Risky Play

Adventure Dad Frederick Schuett on Play & Calculating Risk

“...around one year old, or even younger, the kids started doing adventurous stuff with me. We own a church here in Elora, and we actually rappel out of the windows…”

We had the pleasure of catching up with adventure Dad Frederick Schuett. He’s a Father of three, a rock climbing instructor, and Founder of One Axe Pursuits in Elora, Ontario. 

All Circles: What could a day at work look like for you at One Axe Pursuits?

Frederick Schuett: One Axe Pursuits is located in central Wellington, with our office in Elora. We have three different parts of the business. One is recreational, one is corporate team building, and one is stunts and special events or world first stunts. One day I might be at my desk answering emails and the next minute, the phone rings and I could be negotiating a world first stunt with a celebrity over an active volcano.

Amidst COVID, we’re not doing as many corporate events so right now we've actually been doing a lot of private ziplines and repelling in Elora. And due to the smaller groups I’m not hiring staff from Toronto, but instead my kids have been coming out and helping with different parts of the business.

My daughter is 12 and my son is 9 and they both come out in the morning to help set up. They put on helmets and then they go down into the gorge. My son puts pylons below the rappels. My daughter helps me get the zipline ropes across the Gorge. Sometimes they like to do a rappel before the guests arrive.

AC: What are some adventures you took your kids on when they were younger?

FS: Around one year old, or even younger, the kids started doing adventurous stuff with me. We own a church here in Elora, and we actually rappel out of the windows and the floor opens up and we can lower people 20 feet down to the floor below; that's a great introduction for the kids. They have a full body harness on, they wear a helmet and I just lower them down. It's so easy and if they're scared they can swing over the floor and when they feel safe, then we open the trap-door and then I send them through!



When the kids were young, we didn't have the church, but we would come up to Elora and rappel down the cliffs or I'd set up ziplines for them. I think by 4 my daughter was rappelling by herself with her own backup beside me. I would rappel below her, holding her brake line, but she would be doing it herself and we'd swing into a cave. We would just sit in the cave and hang out, chat and watch people below and have a snack. Then we would rappel to the ground.

The kids were ziplining across the Gorge on their own when they were two so now it’s almost boring for them.

AC: What do you love most about being with your children in these extreme conditions? 


"It’s neat exploring things and realizing that it can be scary and fun and safe all at the same time."


FS: In general with everyone, I like to be able to help people reach their full potential. For a lot of people, fear holds them back from many things. Fear can stop someone from driving a car, travel on their own, or going to a big city.

I use the fear of heights, or a fear of those adventurous situations to help people overcome their fear. And then I usually hear stories playing out later in their life, “Well, I was scared to do that before, but after doing what I did with you, I'm not scared to drive on the 401 anymore because that’s not half as scary as rappelling off that cliff.” And with my kids too, I don’t push them to do anything, but I educate them on how it works and about the risks that are involved.

I’m planning on bringing my two year old to go into some really deep caves with headlights and so I start by building pillow tunnels in the house and he crawls through and we put blankets up and he loves it. Even when I lean against the couch now he’ll try to crawl behind me against the couch - this is a tunnel for him. And now we’re going to transition into these caves and it’s going to be a blast. He’s so tiny so it’s going to be really easy for him. He’ll be better than me. I'll be stuck trying to get through and he's going to be able to just walk in! He’s going to love it. It’s neat exploring things and realizing that it can be scary and fun and safe all at the same time.


AC: An easy accusation could be that your parenting decisions seem reckless. Can you share with us how you calculate risk and how we as parents might responsibly grow in this area or learn from you?

FS: Yeah, the things I do with my kids are extremely dangerous, but I have so many years of experience doing it. I'm always scared when someone tells me they bought the $70 zip-line kit from the toy store. I'm like, Oh man, this can go so wrong and it can be so dangerous. My job is a lot of times on film sets doing risk assessment, working with actors and actresses and stuntmen to make things safe. We’ve had no major injuries in 20 years of business, like really there's not much to report. I think the biggest incident was road-rash on someone's butt cheeks. They weren't supposed to jump off the zip line deck, but they did, and their bum hit the friction tape and it kind of just give them a road rash. That’s really the biggest thing in 20 years. It's very easy to keep someone from getting hurt when you’re in control of the environment. Gravity's very consistent, so it's easy to calculate.

My wife always laughs wondering how come I do all these dangerous things with the kids? And whenever they get hurt, they're with her. At the park or on a bicycle or jumping off the deck stairs, you know, they always get hurt at home, doing silly things, goofing around on the couch. They fall off and bang their head. But then they go out with me on some adventure and nothing ever happens.

I'd love to take my kids into a volcano, an erupting volcano, but my wife's still not totally on board with that yet. Some of the consequences might be higher in circumstances like a volcano, but those settings are often more controllable and predictable to me than the small day to day activities or games around the house