The Breakdown: Evel Knievel

Crash, burn, repeat

Famed stuntman Evel Knievel died last week at the age of 69. The renowned daredevil, who said he had 15 major operations to repair broken bones and other traumatic injuries, first became famous by jumping 151 feet over the fountains outside Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, finishing with the fantastic crash seen in the clip here.

He once said that landing was the hardest part of his jumps, and that’s obviously evident here. He gets the slope of the takeoff ramp right, and accelerates enough to carry him across to the landing ramp, but then loses his balance. Unlike the practioners of parkour, who enter into tight rolls to absorb the shock of landing, Knievel flips over and lands fairly flat on his back. He’s just moving too fast. After this initial crush, all that momentum he built up on the bike continues to carry him forward, slamming his head into the pavement. Watching this video, it’s amazing to think that he lived as long as he did. There are several great obituaries honoring his amazing and thoroughly unique life. My favorite quote: “I knew I could draw a big crowd by jumping over weird stuff.”-Gregory Mone