Man on stilts turns heads on Charlottetown boardwalk

Jim Day
Published on July 17, 2014

People stop in their tracks to watch him go by — one with a mighty crash.

Some take photos. Others shoot video.

A Mormon even tried to follow in his pogo-like path.

Mike Keen, 53, of Winsloe simply relishes the head-turning attention he garners each time he straps on his springy jumping stilts that raise him a couple of feet off the ground.

This is Keen’s second summer walking, running and jumping in the shiny contraption with the boardwalk near Victoria Park in Charlottetown proving to be his favoured stomping grounds.

The most common question thrown his way is “what are they?’’

Stares, though, far outnumber the questions tossed his way when he bounds along on the jumping stilts that he bought online from a store in Ontario for just under $400.

The gawking of passersby always provides him amusement.

One look of surprise, however, quickly turned to a pained expression.

A cyclist, having pedalled 80 kilometres without incident on the day in question, slammed into a large flower planter on the bicycle lane near the boardwalk. He flew over the handlebars and crashed onto the pavement.

Apparently the sight of Keen pouncing like a gazelle held the spellbound cyclist’s attention for a split second too long.

And just the other day, three Mormons stopped the bouncy boardwalk man to size up the jumping stilts. One even asked to take them for a stroll.

Keen said no.

The stilts take a bit of trial and error, he explains. Keen took a good week of testing before getting comfortable walking tall.

He has only hit the pavement once, leaving him with a small scar on his right elbow.

He wears a small black helmet, elbow pads, knee pads and wrist protectors to minimize damage from a tumble.

He also likes to pound the boardwalk because he believes the springy narrow boards would make for a much more forgiving landing than a road or sidewalk.

Keen views the jumping stilts as an extreme sport, something just a little crazy.

He describes his outings — he goes boing, boing, boinging about three times a week — as part exercise, part entertainment.

The entertainment is clearly both given and received.

In travelling just a few hundred yards along the boardwalk on a hot Wednesday afternoon, Keen was videotaped and photographed and even asked to pose with a family while also attracting more than a few looks.

The price of drawing attention to himself by prancing in public is commonly a charley horse. His thighs take a good pounding from the jumping stilts.

But his hopping hobby ultimately brings more laughter than pain.

Mike Keen walks on stilts along the Charlottetown boardwalk.

©Guardian photo by Jim Day