Date Night: West Coast Flying Trapeze

We joined the circus for a night.

Spandex clad legs wrapped tightly around a bar, I soared twenty feet above the ground. For a few adrenaline charged seconds, I flew through the air without metal wings or spinning propellers. Upside down, with the wind whipping through my hair and sunlight streaming through the trees, I understood how people could get addicted to this feeling. I didn’t need my pilots license for this kind of flying.

I was on a trapeze.

Last March, I received a somewhat garbled phone message from the Vancouver Courier, informing me that I’d won two passes to the West Coast Flying Trapeze. Assuming that the tickets were for something similar to a Cirque du Soleil show, I pulled open their website, and (to my surprise and delight) discovered that we were the night’s main performers.

A couple months later, my husband and I found ourselves at the PNE fair grounds, staring up at a wide expanse of rigging, ropes, and netting. Tilting my head up towards the twenty-five foot high platform, I hastily scribbled my name on a waiver form and began to question my sanity.

But if I was crazy, I was not alone in my madness. I had just joined a small community of individuals who all share a common passion: the trapeze.

Invented in 1859, the Flying Trapeze is a specific act that involves jumping from a platform while holding onto a horizontal trapeze bar. The individual then twists, flips, and swings through the air, and is caught by another individual – the “catcher.”

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But this act is no longer solely for circus performers.

With multiple classes throughout the week, the West Coast Flying Trapeze gives people of all ages and skill levels the opportunity to step off the bleachers and into the air.

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What your first two hour class looks like:

Snugged into a tight fitting harness, muscles stretched and ready, we were given a quick demonstration and on-the-ground-training. Before I knew it, I was clipped into a set of ropes and ushered up a waiting ladder to the platform above.

As the coach at the top got me all set up, I dipped my hands into the white chalk and tried not to chicken out. Grasping the bar in one hand, the coach gripped my harness from behind and slowly walked me through the correct position. “Bend your knees more. Shoulders back. Ready! HEP!”

After a false start, I found myself dangling in the air, momentum flinging me forward and then pulling me back again. The coach on the ground called out the required moves, “Legs over the bar! Release your hands! Hands back on the bar! Legs down! Three kicks and release!”

I back-flipped into the net below, not the most gracious landing but – I’d done it!

This, however, was all just practice for the big show – the catch. Describing it does not do it justice, you’ll just have to watch it here:

Two hours and eight swings later, Andreas and I walked back to the car. Covered in chalk dust, adrenaline pumping, hands burning, and muscles aching – we looked at each other in amazement, “Did we really just do that?”

We did. And I loved it so much, I immediately convinced Andreas to sign us up for two more classes. This will not be the end of our circus adventures.

Final thoughts on the West Coast Flying Trapeze:

    • Don’t worry about being super athletic or ridiculously strong. It’s easier than it looks. If you can successfully hang from a bar with your arms straight (test out the monkey bars next time you’re at the playground) than you have the strength to swing.
    • The coaching staff was amazing. Without such a talented and confident group of staff, I wouldn’t have felt anywhere near as comfortable. Walking you through every movement, they allow you to progress at your own pace and help calm any unruly nerves.
  • Your muscles will be sore after this activity and you’ll probably sport a bit of sore skin and a few fancy bruises. Be sure to use lots of chalk and stretch after you fly. I was also very thankful to be wearing tights that went past my knees – it made it more comfortable on the bar.
  • The pictures and video shown in this blog was all taken during my FIRST class. When signing up for classes, note that there’s two different types: one that involves “catching” and one that is just for practicing and honing your skills. If you love flying and sign up for additional classes, the coaches will continue teaching you new tricks and help you to perfect what you’ve learned.
  • The cost for a two hour class is relatively reasonable, given the nature of the activity. The number of times that you get to fly will vary depending on the class size (up to 10 people per class.) In a class with 7 people, we ended up flying 7 times which still felt like a lot.
  • It’s a lot of FUN! This is something that you just have to try. It’s a thrilling and challenging activity that will push you to do something you never dreamed you could.

So calling all adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers – make your way over to the West Coast Flying Trapeze website. Trust me, this is one activity that you won’t regret trying!

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