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Canadian Crusader

Written by Heather Norris

Photography by Drew Shapiro

Canadian Crusader

The Tribe's Trevor de Groot left hockey for parkour, and now takes every chance to find a recruit

Torontonian Trevor de Groot once created an international incident. While looking for his hotel in Queens, New York, de Groot vaulted over a waist-high fence into a grassy area. He flipped right into John F. Kennedy International Airport, was held at gunpoint, and detained for nearly two hours. “I guess because of the parkour mindset, I see things differently than a normal person would,” de Groot says. “Because if I see a rail, I see it as something like, ‘Oh, I can jump over that,’ whereas normal people think, ‘Oh, stay out.’”

De Groot, now 22 and a professional traceur with The Tribe, left the realm of “normal people” in 2008 when he joined the parkour club at McMaster University. He first saw parkour videos as a teen, but the lifelong hockey player felt shy about trying it on his own. “At that point I was in the last year of high school. The meets were downtown. I didn’t really know the people who did it so I didn’t want to just show up,” says de Groot, who today lives in Hamilton, just outside Toronto. At university, he joined the club and excelled. But three months after he took up parkour, the club team dissolved.

“From then, it was kind of weird. It was about a year that no one else really came to train with me,” he says. Refusing to surrender his new passion, he began to teach himself using videos he found posted online by other traceurs. Eventually, the discipline grew again in the Hamilton area, and, thanks to his experience, de Groot became a leader in the community. As one of the few people in the area familiar with parkour, people came to him to learn, and he taught it to anyone who wandered into a club practice. “I love showing people what parkour is all about because it changed my life so drastically,” he says.

Before he took up the discipline, de Groot never realized his body’s physical capacity. After high school sports ended, he resigned himself to a life of inactivity and playing video games on his couch. Then he found parkour. De Groot now encourages anyone he encounters to try it out. “There are so many people out there that have two arms and two legs, but they aren’t using them,” de Groot says.

De Groot’s teammates admire his evangelism. “Trevor is a rare combination of laid-back and highly driven. He pushes to get things done and is highly proactive, which is a big reason we put him on The Tribe,” explains Travis Noble Graves, a fellow Tribe member. Life on the team offers a mix of demanding physical training and upbeat camaraderie. “We joke around, push each other to progress by showing each other the new moves we’ve been working on, joke around some more, work together on projects, and mainly just try to pants each other as much as possible,” he says.

Although he travels a lot to attend jams in places like Florida, New York City, and Washington, D.C., Toronto tops de Groot’s list of favorite scenes. “It was really the first area that I experienced larger meets and, in turn, the overall sense of community that comes with parkour,” he says. The Toronto area served as the backdrop for where de Groot met many of his friends, teachers, and role models. It’s also where he discovered some great parkour spots. “It’s such a big city that I have yet to explore so much of it,” he says.

In an average month, de Groot practices three times a week and weight trains twice a week. His typical Sunday starts with Cyr Wheel training (rolling around in a large metal rim used in the circus) before he goes rock climbing. After that, de Groot heads to Burlington BG’s, the facility where he teaches a parkour class and supervises the open gymnastics gym time, while also sneaking in some of his own training. He finishes his day with a dive in the pool before going to bed and starting all over again. In season, when he attends jams and performances on a more frequent basis, de Groot says the time he spends doing parkour skyrockets. “I want to be doing parkour for as long as I can because I love it so much,” he says.

Parkour connects de Groot to his job, his hobby, and most of his friends. But de Groot, who’s talkative about the discipline but humble about his own success, avoids telling people about it when he first meets them. “I tell them I’m active,” he says, adding that he fears mentioning the fact that he is a paid traceur could result in people treating him differently or thinking he’s cocky. “Yeah, my life’s fun,” he adds.