Chock-a-block with delightful weirdness is the tale of slackliner Benjamin Prows, whose whimsical athleticism on the beaches of Broward County is seen by some as a threat to law and order.
Cited multiple times by Fort Lauderdale's gendarmes in the spring of last year on a variety of charges -- typically, trespass; bizarrely, "use of city facilities for private instruction without permit" and "animals [a bunny] prohibited on beach" -- Prows has managed to see most of the charges settled without penalty. Lawbreaking (and bail bond payments) behind him now, he hopes to break into the Guinness Book of World Records.
Prow's parents were Mormon by faith and wanderers by choice, living the salt life in the Caribbean and Florida. The oldest of their seven children, who has a fondness for pirate-inspired styles, took up slacklining -- similar to tightrope walking -- three years ago. He developed a routine including juggling (balls, knives, bowling pins), and became a fixture on the Fort Lauderdale beach.
Too much of a fixture for the authorities, apparently. "A number of cops told me City Manager Lee Feldman sent out an email to the entire police force and all the lifeguards saying to take me down," Prows told New Times. "Several of them told me, and told my lawyer in a depo." Prows believes the City's concern was related to liability issues.
Fortuitously for this goofy scenario, it was an Officer Stoner who repeatedly put the bracelets on Prows. "He looks like this little kid," Prows told us, gleefully. "Little, little kid." And indeed the good officer does have an eager, youthful visage.
Attorney Russell Cormican handled Prows' defense, whittling the charges down to a couple of fines -- $253 for the unlicensed bunny possession, $268 for the unpermitted instruction (telling someone how to slackline). We are all in favor of a big fundraising party on Prows' behalf, the horror of these crimes notwithstanding.
Prows finds it "depressing" that he can't perform on the beach any longer. But his sights are now set on greater glory: the Guinness world record for "Greatest Distance Traveled on a Slackline While Juggling Three Objects."
"Guinness sent me all the info I need," Prows said. "The current record was set in Florida -- 25 feet. My line, I can set up a hundred feet and do that all day long."
Prows first publicly announced that ambition in June of last year, in the midst of his Broward legal troubles, in reader comments on the Guinness web site. Current record holder Carson Firth, a Gainesville-based slackliner, has yet to respond. We're hoping for a slack-off.
A final note, just so no one thinks we're covering up Prows' shady past: His arrest record includes a misdemeanor that predates the slackline saga -- a 2011 citation for failure to wear a seat belt. The typical recklessness of a slacklining pirate.
Here's video of one of Prows' heinous crimes, and the bravery of the fuzz:
In an email, current slackline/juggling record holder Carson Firth had this to say about Benjamin Prows' attempt on Firth's record and about Prows' brushes with the law:
I couldn't be happier. I've been waiting quite a while for someone to break the record. He was on my radar before I set the record but I didn't see any specific date set out so I didn't bother contacting him. I really like that he's trying to push the record further and I hope it gets into unattainable territory. I plan to train very hard once he breaks the current record (which I can in practice more than triple) to get it back, and I hope he gets it back again after that. At the end of the day, it's why we do it. Competition pushes everybody to train harder and get better.
Regarding his arrest, I don't really know the details. What I do know is that slacklining can be super harmful to the environment if not done carefully with optimal tree protection. I know that beaches are protected and their dunes are very important to the state. I understand that cities need to keep a certain level of professionalism and look to attract tourists to help the economy. It's sad that things like this have to happen but I get it, and Ben should go through the (sometimes awful) trouble to do things legally in my opinion.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers South Florida news and culture. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.