Defying gravity in a Westerner Days act

Looking as if the same rules of gravity don’t apply, the group of stunt bikers and inline skaters at Westerner Days flip through the air.

Ben Kaufmann soars through the air

Ben Kaufmann soars through the air

Looking as if the same rules of gravity don’t apply, the group of stunt bikers and inline skaters at Westerner Days flip through the air.

The Craz-E-Crew stunt team has been wowing audiences each day at Westerner Park doing backflips and other stunts around wooden ramps and boxes.

The Ottawa-based group can do everything from tailwhips — where a biker flips the bike around underneath him — to superman airs — with the rider having his body stretched straight over the bike while holding nothing but the handle bars in the air.

During their afternoon shows at Westerner Days, the stunt riders have reached more than five metres over the ground, with nothing but asphalt to cushion their fall if they land wrong.

Ben Kaufmann, 26, rides a BMX bike in the show and is part owner of the Craz-E-Crew.

He started riding a BMX bike 11 years ago, hitting every jump he could early on and eventually trying harder tricks.

In his hometown of Kenora, a small town in northern Ontario, he would practise tricks on his bike with friends by jumping his bike into the lake. They would strap a bunch of life-jackets on the bike and put a jump on the dock and then ride the bike off it. In the winter, they’d practise by jumping into snowbanks to cushion their landing.

His worst injury so far happened at his first pro event. He tore his ACL and the meniscus in his right knee when he twisted it 90 degrees inward. He has recovered around 90 per cent of his mobility after the injury.

Kaufmann’s favourite trick is the double tailwhip, when the bike spins under him twice in the air, but he said the toughest trick he does in the show is a backflip no hander, when he flips over backwards, lets go of the handlebars and pinches the bike between his knees.

He is sponsored and rides a bike by Norco, a company based in Vancouver.

Kaufmann is joined in the show by announcer Paul Hoerdt, BMX rider Will Fisher of Burlington, Ont., rollerbladers Pierre-Phillipe Loiselle of Montreal Kevin Lapierre of Drummondville, Que., and flatlander Daniel Boyer of Montreal.

Boyer does what looks like a type of ballet or acrobatics on his bike as he does various moves on the pavement balancing the bike and twisting it around. At one point, he stood on the handle bars as the bike moved forward.

Kaufmann said lots of kids have with plenty of questions. “It’s really gratifying for us to be role models to them,” he said.

The stunt team has travelled throughout Canada and the United States, with visits to as far away as China, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.

The Craz-E-Crew will perform at 2, 4 and 6 p.m. today and Sunday, not far from the Gasoline Alley Harley Davidson Stage.

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com

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