W5 investigates the dangerous sport of rooftopping
Jon Woodward, W5 Reporter
Published Saturday, February 4, 2017 7:00AM EST
Vertigo. It’s that sudden lightheadedness you get when you’re up dozens of stories in the air, looking down.
I had that at the top of the Melville, Vancouver’s tallest condo tower, when we decided its roof would be where we would interview one of the people with a dangerous pastime: Rooftopping or Urban Exploration.
These are the mostly young male people for whom a dizzying height provokes feelings of exhilaration instead of fear. It makes them feel alive. For them standing on the edge of a rooftop fifty floors up is a rush, or an unlikely calm that blocks out the noise of their everyday lives.
Rooftoppers are adrenaline junkies seeking the next thrill, which can only come further up, whether it’s atop a skyscraper, scaling a bridge, or slipping past security to make it up a construction crane.
We'd picked the Melville because we could legally and safely shoot up there. One of our interview subjects told us it was among his favourite places – though he said he had never bothered to talk to the building manager or condo council.
He wasn’t interested in permission.
And the rooftoppers we spoke to were not interested in safety, either. They claim to never wear safety equipment, like harnesses or lanyards that may prevent a fatal fall.
Some of them deliberately took risks, like deciding to hang by two hands from a crane with no harness or rope. Then they let go with one hand to dangle in the wind.
It’s not a crime to risk your life, though it is a crime to trespass. Still, rooftopping is a tough challenge for police because many of these people aren’t scared of the law – they’re not even scared of death. And death has claimed a handful of them already.
The one thing many of them do is carry a camera.
And it’s through their lenses that we’re able to see their reckless journeys firsthand. The footage is eye-popping. For some of them, the incredible videos and pictures are why they climb. And those pictures show their heights -- but also their falls, and in some cases the deadly consequences. It can be hard to watch.
But when you see it, you might realize – most of us have a fear of heights for a reason.