Early this week a sizzle reel of teenagers jumping into an artificial lake in the West Edmonton Mall went viral on Twitter. The video—edited by Edmonton-based writer and activist Bashir Mohamed—is 2 minutes and 20 seconds of pure adolescent mischief. Some of the teenagers vault themselves over the safety railing, falling several stories into the water below. Others navigate food court tables, before mounting the mall's gaudy plastic pirate ship, and back flipping into the lake. My favourite clip sees a teen slam an energy drink, strip down to his board shorts, and pencil dive over the railing. Below, his buddies, clad in Affiliation, hoist him out of the water. As the trio sprint away from the scene, Board Shorts Teen slips on his ass and someone from the mall yells out a loud encouraging “WOO!” It's a perfect scene, made even funnier by the fact that Mohamed set the whole video to a hilariously dramatic score—Mumford & Sons’ twee sad man folk ballad "Little Lion Man."
I've watched the video at least a dozen times since it was posted. To me it encapsulates this perfect adolescent feeling; the overwhelming desire to do dumb, dangerous shit just because you can. There is no good reason to fling yourself from a second floor balcony into a giant fountain beside a pirate ship. You could get hurt. You could damage something. It will definitely make some people mad. But the fact that you're not supposed to do this kind of stuff is what makes it so fun. Sure, some rent-a-cop might yell at you. You might get grounded if you're caught. But regardless of what happens you're a legend among your friends forever after a stunt like that. No doubt.
Mohamed believes that desire for youthful recklessness is one of the reasons why the video has resonated with so many people.
"Everybody has thought of jumping in. I’m sure every single kid in Edmonton has peered over the second floor railing and gazed into the clear blue water," said Mohamed.
In the video all of the jumpers are white kids, who—to put it mildly—can get away with a lot more than others. But Mohamed says that hasn’t stopped people of colour of making the jump with the same kind of youthful hubris.
“Yeah, I think they could—I know of some who made the jump,” said Mohamed. “Of course, Edmonton police are known for disproportionately policing Black and Indigenous people. In addition, mall security is also pretty shitty. But at the end of the day, I don't think that stops non-white kids from making the jump. The mall means a lot to us too.”
Jumping into the lagoon at the West Edmonton mall is a right of passage for Alberta teens. It’s a part of our culture, worthy of its own Canadian heritage moment.
“Most people in Edmonton know someone that has jumped or has heard of someone jumping in. Even Bam Margera jumped in the lagoon in the 90s," Mohamed said.
The video brought back a flood to stupid teenage memories. In elementary school my buddy Andrew tried to see how many pairs of scissors he could chuck into the ceiling of our homeroom class. He spent an entire lunch period throwing scissors at the roof before getting fed up and hurling a Granny Smith apple. The apple got stuck and stayed rotting in the ceiling for months. The next year our classmate Kenny got suspended after he shot-putted a giant rock at the Zellers (remember Zellers?) behind the playground. Everytime I think of that big ass rock hitting the side of the building I laugh. The hormone driven, mostly harmless, acts of petty vandalism are some of my fondest childhood memories. I'm sure most people could share similar stories.
To date the video has racked up 124,000 videos and sparked a number of nostalgic replies. People have shared their own memories and videos of jumping into shit at West Edmonton Mall, including one truly incredible shot of a teen falling through the roof of a cinnamon bun kiosk. They've also flocked to the Best Edmonton Mall YouTube channel. But for Mohamed one reply stood out.
"One person even replied with a video of their friend jumping and said: This was my buddy Jimmy back in 2006. Best human I've ever known. Carried his casket a few years back. Every jump video since brings a smile and a tear."
That comment, to me, proves the value of doing dumb shit with your friends while you still can.