Is Parkour a Fad? These 8 Graphs Say A Lot

ph_2954_11321FOREWORD: With parkour entering a high growth phase with many new gyms, clothing lines, performance teams, and more, it is obvious to most practitioners that parkour is more than just a fad. But how can we truly prove this? As an ambassador for the growth of parkour, a passionate practitioner, and a parkour business owner, I am particularly interested in ways that I can convince policy makers, sponsors, and the general public that parkour is here to stay.

Aside from monster numbers of views, subscribers, and followers on social media outlets like Facebook and YouTube, one of the best ways to analyze the growth of parkour is through search volume numbers. Luckily, there is a relatively unknown service by Google called Trends. Google Trends can create robust graphical representations of the popularity of parkour through the search engine’s unrivaled traffic. Search volume is a great way to analyze the growth or decline of something over time for many reasons. Keep reading for some interesting things I learned while running all kinds of data on parkour through Google Trends.

#1) The Rise of Parkour
As you can see in this first graph, parkour grew tremendously in the early 2000s and peaked in 2006. Since then, search volume has varied from month to month, but approximately stayed the same with perhaps some small, steady growth in the past couple years. This means that parkour has held steady and strong for 8 years now. This graph can also tell us about some of the most monumental moments in parkour’s recent history. The biggest spikes on the graph correlate to the release of Jump Britain (January 2005), a BBC news segment (June 2006), and MTV’s Ultimate Parkour Challenge (May 2010). But the biggest is yet to come. Even without mega TV shows and documentaries, parkour almost hit a new high just 6 months ago. My prediction is that the next 12 months will result in a new apex of parkour search volume.

#2) Parkour vs. Freerunning
Freerunning was coined in Jump London as an English-speaking synonym for parkour. However, freerunning quickly earned it’s own identity. Apparently, the English synonym for parkour was unneeded because the word parkour caught on just fine around the world. As shown in the graph below, “parcour” and “parkour” together are far more searched than “free running” and “freerunning”. I have to admit that constantly saying or writing out both words is a pain in the ass (PKFR NE1?!!). Nowadays, many movement veterans consider parkour, freerunning, and other similar styles to essentially be the same. Seeing as how the Internet immensely favors parkour, I would love to drop freerunning and simply use parkour as an umbrella name for several movement styles. The only constant is change; who’s with me here?


#3) Parkour Surpasses Other Action/Extreme Sports
A strong indicator that parkour is more than a fad is that it has surpassed some of the biggest action/extreme sports in Google search volume. By 2006, parkour had become more popular on Google than mountain biking and rock climbing. In May 2010, parkour surpassed skateboarding. Yep, you read that right. On the web, parkour has overcome an iconic sport and industry valued at over $5 billion a year and with 11+ million participants in the USA alone.

#4) Most Popular Countries

If we were talking pure search volume, countries like the UK and USA would probably be at the top. However, this chart takes into account the relative population of each country. I have to admit that Morocco anywhere on this list, let alone at number one, is a head scratcher. The European countries are not a big surprise (aside from Moldova), since I have seen plenty of parkour teams, parks, and videos come out of Poland, Romania, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, and Portugal. Along with Morocco, Colombia and Georgia are the other big curiosities on this list. However, they bring the total number of continents represented in this top 10 list to 4 and prove that parkour is truly a global phenomenon.

#5) Most Popular States (USA)
It makes sense to see Washington (Parkour Visions), Colorado (APEX Movement), California (Tempest Freerunning), and Oregon (Revolution Parkour) in the top 10 list of parkour states. Long known as parkour hotspots in the USA, these states all had many dedicated practitioners, teams, and gyms since around a decade ago. While the communities may not be as organized or old school in Utah, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, or Hawaii, they also have a lot of new growth and clearly, plenty of people who want to start. 9 of the top 10 states are in the West. Indiana is the only outlier but it probably made the list thanks to a couple of their old school communities. Parkour clearly seems to fall in line with the healthy, outdoorsy, progressive cultures that are more widespread in the Western USA. The East Coast also has big numbers of parkour practitioners, but they are overshadowed by a larger population of people who have yet to take strong interest.

#6) Parkour Nearing Other Action/Extreme Sports
The first main takeaway here is that parkour has almost overtaken surfing in Internet search popularity. Parkour has also overtaken both skiing and snowboarding during the summer months (for the Northern Hemisphere). While most traditional extreme/action sports are on the decline, parkour is on a slow and steady rise. Additionally, parkour has no seasonal lulls or booms like the other sports on this graph. Parkour doesn’t rely on weather as much as skiing, snowboarding, and surfing so it’s search volume stays more consistent throughout the year.
#7) Parkour Videos vs. How to Parkour
This little graph just warms my heart. You can see that people wanted to watch parkour videos the most in winter and spring of 2006. As parkour lost it’s novelty effect, people watched it less. Nowadays, the search popularity of parkour videos is slowly increasing once again. The part of this graph that bodes well for parkour is the steady growth of the search term “how to parkour”. At first, people were much more interested in watching parkour than doing it. However, in January 2012, more people wanted to know how to do parkour than simply watch it. As people continue to be exposed to parkour through videos, gyms, events, and more, they eventually realize that they want to give it a shot themeselves.

#8) Most Popular Parkour Search Terms

This was one of the biggest surprises I stumbled across because I don’t play video games at all. I’ve never played Minecraft but apparently Tempest Freerunning did their homework when they dedicated a portion of their new gym to the wildly successful game. I am assuming that “parkour games” is another search term fueled by video games such as Mirror’s Edge and Assassin’s Creed. The search volume for parkour that is coming in due to Minecraft and other video games dwarfs that from other popular search terms such as “how to parkour”, “parkour shoes”, and “parkour training.” In short, this graph depresses me.

About Ryan Ford (6 Posts)

Ryan graduated in 2009 from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Ryan is known internationally as a top parkour athlete and coach, having performed around the world for organizations such as the U.S. Embassy, Hewlett-Packard, and K-Swiss. Also, Ryan has been featured by media giants including the New Yorker and ESPN. In addition to founding APEX Movement, Ryan also has a parkour channel on YouTube with over 5 million views. Although Ryan’s specialty is parkour, he has continued his movement education through certifications such as CrossFit, pole fitness, and barefoot running. One of Shape.com’s 50 hottest trainers in 2013, Ryan is an alumni of YouTube's prestigious Next Trainer program and a FitFluential ambassador.