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Dispatches

Chilean wine’s big comeback; Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s fresh Bahama catch; freerunners land a home in L.A.; taking a walk high above Vancouver

CHATSWORTH, CALIF.
Off the Wall

Freerunners take L.A.

Running across a rubbery red gym floor, Gabriel Nunez, a 27-year-old freerunner whose Matrix-like stunts have appeared in The Green Hornet and The Expendables, takes a flying leap over a three-foot-tall vault using one hand. The dozen students standing around him nod in appreciation. “You don’t want to be too close to the block,” Nunez says. “You can do whatever you’d like with that foot; I personally like to slice it.”

This is the Tempest Freerunning Academy, a new 7,000-square-foot indoor playground situated 30 miles outside of downtown L.A. It’s the first of its kind in North America dedicated to freerunning, a new sport that builds on parkour, the improvisational street sport that Nunez wryly describes as “the craft of moving through one’s environment in the most efficient and safe way possible” — only adding an array of injury-defying flips and twists.

After class, open gym commences, and the warehouse starts to look like a surreal superhero training camp. Men (and it is mostly men; there are only two female participants) run up walls and perform front flips on the floor. They hop from the floor to the roof of the bathroom, leap from there into a giant foam pit, and skip alongside a small wall painted to look just like the brick ones in Super Mario Bros.

“You are constantly testing yourself on a new obstacle or in a new environment,” says Nunez of freerunning’s appeal. “Not a lot of other sports constantly push you to try something outside of the box. This one,” he says, as people fly through the air around him, “definitely does.” — TRICIA ROMANO

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