Marcus is one of those people high on life! Anytime, anywhere, he tries to make the most of it. His brother and him even built their business around what makes them happy and they do an awesome job at taking Saskatoonians outside. He attributes his desire to make playing an important part of his life in great part to his atypical upbringing. When he was 5 years old, his parents moved to a hobby farm North-West of Prince Albert, SK. These 80 acres were the only playground him and his other 4 siblings needed.
“We came back but that 10 years out there was a huge part of it because you had appreciation for nature, for playing. I got very fit and agile. A lot of the balance sports we do now are attributed to all the little things we’d do on the farm like running on logs and so on. We built a SUP raft before we even knew what the heck it was. My love of an active lifestyle and nature I attribute to this time.”
The family all came back to Saskatoon since they were already spending a lot more time in town for work, soccer practices, tournaments and so on. The timing was good and Marcus made the most out of it, improving at soccer, and getting into other sports such as climbing. A lot of the sports and activities he got into were influenced by his older brother Johnny, and he got his business inclination from his dad.
“My dad has always been an entrepreneur, he’s always had his own business and that side of things has started to come out after high school. At first, we wanted to buy the old climbing gym. I got into climbing right after high school. My brother Johnny was into it and into ultimate [frisbee] and all these alternative sports. Climbing was one of them. Slack lining as well. I was working for my parents at the time and my brother and I decided we were going to open a store that sold unicycles and slacklines.”
Twelve years later, they sell more than that. Escape Sports is a well established alternative sports store in Saskatoon. Walking around the store for the first time, you can’t help but wonder what all these things have in common but meeting the owners Marcus and his brother Johnny, you quickly get it. Whatever they like doing, they sell. Stand-up paddle boards, ultimate frisbee, climbing, Onewheel, roller derby, skateboards, scooters, outdoor games, hammocks, clothing and of course, unicycles and slacklines! It is both for their pleasure and the benefit of their friends and clients with which they share the excitement.
“I talk about my experiences and why I love it so much and usually that stoke rubs off. I think everyone wants to be stoked. It does not matter what you are doing. There is no bad connotation to the stoke because it’s the greatest thing. I think everyone loves that and you have to let it rub off on people! Stoke empowers!”
Marcus spends his life between the store and chasing that stoke. Co-owning Escape Sports allows him to take time away from it to pursue other passions like music or travels. The percussionist of Parab Poet and the Hip-Hop Hippies has recently spent some time on tour and recording an album with the band. When they are around, his brother and him spend a lot of time, both personally and as a business, involved in the communities around these sports.
“My family has always been very social and sharing the stoke makes people happy. We sell roller derby gear and when you see roller derby people, they are on 8 wheels rocking each other on concrete and after the game, they all help each other and celebrate. Everyone is so supportive, despite the competitiveness. Ultimate is the same, it’s competitive when you want it to be and not at the end of it.”
In the recent years, stand-up paddling has become a big part of their community involvement. When they started selling the boards eight years ago, they were not yet mainstream but the store was doing good enough and they brought a couple in.
“We started fooling around with boards on the river. Every year it grew, we sold 3 boards, then 12 then 35 then 60 and I think this year we sold over 130 boards. Three years ago, we started doing lessons and this is the year we started doing challenges or races. Those community builders that gets everyone together and all paddle at the same time.”
On the water, high energy Marcus meets his contemplative side but also finds ways to challenge himself.
“I love the connection to the water, the dynamics of it. The flow is really unpredictable sometimes but at the same time smooth and gentle. There is nothing like paddling in a headwind. When you get a headwind and you just got to dig in, you just got to put your head down and keep paddling. You can get frustrated but it doesn’t help at all. That’s what I love about the water and nature in general. It can be as easy as you want but sometimes the weather changes and it challenges you just like a team sport can but instead of working against a team, you are working against nature.”
I would argue that most of the time, Marcus is not working against nature but with it, embracing it and celebrating what it has to offer.