City: Q&A Tree climber Johnny Provenzale

  • Photo by Jodi Miller
By Columbus Alive
From the February 23, 2012 edition

During the day, Johnny Provenzale trims trees for a utility company and a private business. When work is done, though, he often remains in the trees. He’ll climb to uppermost branches, build epic swings or even nap in a lofty hammock. The adrenaline junkie is good at blurring the line between work and play.

As he set up a 70-foot-tall tree swing in Franklin Park, he shared about his peculiar pastime.

My brother got me into tree climbing. He started doing it when I was in high school. I always wanted to do everything he was doing. I’ve been doing it around seven years. Trimming near power lines, I’ve been doing that for about four years.

I have five siblings, and I look up to all of them. They all try to get me into crazy things.

At my job, I’m a foreman for a crew. I teach guys how to climb. I teach guys how to run chainsaws. It’s anything in the tree world. My goal is usually to climb 20 trees a day.

Once I became an experienced tree climber, I got really into it. I started rock climbing and tree swinging. I actually even have a tree tent. I’ll get some of my buddies, and we’ll go tree camping. We’ll sleep about 60 or 70 feet up in the trees. It’s a blast.

When not climbing, I stand-up paddle board. I road bike. I paint. Well, I try to paint. I wouldn’t consider myself an artist. I play every sport. I run.

You learn a lot about trees if you do it for a living. So I know every detail there is to know about strength, what can hold you, what isn’t healthy, what’s dangerous or what’s not. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t know.

I have a high-school sweetheart girlfriend. She gets mad at me because I’m always looking up, thinking, “How could I get up there?”

I’d say most people think I’m crazy. It’s just because they don’t realize that you do it every day and you become professionally good at it. You keep stepping up your obstacles — bigger swings, bigger trees. It makes me feel alive. That’s why I do it.

Three things I would want with me on a desert island are a dog, a surfboard and a hammock.

Know someone doing cool things around Columbus? Email John Ross at jross@columbusalive.com.

Watch video of one of Johnny's amazing jumps here.