How To Defy Death

Spanky Spangler, star of the History Channel’s American Daredevils, preps you for a very hard landing.

1. Don’t Skip Math Class

When I was young, I didn’t want to be called a daredevil, because I felt I was more of a professional. I use science and degrees and radar guns. I’ll crash, then look back at the decel­eration rates and calculate the G-force and figure out if I need to go higher or faster next time, but eventually, I figured if calling me a daredevil sells more tickets, I’m all for it.

2. Practice on the Cheap

You can’t do large-scale crash stunts without an audience; the setup is too expensive. But you can train for free falls by experimenting with height and landing techniques. I started out jumping one, two, three stories onto cardboard boxes. If you stack them tightly at different levels, you hit them a little bit at a time, which will make your fall a lot softer.

Matthew McDermott / A&E Networks

3. Learn from the Dead

You usually prep your car for a stunt by changing the seats and putting roll bars in. Before I jumped my car into a lake, I knew that the two guys who’d tried it before me died doing it. One of them got wrapped in his plastic windshield when it caved in, which is why I put the plastic one behind the actual one, and there was still a hiccup with that…

4. And Get a Good Entourage

With the water jump, the impact caused my windshield to fold in and land on my hands. I’m upside down 25 feet underwater with no way to get out. That’s why you don’t do a stunt alone. I had divers on standby, and we had rehearsed when to come in and what to do. I held my breath for two and a half minutes, but I knew I could count on them.

Photos by Matthew McDermott / A&E Networks