Double avalanche survivor becomes professional circus performer
ESQUIMALT – Jake is crossing the grass on his hands. Before learning to walk upside-down, Jake says he was being turned upside-down by an avalanche.
“We just heard this big rumbling,” Jake recalls. “I looked up and this big snow, this avalanche, just hit me like a truck! Bam!”
The 44-year-old was 20 then, when he and a friend were backcountry snowboarding at Parker Ridge in Banff.
“It was just pushing me under and, I don’t know, my angel kept me on top” he explains. “And then a second avalanche came down. Hit us again! Boom!”
This time Jake couldn’t find his friend. He says he wouldn’t have been able to find him buried in the snow without an avalanche beacon.
“He was upside down,” Jake says. “I rescued him and we got out of there.”
The self-described adrenaline junkie says that near-death experience didn’t change his life, but what happened six years later started to. Another friend, who worked for Cirque Du Soliel, invited Jake to a backstage rehearsal.
“I was like, ‘Where has this been my whole life?!’” he remembers with a smile. “From that moment on, I’ve been practising circus.”
Although Jake works as a V.P. of Sales at a local tech company, he commits to “carving out at least an hour” to practise juggling and other acts.
“I found what I love!” said Jake.
Jake also performs circus professionally. His website -- jakewest.ca – features highlights from some of his shows. “I really enjoy being in front or people,” he says. “Performing is a natural thing.”
Although he has to juggle multiple roles, including husband and father, Jake says there’s one practise that makes him better at them all.
“Have you heard of Ho’oponopono?” he asks.
Jake says it’s a Hawaiian ritual that he learned from a family member battling cancer. It taught him to work through conflicts in four steps: saying I’m sorry, please forgive me, I love you, and finally thank you. “Thank you for this opportunity to grow and evolve,” he explains.
And that – more than surviving two avalanches, more than finding his passion for circus, is what Jake says has had the most impact on his life.
“It’s a beautiful world,” he says. “Strive to be happy.”