He’s been called an “idiot” and a “reckless adrenaline junkie” whose dizzying stunts have him knocking on death’s door. Now the man who claims to be one of those seen ‘surfing’ on the roof of a moving subway train in Toronto is talking about his stunts and the imminent threat of police arrest.
After communicating with CTV News via direct messages for weeks, the young man behind a shocking Canada Day video that made headlines across the country has agreed to an exclusive interview.
During our online conversations, he made his feelings about the press clear, telling me, “I don’t talk to the media.” That is, until now. After several messages, he recently agreed to meet near a busy intersection in downtown Toronto.
His real name remains a mystery, though he asked that I call him Chase, a name that plays off his social media nickname (his Instagram handle is @thechase.TO). He arrived at our meeting dressed in a suit and tie, while wearing a full black face mask with a white skull painted on the front and two holes cut out for his eyes. Puzzled passers-by stopped and stared at us as we walked along Yonge Street toward our interview location.
When asked why he felt the need to show up with a mask, Chase was quick to point out that anonymity is key for him. “None of this would happen if I wasn’t anonymous.”
The masked man said he was in his early twenties and Canadian. It’s the only personal information he’s willing to divulge. However, he has reason to be suspicious. On Canada Day weekend, Chase posted a shocking video of himself and at least one other person ‘train riding’ atop a rapid transit train in north Toronto , leading to an official investigation into the people behind the stunt.
The Toronto Transit Commission told CTV News it has assigned its investigation to the Toronto Police Service, which confirmed a detective has been assigned to the case, which is still in its early stages. Chase agreed to speak to CTV News despite knowing authorities were looking for him. He said his message to the TTC was, “It’s nothing personal.”
Chase claims to have climbed and traversed cranes, trains and roof ledges without safety harnesses at various locations in Canada, as well as a dozen other countries.
A video posted to his YouTube page in January 2022 shows an individual climbing what is described as a Cold War Soviet radar located in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. In the video, you can hear someone with an accent warning you that “it’s dangerous” to climb. Chase admits it’s a place “you’re really not supposed to go to.”
He said he was part of what is known globally as the “URBEX” community, an acronym used as a generic title for urban explorers. Some of them, like Chase, take stunning footage of themselves freely climbing dizzying structures around the world, then edit their videos and post them on social media for everyone to see.
“THESE ARE MY RISKS”
Chase said he started doing it about seven years ago when, as a teenager, a close friend took him to the roof of a school. Since then, it has climbed higher and higher, even as the ever-present danger increases. He said he came from a climbing background. CTV News asked him if he was worried a copycat might see his videos and then try something similar.
“I’ve seen a few imitators and that worries me a lot,” he said. “I am in no way encouraging anyone to re-enact or attempt the activities I undertake. These are my risks, I know the stakes, but I am making my own decision here and I strongly advise against anyone copying it.”
When asked if he was afraid of dying, Chase paused before replying, “sometimes, but not often.”
“Of course there is an element of risk in what we do, but we take it anyway because the experiences on the other side are like opening a door to a new world,” he said. he declares.
However, this new world cost the lives of other climbers and underground tunnel explorers. Chase said he was somewhat lucky, noting only one experience that really scared him while climbing a crane in Paris, France.
“I was on this crane in Paris and I’m climbing up and I realize it’s all soaked, and I’m halfway there and going down is a lot harder than getting up. At that moment, I felt fear.
Richard Lachman, professor of digital storytelling at Metropolitan University of Toronto, thinks the camera-hugging daredevils involved in these stunts aren’t just looking for “likes” on their social media pages, but also the payday that accompanies the increase in page views. “For a few accounts this can be very lucrative, but I would point out that there have been some very famous accounts doing this professionally and they are still dead,” Lachman noted.
Chase bristled at the idea. Although he admitted that some of his peers chase dollar signs, he claimed that all of his YouTube videos are demonetized. “It’s intentional, I don’t make a dime with it.”
Instead, the youngster said he was trying to subvert the negative narrative around his stunts by starting a fundraiser through his social media accounts for the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Chase hopes to raise $10,000 and said he’s trying to use his notoriety to, in part, help people realize that “we’re not just a thrill-seeking gang, we’re not a thrill-seeking gang. foolish and impetuous teenagers like us”. always stated as being. He said he wanted to “channel as much of that attention, that my missions and stunts can attract as much good as humanly possible.”
ACSM has confirmed that it has endorsed Chase’s fundraising campaign. While Chase doesn’t encourage people to take the risks he does, an ACSM spokesperson told CTV News, “We understand that some people might be tempted. We ask them not to.
CTV News asked Chase if he was worried about being arrested by the police. He declined to answer our question, although he noted that he feels the heat from the authorities every time he posts a new video – but that’s not going to stop him.
As our interview drew to a close, the masked roofer said, “The only consistent thing in my life has been climbing buildings, and I’d like to continue doing that until I die.”
He then left for the concrete jungle of Toronto still wearing his skull mask, his anonymity intact.