W5 investigates the dangerous sport of rooftopping
Jon Woodward, W5 Reporter
Published Saturday, February 4, 2017 7:00AM EST
Last Updated Monday, March 6, 2017 12:28PM 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.
UPDATE ON MARCH 6, 2017
Public Apology by "Tad" for Rooftopping and Bridge Climbing:
"I was recently on a W5 report titled: "On the Edge”
I’ve come to the conclusion that allowing this to air with my content on it was wrong.
I've changed my mind on this subject and how I go about all my stupid stunts to capture pictures of the cities landscape. I care a lot about Vancouver and the people that were offended with my pictures and videos. In doing these activities I didn’t realize how many people across Canada would be hurt by what I was doing.
Here in Vancouver, I feel more connected and alive than I ever have before. I had never taken into consideration that the people below me cared about my life to some extent. I just wanted people to realize how much effort and work was put into taking these pictures. I lost this cities respect and felt my interview came off as portraying me as a little brat who didn’t care about people's feelings.
I started taking videos at first but quickly realized I loved the heights for the landscape view. Videos were the only reason I started doing all of these stunts, I quickly realized how I’m potentially hurting future generations by inspiring them and showing them how to go about it.
I was ignorant and stupid in my actions and would like to formally say I’m sorry to the Canadian public. Hurting and terrorizing society was never my intention, I love this city so much that with all the backlash I’m willing to stay.
I feel as if growing up in the US has made me into a terribly selfish person and I despise that aspect of my life. I’m trying to change but it’s difficult to through all the ridicule."