Dangerous stunts that can turn deadly

Stunts popularized by trends on video-sharing websites like YouTube sometimes go viral, but they can also pose serious risks to the people involved.
François Hallé, 22, was riding on a couch being dragged by a van when the couch swerved into oncoming traffic. (CBC)

Stunts popularized by trends on video-sharing websites like YouTube sometimes go viral, but they can also pose serious risks to the people involved.

Couch surfing

While the term "couch surfing" might more commonly be connected with sleeping in a friend's living room to try to save money, it has also come to mean riding on a couch dragged behind a vehicle or boat at high speeds.

On Feb. 18, 2012, François Hallé, 22, died on a country road in Saint-Benjamin, south of Quebec City, after taking part in couch surfing.

In Hallé's case, the couch swerved into oncoming traffic and was struck by another vehicle.

Yan Laflamme, a good friend of both Hallé and the man facing charges in his death, said he and his friends started doing the stunt after viewing it online.

Hallé is believed to be the first person killed in Canada while attempting the extreme activity.

Viral online videos have increased couch surfing's popularity in recent months.   

Car surfing

A 23-year-old Winnipeg man died on Feb. 12, 2012, in what is being called a classic case of car surfing.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes car surfing as "a dangerous-thrill seeking activity that involves a person riding on the exterior of a moving vehicle, such as on the roof or the hood, while someone else is driving."

Typically, car surfers perform stunts from SUVs and trucks because of their greater height and flatter roof structure, but any kind of vehicle can be used.

Online videos show the surfers climbing out of the vehicles through sunroofs or side windows and standing on the roofs or hoods. They might also lie down and hang on the sides.

Over the years, car surfing has been popularized by online videos. Typically, it is done by teens and 20-somethings. 

Research by the U.S. CDC looked at data from January 1990 to August 2008 and found 99 reported incidents of car surfing; 58 per cent were fatal.

Ghost riding

Ghost-riding or "Ghost riding the whip" is similar to car surfing, but it's more dangerous. 

It's a stunt performed when the driver leaves the car while it is still moving and dances around the vehicle or on the roof.

According to street language, "ghost riding" refers to the absence of a driver and "the whip" is urban slang for car.

The trend was popularized by a West Coast strain of hip-hop music. One particular single, Ghostride It, by Oakland, Calif., rapper Mistah F.A.B, says: "Pull up. Hop out. All in one motion. Dancing on the hood, while the car is still rollin'."

In October 2007, ghost riding claimed the life of a 36-year-old Canadian who died after falling from the roof of his car while it was still moving.


Police in Australia have issued warnings about planking, a craze that involves people lying stiff as a board on their stomachs in unexpected or odd places.

Social media plays a role in planking, with people posting pictures online of the planking that can occur everywhere from on a sign to on top of a fire hydrant or vehicle.

Last year, a 20-year-old Australian man fell to his death after planking on a seventh-storey balcony railing in Brisbane.

As a web phenomenon, planking has been around since at least 2009. It's also been known as the "lying down game."


Another trend that has made its way onto the internet is parkour. Thought to have originated in France, parkour combines swift, efficient movements around obstacles with jumping, rolling and running between buildings and other structures.

It is practiced in urban areas, parks, playgrounds, abandoned buildings and industrial sites, as well as in some natural environments.

Although it's considered a sport and a professional discipline that is part of physical training in some militaries, concerns have been raised about amateurs who see videos of trained parkour practitioners online and attempt some of the riskier moves, such as jumping off high buildings.

In 2009, parkour was investigated as a possible factor in the death of a 15-year-old Sacramento, Calif., teen who fell from an eight-storey parking structure.