Thousands of cars whiz along McCallum Road in central Abbotsford each and every day.
For drivers who use the thoroughfare, the mixture of residential and commercial buildings probably just blends in after awhile, but in the backyard of one of the ordinary houses lining the street something extraordinary happens almost every day.
It’s in that backyard that Thomas Manuel practises and practises and then practises some more. The Grade 12 Abbotsford Senior Secondary student has quickly established himself as a force on the freestyle trampoline scene, and wows thousands of followers on his popular Instagram page daily.
Taking a peek into Manuel’s backyard feels like looking at a kid’s dream come true.
Two trampolines – one rectangle and one circle – line up near each other with a 10-foot wooden tower in between. The tower provides Manuel the ability to practise bigger and better tricks.
It’s a skill that he has been working on for a few years, but trampolines have been a constant in his life.
“We’ve just always had a trampoline,” he said, with a smile.
It was through that familiarity that Manuel built a comfort with being in the air.
“I always liked doing flips but eventually I wanted to learn how to do a backflip,” he said. “I went on YouTube and just kept trying to learn how to do a backflip from videos and, when I learned that, it was like, what’s the next step? What else can I do? And it kept getting bigger and bigger.”
Through watching others online, Manuel continued developing his abilities. He started getting serious about his trampoline skills at age 14, and is completely self-taught. He has never taken any gymnastics or tumbling classes, and said learning new things on the trampoline fuels him.
“The adrenaline rush when you’re afraid to do a trick and you finally do it is the best feeling ever,” he said. “And it’s also the friends you make doing it. I’ve made so many friends across the world , and also edit and film my own videos. It’s amazing.”
Manuel is attracting significant attention online for footage and pictures of his tricks. He has over 5,000 followers on Instagram, and his social media reach is growing daily. The circular trampoline was actually sent to him for free as a promotional tool of sorts by Beast Trampolines, who also sponsor him as an athlete.
It’s not just in his backyard that Manuel shows off his skills, as he has been invited to several trampoline competitions across the western USA and has impressed the talent down south.
He attended the GTramp Games in Escondido, Calif., this June and qualified for the finals of the 30-second freestyle event. The GTramp Games also featured a big-trick competition and “game of tramp.” Manuel was one of a select few from around the globe invited to compete at the event.
Manuel said the sport is still growing in Canada, but is becoming really big in the US and Europe. Another edition of the GTramp Games occurred in Denmark in August.
He said the single most impressive trick he has ever landed is a quadruple front flip, in which he rotated four times in the air.
Manuel was also invited to the Gravalanche in Venice Beach, Calif., earlier this month, but he suffered an ankle injury while performing a triple flip on Oct. 6. As a result, he needs to undergo surgery to repair his ankle, but stated he will be back on the trampoline as soon as possible.
He said he wants to continue participating in the sport, and he can see freestyle trampolining became a part of the X Games one day or just become a big sporting event on its own.
He advised young athletes to always be safe on a trampoline, and noted he always has the safety enclosure on both of his trampolines when he’s practising.
“You always have to take precautions but keep training every day and eventually it will come to you,” he said, adding that he practises until it’s dark nearly every day. “It’s such an amazing feeling landing a trick and everyone should feel that.”
To watch some of Manuel’s magic online, visit his Instagram page at instagram.com/thomas_.manuel.