taking the jump
Risk or insanity? An interview with Eric Summers, self-proclaimed Austinstuntman
Dec 22, 2011 | 5:00 pm
Falling under the "don't try this at home" category is self-described stuntman Eric Summers, who recently jumped from the back of a moving truck on the Mopac Bridge into the waters of Lady Bird Lake below. Seriously.
After two earlier attempts (that were aborted due to weather), Summers accomplished his feat on November 21, 2011. After he pulled himself out of the water amidst shocked onlookers, he announced he was going to go "smoke a bowl." The stunt garnered Summers the dubious title of "Austin's Biggest Jackass."
As soon as I heard about this, I knew we at CultureMap must contact this dude and find out what was in his head. Here follows the funny, interesting and crazy world of Eric Summers, via my interview with him.
When did you first get the crazy idea to jump from a moving truck into the lake?
I got the idea about 10 years ago. I was born and raised in Austin and have been doing crazy things all my life. I've driven over that bridge countless times, and every time I think about jumping off into the water. I've jumped off just about every other bridge that crosses that water so it was a natural progression. For this jump, we figured it was worth making a production out of it. The most difficult part of the whole project was getting my team assembled, planning it out, getting cameras and everything set up. The jump itself was fun and not particularly difficult or skillful. Gravity pretty much handled it.
Is this even legal?
Unfortunately, most of my stunts rest in a bit of a legal gray area since I am an unlicensed practitioner. I also prefer anonymity when it comes to most public productions. Usually the stunt is just for fun and goes undocumented. I've jumped off many bridges in Austin, though none of them were as high as Mopac.
"To me, fear is the universe challenging me, or presenting me an opportunity. Fear inhibits a lot of people and I think how a person responds to fear has a lot to do with their overall happiness."
What's the craziest thing you've ever done?
My parents would say it was the Mopac bridge jump for sure. I would have to agree, I suppose, although I didn't think it was that crazy. It was extreme for sure. The craziest thing I've done would probably be more like when I ate a bowl of cereal with Guinness instead of milk. Ha ha, that was crazy.
Are you afraid of getting hurt?
I'm not afraid of getting hurt, because I count on getting hurt. Getting hurt is part of the fun. I'm not trying to get hurt, I just accept it as an integral part of the learning process, like making mistakes. The more you get hurt, the more you know your boundaries. The more you make mistakes, the faster you learn to succeed. I don't get hurt often anymore because I learned how to fall properly a long time ago from skateboarding. If you know how to fall properly, you can limit your injuries to mild flesh wounds.
What motivates you to do these things?
Fear is a big motivator for me. I like to face my fears and conquer them when I can. To me, fear is the universe challenging me, or presenting me an opportunity. Fear inhibits a lot of people and I think how a person responds to fear has a lot to do with their overall happiness. I also don't really believe in death. I think we're all infinite beings having a human experience so I'm not too worried about death, just enjoying the time I have.
When did you start doing your own stunts?
I first started doing my own stunts as soon as I could. In fact, "stuntman" was one of my first dream professions as a kid. I was always jumping around the house, climbing on furniture or trees, scaring the crap out of my parents. I remember, on the playground at school, teaching myself how to run full speed, fall, tumble and not get hurt, but make it look convincing.
What occupies your time when you're not busy jumping off bridges?
I have been, and continue to be, involved in several street art campaigns. My more extreme hobbies include parkour, juggling and free-line skating, as well as the usual boardsports (skateboard, snowboard, surf, skim, etc). I've been skydiving once before, and plan to get licensed and move onto base jumping. I've longboarded down some pretty big hills in Austin, such as the hill at Toys 'R' Us. I love rope swings. I drive a motorcycle.
What's next for you? Any big stunts planned?
I have a few stunts in mind. Nothing that will top the Mopac bridge jump. I'm spread pretty thin right now between work and other extra curricular activities. My roommates and I produce a weekly public access television show called Zeitgeist Live. On top of that, I'm spending a lot of time developing some material to start doing stand-up comedy in the spring. I would like to get into skydiving and base jumping in the future, and even further on the backburner, I want to become a helicopter pilot.
What are some of your favorite spots around Austin?
The Enchanted Forest is great, love everyone there. Brave New Books, everyone in Austin should know about this bookstore. Barton Springs of course. Ruta Maya, Mr. Natural, Alamo Drafthouse, Bennu. I do stand-up sometimes at Cherrywood Coffeehouse open mic nights. I eat at Kerby Lane way too much. I don't drink but I smoke pot.
My favorite thing to do in the city is take my telescope (got a BS in Astronomy from UT) down to the Lamar pedestrian bridge and show passersby the moon and Jupiter, sometimes Saturn. It's a great way to meet intellectuals in town and start thoughtful conversations about the cosmos and the mysteries of life and such. I like finding ways to take people out of their normal thought patterns.