Audrey Ashburn

Flipping Out

Much of Austin High’s uniqueness is attributable to its talented students. Junior Leo Noblitt-Atkins has caught the eye of many in Austin High as he performs flips and tricks on seemingly dangerous platforms. Leo began learning how to do his flips at a very young age.

“I’ve been doing this since I was nine years old and I’m mostly self-taught,” Leo said. “I started doing flips onto mattresses, and I would climb up on the monkey bars in elementary school and just do blackflips off of them.”

His seemingly risky stunts gave teachers and even his parents quite a scare, but Leo has taken classes that have enabled him to do his flips.

“I did tumbling for a long time and now I’m starting to branch out a little bit to something called free-running, which is very similar to parkour,” Leo said.

Leo seems to be able to do all of these tricks on dangerous platforms like concrete and tile without getting hurt, but he has gotten hurt a couple of times while doing his stunts, the worst of which involved a broken ankle.

“The worst I’ve hurt myself was a broken talus, but it wasn’t a very bad break and took less than a month to heal,” Leo said.

Leo often goes and performs stunts during his downtime, and to bystanders, his flips look very complicated.

“The hardest flip I know how to do is a double back flip,” Leo said.

A lot of Leo’s ability comes from training in martial arts.

I was a martial artist for seven years and I started taking kung-fu when I was six

— Leo Noblitt-Atkins

Leo has always had an interest in stunts and being able to have complete control over his body and mind. It wasn’t until Leo was introduced to YouTube at a young age that he began to think about how he could take his knowledge of martial arts to the next level.

“I got introduced to YouTube in 2008,” Leo said. “ I liked to watch martial arts videos a lot, and those led into parkour videos popping up.”

Leo became addicted to these videos very quickly and realized he could learn how to do flips like the people in the videos.

“I just thought: I can do this too – I have the flexibility. So I just went out and did it,” Leo said.       

The hardest part for anyone beginning in tumbling and free-running is the fear of falling. Even experienced free-runners like Leo are apprehensive for a while.

“It definitely took some conquering of fear,” Leo said. “The thing about flips is they really aren’t all that scary. It’s all in your head.”

Instead of an overwhelming feeling of fear, flipping gives Leo an adrenaline rush that calms him and clears his head.

“What’s going through my mind when I’m doing a flip is nothing really, I actually don’t even think about it, I just do it,” Leo said. “I find the harder you think about something the more likely you are to fail at it.”

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