The fire spinner earned his stripes performing at Burning Man, the huge alternative culture event in Nevada.
NAVARRE — From the first time Shayne Julson saw a fire staff he knew he wanted to become a professional fire spinner.
Growing up he participated in martial arts and thought this seemed very similar, except with flames.
“I’m an adrenaline junkie,” Julson said. “When I picked up the fire staff, I never looked back.”
That happened at the end of 2014 when he met Jenica Huffman, who trained him. He has worked ever since to master the art and its different props, such as the fire staff, sword, 12-foot rope dart, hula hoops and a poi, which is a lot like a yo-yo.
“I practiced a lot without fire before I ever used a flame,” Julson said.
The 26-year-old Navarre resident has performed a lot since then, sometimes just for neighbors in Navarre, at weddings, holidays or at Gallery Night in Pensacola.
However, he said he felt he earned his stripes at the annual nine-day “Burning Man” event in Black Rock Desert in northwest Nevada. He and his wife, Bre, who is 20 and learning the art from her husband, performed there in August 2018 with a large group of performers in front of 75,000 to 90,000 people. Tickets for the event range from $425 to $1,400.
“It’s in the middle of the desert,” Shayne said. “I said to myself, ’I need to go experience that.’”
He discovered the flames in the arid climate burned “twice as big and twice as long.”
He also discovered “Burning Man“ was ”intoxicating.“
Bre said becoming a proficient fire spinner or flow artist, as they’re called, is something she knew she wanted to do immediately.
“He said two years ago now, ’Do you want to see a cool hobby I have?’ I said, ’Yeah, sure,’” Bre said. “I used to twirl a baton, so I’ve done something similar like that before. I’ve always been a daredevil. I said, ’Teach me, right now.’”
The couple who have a baby boy, Chase, now often perform together. They call themselves the Fireflys, although Bre is still mastering the skills and the safety measures. They recently posted about their act on Facebook and have received interest from various groups and events, such as the Navarre Beach Mardi Gras Parade.
Shayne follows some important rules to keep from getting burned. For example, he lights his props over an open fire. Shayne emphasizes doing a “spinoff” or “burnoff” to remove excess fuel from the props. He always makes sure someone who is not performing monitors the show for safety. He also highly recommends wearing cotton or wool when performing because they are the most fire-resistant materials. And he never lets audience members participate, unless he knows they know how to handle performing with fire.
Shayne also wears a Kevlar-cotton blend sleeve over his forearm because twirling his sword makes the “flames big right in your face” and they can travel up your arms.
Additionally, he makes all his own props. For, example he made his fire staff out of galvanized aluminum because it does not conduct heat.
Still, he accepts the inherent danger in playing with fire. He has gotten his share of nicks, cuts and burns, while performing. At the “Burning Man,” Shayne severely burned his wrist twirling flaming hula hoops.
“It’s such a risk,” Shayne said. “You have to focus on it. It’s dangerous.”
WHEN: 5 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Broussard’s of Navarre Beach at 8649 Gulf Blvd.
COST: Donation to Wounded Warriors