Egil Rønningsbakken has cycled on a line across the Lysefjord, stood on his hands on the edge of the Great Wall of China, balanced on the hood of a speeding car and stood on the edge of Trollveggen 1400 meters above the ground – on a one wheel bike. Here we present a portrait of Egil Rønningsbakken – who has really lived a Norwegian’s life on the edge.
You may not know his face. Maybe you do not remember his name either. But when you feel your heart palpitations in your throat when watching the man standing on his hands on the top of four stacked chairs at the very edge of the Pulpit rock, or at the top of Svinesundbrua (the bridge crossing the border between Norway and Sweden), you know who he is.
A life on the edge
Eskil Rønningsbakken has literally lived his life on the edge. He joined the circus at the age of 18 and later improved his craft under the tutelage of Moscow State Circus trainer Peter Jakob. Rønningsbakken practices yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques to stay focused, and prepares extensively for each act.
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The balance artist from Norway has performed extreme balancing stunts atop dizzying heights around the world. His first major performance took place at the Pulpit rock in Norway in 2001. But Norway was not challenging enough. After that, he’s been balancing atop Machu Picchu in Peru, Angel Falls in Venezuela and over the Aizhai suspension bridge in the Hunan province. The bridge has a main span of 1,176 meters and a maximum height of 330 meters.
What’s really going on inside his head?
What’s really going on inside the head of this guy from Vallset in Hedmark, who has made it his livelihood to be on a hair’s breadth from death?
Eskil Rønningsbakken is not only Norway’s foremost balancing artist, he is also one of the world’s most renowned. In a book “På kanten” (On the Edge), the reader may experience the world’s most dangerous job, both in Norwegian nature and in the Asian metropolitan jungle. He does not call himself an extreme athlete, but an artist, who secures himself only with positive thinking.
“I primarily pick my inspiration from nature and within myself, asking what I most want to do and achieve in my life,” he once said in an interview with Viking Magazine.
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Text and photo
Author Randi Fuglehaug and photographers Knut Bry and Sindre Lundvold have followed Rønningsbakken from Trollveggen (The Troll Wall) to the Great Wall of China, and the result is the book “På kanten” («On the edge»). The main character had only one condition: “You must finish writing the book if I die,” he told Fuglehaug.
The story of Eskil Rønningsbakken is both about ups and downs, about being one of Norway’s first circus artists and about performing for royals and heads of state, and downs, about car accidents, suicide attempts and prison stays.
“Many people already know at a young age what they want most in life, but they’re usually raised in such a way as to deny their talents and follow the mainstream. I’m not trying to tell that everyone should balance at the edge of a cliff, but to be what we are made to be instead of what we believe society expects us to be,” he told the Viking magazine.
Portrait of a Norwegian’s Life on the Edge
In China, Rønningsbakken also did tricks suspended from a hot air balloon near the bridge. Afterwards he said the performance was more difficult than usual because of the winds.
You may not know his face, Fuglehaug wrote in the preface to the book. Neither will you after having read the book, because the portrait of Rønningsbakken was forgotten in the throng of spectacular stunts. We compensate for it here.
Portrait of a Norwegian’s Life On The Edge, written by Tor Kjolberg
Feature image (on top): Photo: Sindre Lundvold