(Part 3 of 4 in series, The interviews from my perspective)
Dylan Johanson / Episode 15
I met Dylan Johanson in 2013. I went to an ADAPT certification course at Kutztown University run by Parkour Generations, and Dylan came down from upstate New York. He hadn’t really had a chance to train with a lot of other people, so this was the first time that he had had a chance to be in a group of roughly 27 candidates for the course, which was enormous. He was just so happy. He was basically running, jumping or laughing the whole time because he had never found such a large group of people with the same passion.
The first day he was sort of playing the, “I’m old,” card because he was in his late 30s at the time, having started parkour after quitting his previous business life. When he eventually bumped into me, it was like, “hey, fellow oldster!” We just sort of clicked, and we wound up walking from the training spots to where lunch was and back and forth. When I started doing the podcast years later, I was always thinking his story was interesting because of—as he talks about in the podcast—his early “days of the ninja”; He would just pick a straight line through Kingston on a Sunday when everything is closed and run over fences, dogs and all that.
He’s over 3 hours by car from me, but I kept trying to find ways to get up and train with him. I made a couple road trips up to his different iterations of the gym. When I finally got a chance to interview him, it was so fun to sit down with no distractions because normally the people that I hang out with, we’re meeting at events, we’re meeting at parkour gyms and things are crazy. For this interview, it was just this chill opportunity for us to sit at his house and relax.
The story of how I got to the actual pressing of record was that I went to a winter retreat that was held in the Catskills. After the event was over, instead of driving the four hours back to where I live, I just drove 45 minutes across the Hudson River. It’s a fond memory for me because I had the quiet drive-time to myself, and I was driving west into a glorious sunset after a deeply introspective, winter immersion retreat.
I drove across the Hudson, and I went directly to the third incarnation of his gym; The gym that I had not yet been to. Everything just came together. There was an adult birthday party happening that evening at the gym, so when I got there, the place was packed with people and all his instructors. I showed up, dropped my bag and went to play on things. It was like the very beginning, “Hey, Dylan, how are you?” “I’m cool.” …and right into showing each other things to try and challenges. It was this perfect, closed loop back to how we met simply jumping and playing.
Eventually the birthday party ended, they closed the gym down, and I went back to Dylan’s to crash for the night. When I travel for podcasting, everything goes with me in one backpack with the rest of my stuff, and normally I just sleep on the floor with my favorite little air mattress. After dinner, I got upgraded to a futon, and it was a great end to terrific day.
In the morning, we sat around his house chatting. His house has some terrific quiet space where you can really recharge. There’s a lot of wood. It’s very much a home. There’s also Tesla, Dylan’s super-sweet love-hound pitpull, and she’s in the podcast too; You don’t hear her, but we talk about her. We sat in his living room with our feet on his coffee table, drinking coffee out of silly-shaped coffee mugs, and just talking about our ADAPT course and other random stuff. I often say that all the episodes are my favorite, but Dylan’s is one of the first where I realized how much having the chance to spend time with the guests before we do the recording changes everything.
The interviews always show the guests’ personality, and you can really get to know them, but it doesn’t work if I literally just walk up and say, “Okay, you ready?” “Yes.” And then press record. It’s priceless to have spent the day before jumping and playing at the gym, dinner at his home, and all night we’re thinking, “what are we going to talk about tomorrow? A leisurely morning with the dog, coffee, and then when we finally did press record, we were just so ready to talk that his interview just clicks. They just fall out like that. There’s little bits here and there that get cut or some do-overs, but it was just so fun.
His story that he tells in the podcast about making ninja lines through quiet, downtown Kingston… that’s literally who Dylan is. Not that he does that every day, but he is literally the person who runs and jumps and plays. In the episode, he talks about some of his favorite spots in Kingston. After the recording, we threw down the recording gear and drove down to Kingston. We went to some of his favorite spots, just randomly jumped on stuff, playing and enjoying ourselves for hours.
It was a fun session for me because it was just the two of us, and we’re both a little older. Now, he’s way better than me athletically, but to get a chance to once again move with this guy that I enjoy training with so much, and in the spots that are his places where he just kept going, “Oh, you got to try this. Oh, you got to try this.” I never had a moment to get bored, he always had the next place in mind. He’s super energetic and fun to follow around.
I didn’t know Dylan when he had his day job. I only met him after he had quit and started working on parkour as a full-time, “how am I going to turn this into an actual project?” job. Simply put, he was trying to create a community. It was in that timeframe when I met him at the ADAPT course. I started running into him at other events, and when he created his first gym I went up. I made another visit when he opened the second incarnation of his gym. I didn’t go up and train with him when he first started his community, but I’ve known him for that whole time. Eventually he had created the third gym, and that’s when the random confluence of events created the chance to go up for an interview. As I was driving up I was thinking, “I don’t know anybody who’s opened three gyms.” Like three iterations of the same community gym, and that was why that kind of became a thing in the episode; It was me coming to him at the point where he had now done the third one. That’s why when I ask him for advice, he’s very much like, “Yeah, don’t do it. Don’t open three gyms.”