What’s that saying? Those who can’t do, watch?
If you’re deathly afraid of heights — much like this reporter, who prefers going through life with her feet firmly affixed to the ground — don’t you worry. Starting on August 1, you can log onto RedBullTV.com from the comfort of your couch and live vicariously through a new daredevil docuseries, Urbex.
Over the course of eight episodes, you’ll get to know nine thrill-seekers — including free-runners, roof-toppers, parkour enthusiasts and crazy stunts people — who take over the world’s tallest buildings, scariest bridges and most heavily-guarded barriers around the world.
Abudi Alsagoff and Oleg Cricket.
“For me, there wasn’t really a scariest moment, because I know myself really well. Everything I did during filming was everything that I trained for,” said Malaysian parkour pro Abudi Alsagoff, who’s been training for nine years.
Alsagoff and Russian stunt man Oleg Cricket climbed several Dubai skyscrapers, including the World Trade Centre and the Cayan Tower, an infamously twisty building that stands 73 storeys tall.
“I’ve seen all of Oleg’s videos, where he jumps from one place to the other without effort. And then when you meet him, you realise, okay, this guy is like, 6’2, and I’m like 5’4. This guy is massive — that’s why all the jumps he does are so effortless — whatever the distances are, they’re super easy for him,” said Alsagoff.
Both Alsagoff and Cricket are no strangers to Dubai. Cricket has famously hover-boarded, planked and back-flipped atop the city’s highest buildings, with the gut-churning YouTube videos to prove it.
Cricket at Dubai Marina.
Meanwhile, Alsagoff climbed 200 flights of stairs last year to make a human flag of himself off the side of the unfinished 101 Marina building, which is both the tallest residential tower in the world and the second tallest tower in Dubai after the Burj Khalifa.
Back in Urbex, you can watch the bubbly 25-year-old in his home country of Malaysia, doing a handstand on the popular Putrajaya bridge.
“I don’t use any momentum, so it was like doing a handstand press. You go into it slowly, and then you push your body up. You have to make sure you’re strong enough to lift your body into position.”
No momentum, no risk, and the only problem left, he said, was his fear of heights.
“I had to train gradually for that. I don’t just immediately go onto the bridge — that would be crazy. But I go gradually higher to this level, and then higher to that level, and at the end, I’m able to go onto the bridge,” he said.
Alsagoff began self-training at 16, after his neighbour told him to check out something called ‘parkour’ on YouTube.
“I’ve always had this idea at the back of my mind, where if you watch a TV show or a movie, like Power Rangers or Jackie Chan, you always thought, ‘Okay, this is fake. No way could a normal human being do this.’ On YouTube, it’s usually just an amateur video — they recorded themselves and put it up on YouTube. It just blew my mind, because that is definitely real,” he said.
Parkour, developed in the 1980s in France, was derived from military obstacle course training. It includes getting from point A to point B in the quickest, most efficient way possible, using nothing but your physical strength.
Through trial and error, Alsagoff perfected the art of parkour and put himself through university, where he studied engineering, by doing crazy stunts for TV commercials.
“Because the pay was really good, that one [commercial] would last me for four, five months, and I’d be able to cover my college fees as well. I didn’t get any scholarships, nor any loans. To get through college, I did that,” he said.
He briefly considered getting a ‘normal job’ after graduating in 2014, but decided to take a chance on himself first. Today, he’s a full-time athlete and content-creator.
Alsagoff’s story will be told side-by-side with that of Russian YouTubers Vadim & Vitality, who will take risks in Mumbai, French photographer David DaRueda who will tackle an abandoned space shuttle in Kazakhstan, American duo Max Ross and Zach Burke who will take over Toronto and Bryce Wilson who will explore in Melbourne.
Elaina Hammeken at Copenhagen.
If you’re thinking ‘that’s a lot of men’, you’re right. Elaina Hammeken, 27, is the only woman on the show. She says that until recently, urban exploration was a man’s world, but more and more women are popping up around the world.
Half Danish and half American, Hammeken started climbing buildings and taking photos from rooftop two years ago, after completing a Masters degree in economics and finance.
In 2010, she was badly injured in a snowboarding accident.
“I had to relearn how to walk and I can’t really run that well anymore. The entire structural integrity of my knee is gone,” she said.
Four years later, she reached out to a man named Anders, known for his urban explorations of Copenhagen, and asked if he would take her on her first roof-topping experience. She wanted to regain her identity.
“When I finished my thesis, I went up on the rooftop for the first time and I was just thinking, ‘I don’t want to sit behind a desk and stare at endless spreadsheets for the rest of my life’,” said Hammeken.
“At first, it was a hobby to help me with my injury and get a piece of myself back. Now it’s such an addiction.”
Urbex, short for ‘urban exploring’, involves adventuring through, on top of and underneath man-made structures around the world, with a focus on abandoned ruins. In Copenhagen, Hammeken said, such man-made structures have a height restriction — they can only be six storeys tall.
Alsagoff at Dubai Marina.
“We don’t have these huge exciting rooftops, but we have a lot of history, and we have a lot of amazing architecture,” said Hammeken.
“The Copenhagen exploration isn’t so much about going the highest, or doing the craziest trick, but more searching for the shot and using the history and architecture around you.”
Her biggest fear was getting busted somewhere she shouldn’t be, and often, asked to delete the photos.
“We ran into a situation on one of our first nights filming. We went down into this tunnel, which is a drain system they’re installing a little outside of Copenhagen, and we ended up getting caught,” she laughed.
In her early explorations, Hammeken would shoot with a camera her parents gave her after her accident. But after selling her first set of licensed photographs, she splurged on a Canon 5D Mark III. And though climbing challenges her physically, getting the perfect photo provides just as much gratification.
“When you get the right shot, it’s a feeling you can’t explain. You feel like you’ve found the secret to the universe or something. You’re just on a whole other level of concentration. It’s two different kinds of adrenaline, but they’re both so addicting.”
*Watch Urbex exclusively on the on-demand service RedBull.TV, which is also available as an app and through Smart TVs.