Close encounters of the extreme kind

Meeting my hero and even getting a cheeky autograph. Seven-time street luge world champion, Johnny Condex.

*author’s note: I’m in Ecuador now, but this piece was written a little over a week ago when I was still in north Peru.

TRAVELLER of the world. Speaker of seven languages. Pottery teacher to underpriviliged Afghani amputees. Meet Johnny Condex.

I’m still in Lobitos, north Peru, where I’ve been relaxing, reading and surfing myself silly for the past 24 days. It’s been super fun and radical but in terms of writing cool stuff for you, the avid reader, it’s been a little mundane. You don’t wanna hear how today I had three eggs for breakfast instead of the usual two, or how last week I started getting a gnarly rash from my boardshorts, but it seems to be getting better after I bought some Lycra shorts to wear underneath. People just don’t wanna hear that shit. But today’s your lucky day.

Yesterday while walking back along the beach after a surf I bumped into South African seven-time street luge world champion Johnny Condex. To say this guy is my extreme sports and travel idol would be the understatement of the year, and just to get the chance to speak to the notorious recluse was a dream come true. It’s a fucking weird feeling to meet a man, whose picture adorned my walls on countless posters when I was a kid. As a grom I swear I watched his seminal 1994 street luge video Four Wheels of Fury at least 500 times. The legend was gracious enough to give me a quick interview, which was done over a breakfast of Spanish tortillas and freshly-squeezed juice.

Also an accomplished artist, his paintings can fetch up to $3 million apiece. There isn't much Johnny can't do.

ME: First off, what the fuck are you doing here mate? It was such a spin to see you randomly walking down the beach this morning?!

Johnny Condex: Good question. I kind of just go wherever the wind takes me. This week it took me to Chile. I was planning on base-jumping into that volcano that’s been in the news so much [note: Chile’s Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano range began erupting a week ago, and strong winds in the high atmosphere have now carried fine ash particles as far as Tasmania] but the authorities wouldn’t allow it because they said it’s “too dangerous”. Immigration confiscated my gear but they didn’t take my bungee cord. Peru has some decent-sized canyons to jump off and some good waves too so I thought I’d swing past.

ME: So, wait…what? You were actually considering jumping into a live erupting volcano?

JC: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I’ve done it before, which is why I wasn’t that fussed when they told me I wasn’t allowed to do this one. Remember the last big volcano, that one in Iceland, which fucked up everyone’s flights and junk? I base-jumped the shit out of that. It was actually surprisingly cold down there, despite the lava and everything. You probably didn’t hear about it, I don’t roll with photographers or filmers these days, my shit’s all solo [at this point Johnny breaks into fluent Spanish with the waitress and I can’t follow the conversation. She giggles and blushes, later returning with her phone number scribbled on a napkin].

Johnny at a World Cup meet earlier this year.

ME: Why don’t you allow videos or photos to be taken of you? I used to love coming home from school and flicking through the latest mags and seeing pics of you doing 1080’s on your street luge or riding a skateboard on 80ft  waves at Mavericks [a notorious big-wave spot in California].

JC: It’s just not my thing anymore man. These days crew are all about getting pics in the mags and pleasing their sponsors and shit but it’s just not me. I’m in it for the love, the rush, that feeling you get when you’re backflipping a 39-stair on a BMX, you know? You just gotta grip it and rip it, not worry about what other people are doing or what they think of you.

Condex jumping four skyscrapers for charity. He had broken both arms and legs earlier that day in a windsurfing accident.

ME: You’ve had quite a career, spanning more than two decades. That’s quite a feat in the bone-snapping extreme sports industry. What’s the secret to your longevity?

JC: Titanium. I’ve got metal plates holding together most of my bones, muscles and even veins nowadays. Doctors say I actually now only have three per cent of my original bones left in my body, the rest are artificial from my many surgeries. I’ve broken my back nineteen times mainly through street luging, gone through seven artificial hips. I’ve even had two face transplants – there’s a Nicholas Cage film they based on my surgeries actually, I heard it’s pretty good. I don’t watch films though, I’m a non-conformist. For a while there they were taking skin from my ass to do skin grafts for burns I received to my arms in a hangliding incident, but then there was so little skin left on my ass they had to start taking skin from my calves to use on my ass. So now I have leather patches where my calf skin used to be. [At this point Johnny asks the waitress for the bill and I sense that he wants to wrap up the interview].

Johnny took up surfing late last year. This, from his first ever session - first wave. Teahupoo, Tahiti. Riding switch.

So what’s next for Johnny Condex?

Not too sure mang, I don’t really plan my shit I just roll with the punches and see what happens. I’ll probably hang out in Peru a bit longer, maybe rollerblade down Machu Picchu, then I might head to west Sierra Leone, there’s supposed to be a stationary wave somewhere in the desert there, but keep that between you and me. I think outer space is definitely the next frontier though. I’m in talks with NASA about possibly heading to Saturn at some stage, but we’ll just wait and see. [I look down to my wallet to fetch my money for the bill and when I look up Johnny’s gone, vanished into the briny coastal air].

*Update: the site undergone some tiny changes. There’s a neat little ‘My Travels’ page where you see the trip’s itinerary so far. Or if you ever wanna see where I’m currently at you just have to look top right in the menu, under the ‘Currently in’ heading. Noooo shit eh.

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3 Comments

Filed under Travel

3 responses to “Close encounters of the extreme kind

  1. Djizzle

    Is their any truth to the rumour he broke his sense of smell jumping the arc de triumph on ice skates?

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