4 Reasons Why Elevator Surfing Isn’t Such a Good Idea

Have you ever been elevator surfing?

If not, or if you don’t have any idea what elevator surfing is, good. Keep it that way.

If you have…well, let’s just say it might not be such a good idea.

What Is Elevator Surfing?

As the name implies, elevator surfing is the practice of riding on top of a moving elevator. Per Wikipedia, elevator surfing is also known as “vator surfing” and “elevaroping.” Elevator surfers generally remain on the same car for the duration of a ride, though some more adventurous, experienced and foolhardy souls may jump onto passing cars if the opportunity presents itself.

Elevator surfers generally seek the sort of adrenaline rush you can’t get from riding inside an elevator car. It’s also fun to move an elevator car using the manual controls on the vehicle’s roof — though most elevator surfers have friends inside the car to push buttons manually, or simply wait for unwitting passengers to enter the car and do so themselves.

It’s worth noting that elevator surfing is illegal in and of itself, and enthusiasts must typically commit additional misdemeanors (such as trespassing in an off-limits shaft or stealing an elevator service key) to achieve their goals.

Here are four more reasons why elevator surfing isn’t a good idea:

  1. The Emergency Stop Button Isn’t Foolproof

Though modern elevators generally have an emergency stop button, its efficacy isn’t guaranteed. Plenty of unscrupulous building owners simply don’t follow through on inspectors’ requests to fix defective equipment, leaving elevator surfers prone to disaster. And there’s always the risk of a freak failure.

  1. Counterweights Present Serious Dangers

Most elevators use counterweights to balance out the heft of the car. These objects are relatively innocuous until you fly past at 40 miles per hour. If you’re riding atop an uncontrolled car at that speed and smash into something that weighs several tons, the results aren’t going to be pretty.

  1. Sudden Stops and Starts Can Disrupt Balance

Many elevator surfers avoid faulty emergency stop buttons or rogue counterweights, only to fall victim to much more mundane elevator processes: namely, sudden stops and starts. If you’re not secured to the elevator, a sudden stop could be enough to dislodge you from your perch and send you plummeting to your death in the shaft below.

  1. It’s Difficult to Gauge Shaft-Top Headroom from Below

One of the more gruesome fates that can befall an elevator surfer is the “top-end crush” — i.e., running out of room at the top of the elevator shaft. Some elevators sit nearly flush against the protective caging near the top of the shaft, while others leave plenty of room. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell which is which ahead of time.

Stay Smart, Stay Alive

Most people intuitively understand that elevator surfing is dangerous and would never even consider participating. But, as the old saying goes, “there’s one born every minute.” Since the 1990s, there have been several confirmed elevator surfing deaths and many more confirmed injuries. Given the nature of elevator surfing, it’s likely that there are plenty of other deaths and injuries that we don’t know about. Unless you’re a qualified elevator service technician, do your friends, family and building supervisor a favor and stick to the inside of the elevator car.