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

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 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

Ashdown Group: Management Accountant / Analyst (CIMA finalist/newly qualified)

£32000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant / F...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - .NET

£27000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of a mark...

Recruitment Genius: Help Desk Specialist

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides Reliabili...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Managing Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Daily catch-up: the endless and beginningless election campaign goes up and down

John Rentoul
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

What the advertising world can learn from Zoella's gang

Danny Rogers
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor