The Couch Surfer: ‘Swayze’s character in Point Break was a compelling film role model’

Tim Walker: Real adrenaline junkies can be lonely, insensitive gits who don’t look at all like Bodhi

Share
Related Topics

All my adult life I've been beating myself up for not being an adrenaline junkie. You know, the kind of guy who likes to leap from aeroplanes, scale perilous cliff faces or barrel over waterfalls; and who funds his fun with some undisclosed income source that's rather more lucrative than justgiving.com. The adrenaline junkie is one of those ideals of manhood that all other blokes envy and aspire to in their private fantasies – kind of like an architect, but for outdoorsy types.

I blame Patrick Swayze, whose character in Point Break was one of the most compelling cinematic role models to fill the screen during my adolescence. Bodhi had a close group of friends with whom he enjoyed beach parties and bank robberies. They shared a rad sense of humour, wearing imitation rubber masks of former US presidents throughout their action-packed crimes.

Bodhi was a Buddhist whose name means "enlightenment" in Sanskrit. Buddhism, of course, seems incredibly cool to pretentious pubescent males, as does armed robbery. He was a surfer, a skydiver, a magnetic free spirit. Sure, he was flawed, but in an awesome way. And sure, all his friends died violently because of his rash adventurism. But at least Johnny Utah allowed him a suitably gnarly suicide, surfing the world's greatest wave.

It's Bodhi I was thinking of as I sat down to watch the first part of Channel 4's brief documentary series Daredevils a fortnight ago. The film's subject was Jeb Corliss, aka "The Human Bird", a 33-year-old Californian and heir to a multimillion-dollar fortune. Corliss earned his nickname after his passion for Base jumping (parachuting from the tops of tall buildings) evolved into "proximity wingsuit flying", an extraordinary sport whose few practitioners don Teflon flying-squirrel-suits to glide down mountainsides at great speeds, opening their chutes at the very last possible moment. The human bird's mission for the film was to fly down the Matterhorn in Switzerland.

Ready to feel exhilarated and emasculated by Corliss and his Bodhi-licious exploits, I unexpectedly found myself heartened and a little bit bored instead. If there's one thing I can thank him (and last week's daredevil, naked Arctic marathon runner Wim Hof) for, it's demonstrating that adrenaline junkies can be selfish, lonely, insensitive gits, who don't look at all like Patrick Swayze.

Corliss's uniform was sinister school-shooter chic: goth-black polo neck, military boots, sunglasses and a leather trenchcoat. His hippyish mum seemed strangely blasé about the possibility of his imminent death; as did he, admitting that he was mildly suicidal. And his only friend had been killed in a horrible accident during an ill-advised skydive. Hof, meanwhile, suggested that an evening spent dunking himself in a freezing Amsterdam canal, to train his body and focus his mind, was like taking drugs. Personally, I'd rather just take the drugs.

Philippe Petit, the inspirational, thrill-seeker subject of Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire, also proved to be a sociopathic so-and-so. After completing his World Trade Tower wire-walk in 1974, he dumped his girlfriend and the pals who had given up so much time and energy to assist him, running off to bonk an anonymous groupie in some grotty New York apartment.

Don't get me wrong; the flight down the Matterhorn and the naked ice marathon – both of which the daredevils completed successfully – were remarkable achievements to match Petit's. But in order to pull off such lunatic feats of physical endeavour, it seems you have to be not only a lunatic, but an unsympathetic one. I'm comfortable being a friendly coward. At least until someone mentions Ben Fogle.

I was recently discussing fiction writing with a friend, who declared that there was no point writing a novel unless it was either as good as Cormac McCarthy, or as trashy and populist as Jeffrey Archer, and thus likely to sell "as many copies as there are bricks in the Great Wall of China." I'm not sure I agreed with this advice entirely, but it did put me in mind of a piece of trivia that I learned recently and was planning to keep hold of until such time as I have to set a literary pub quiz.

David Foster Wallace – the author of Infinite Jest, who died last year aged 46 and was widely regarded as the greatest American writer of his generation – was once in the same creative writing class at Amherst College as Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol. I have to wonder whether their tutor gave them similar advice.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
With an eye for strategy: Stephen Fry’s General Melchett and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder  

What Cameron really needs is to turn this into a khaki election

Matthew Norman
An Italian policeman stands guard as migrants eat while waiting at the port of Lampedusa to board a ferry bound for Porto Empedocle in Sicily. Authorities on the Italian island of Lampedusa struggled to cope with a huge influx of newly-arrived migrants as aid organisations warned the Libya crisis means thousands more could be on their way  

Migrant boat disaster: EU must commit funds to stop many more dying

Alistair Dawber
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own