, so it’s scrappy–very scrappy–but nobody died, and at least you can get the idea of what the trick looks like:
In the first show…
Before the countdown started, I called “Lista!” (Ready!) to signal to Daniel that I was ready to do my trick. I also shared a look with Jeremy to communicate that I was on my way up to him. In that sparkly, smily instant, the thoughts passing between us were something like
Me: “Jeremy, I’m coming across. You know I don’t get this right every time, and I’m feeling kind of sore today. It’s the first show of the week…Yikes. Whatever I throw at you, you’re gonna catch it, right?”
Jeremy: “Shut up. I got you, dork! Just don’t grab me. Aim for my elbow-pits.”
As Daniel slid down to his knees, Jeremy saluted, as did my fellow flyers. Even though the temperature was sweltering and the tension was high, everyone was ready to move. When he was just at the top of his swing, Daniel called, “Hep!” to signal my takeoff and the start of my first 20 seconds of the day in the limelight. (To give you some perspective, by the end of the day, I had acquired about two full minutes to myself in the spotlight out of the 20 minutes we were on stage.)
As soon as I took off, Kosta pulled away the rise I was standing on. Cindy and Harmony prepared to salute again as I was swinging backward and setting up for my trick, and then the pair got into position to ensure they catch my bar, so they could prepare to throw it to me when I was on my return trip.
While all this was going on on the board, I was positioning my body to give myself as much height as possible and then preparing to complete the kickback that generates the upward force for my full-twisting back flip. My shoulders hurt a lot when I kicked back, so I didn’t get the maximum extension. This meant that my forward drive was short, causing me to move the trick into Daniel. Because he had to catch me with seriously bent arms and then push me out as we swung through bottom, our radius was limited, and we didn’t have a lot of height for him to easily push me up to Jeremy. Daniel talked me through the whole thing to be sure I stayed on track, and I made it up to Jeremy, but we had to work for it.
Jeremy was surely preparing himself for mayhem when he saw my bad trick. Though I stuck with the swing, I was panicked, of course, and as I flew through the air toward him, I lobstered him before he could get me, so his hands weren’t in a good position to hold onto me; he was pretty much hanging on with fingernails, even though I had a decent grip on him (it’s really much better for it to be the other way around since he outweighs me by at least half). I could see him, of course, his “oh shit” eyes when I grabbed him; I’m sure he could see the despair in mine when I realized my mistake. Even so, this wasn’t the first time I jumped up to him and caused this problem, and unfortunately, it probably won’t be the last. We dealt with it, though, and through his touch, I could feel that he was with me–he had me–and we were going to make it through the full swing radius.
We did, and before I knew it, I was floating back down to Daniel in a safe position. As usual, Daniel yelled to me, “Keep your hands steady!” as I have a tendency to start moving them in or out as I come down, depending on my mood. I listened, and I was soon back in hands, swinging with Daniel through bottom. Daniel prepared me for my return by reminding me to sweep back late and keep my feet together (I’m terribly sloppy sometimes). His coaching worked, and I was back on the board, saluting the audience in victory, before I could have even counted to five.
In the second show…
On that same trick, my grip got stuck on the bar when I began my twist, and as soon as it happened, I thought, “It’s a good thing I’m climbing, so the girls will have more time to get my bar. This is going to be a tough one for them!” It was true; once I was back on the board, they told me that the bar came back vertically and that Cindy saved the day with her fingertips. I knew they could do it!
And that was just my first trick!
In each show I do three tricks and a dismount. Luckily, the other tricks were less memorable, but every show is different, and only one thing is certain: you never know what’s going to happen. In this life less ordinary, we become accustomed to–and perhaps reliant upon–the razor’s edge we walk that depends so heavily on our intimate knowledge of and our trust in each other. It’s what keeps us alive; what keeps us safe; and what keeps us coming back for more!