A father who could be nothing other than a triathlete took his son, the world and himself by surprise, captured by a seriously (and whimsically) epic video. It seemed appropriate to track him down; we put out the call to our peeps to find us this man; and you did. Oklahoman Justin Beadles graciously took some time to answer questions about the best prank we’ve seen in years.
SLOWTWITCH: You are a triathlete, yes? You must be a triathlete because you have the triathlon motif down, based on the video! What is your tri background?
JUSTIN BEADLES: My first triathlon was a sprint distance in Tyler, Texas, in 2001. I knew how to not drown but I had a high school kid who was on the swim team teach me how to swim longer distances. My goals were to finish and not get last, and I barely accomplished both. I've never even come close to winning a race.
ST: What’s the backstory here? Your wife taking the video? Was she all-in? Is she your prankster equal?
JB: My wife and I are opposites when it comes to pranks and stupidity. She would never do something like that. However, after we were married about 20 years we finally tried the novel concept of just accepting each other and it's been amazing. I encourage her to be her and she does the same for me. My late father had the saying, "Make a memory every day," and I've tried to live that especially since his passing in 2010. We have four kids and we've always tried to have lots of laughs together and not take ourselves too seriously. I had the nutty idea for Michael Phelps to pick up Jack from school and my wife agreed to film and said it would be funny, so it was game on from there.
When my eldest - the one in the video - turned 13 a couple of years ago we talked a lot about the necessity of us keeping a good relationship through the teenage years. I told him that if we were going to survive it we had to keep talking to each other and we had to laugh together. I knew he would be embarrassed but I also know him well enough to know that he would think it was funny... after a few minutes.
ST: What you did took a lot of cojones. You are very comfortable in self-deprecation mode and, speaking for myself, this is a weakness of mine. I don’t do self-deprecation well. I’m working on it. Do you also badly sing karaoke at the top of your lungs? I’m asking because I don’t often flat-out admire something but I have to doff a big chapeau to you!
JB: Was I, am I, embarrassed being seen in a Speedo by now millions of people? Not in the slightest! I take my job seriously but not myself. I love to make people laugh. I'm delighted that this silliness brought a bit of joy to so many people. Crikey, my legs are so skinny, I look like I'm riding a chicken.
ST: Did it cross your mind this could have gone south? Or were you, “I got this!” right from the get-go?
JB: I never thought about it going south, but then again I wasn't given much of a forward-looking radar in life. I knew it wouldn't kill my son, and that's all that really mattered to me. If you think stuff like this all the way through you'll never do it. It's kind of like your first triathlon; you can't think about how much it's gonna hurt, just commit to the thing and it'll all work out. The only way it could've really gone south was if I had gotten tazed or something... and that would've been epically funny as well.
ST: Were you really surprised by how much attention the video got?
JB: One hundred percent yes. I figured it would make my friends laugh and that would be the end of it. I went to bed in shock that it had 20 thousand views and awakened to it having 300 thousand. By noon on the day after posting it had 9.5 million and was at 20 million within a few days. I'm amazed at how many thought it was funny. Of the 40 thousand or so comments it has received, many have said something like, "I oughta do something like this." Well, what are you waiting on? Do it. Make a memory every day.
ST: Now if I can wax serious, and I don’t really know how to ask this, but what you did, that was father-of-the-year stuff. Do you think your boy sees it that way; or is it going to take him 10 or 20 years, when he has his own family? And I ask this in the spirit of how much smarter parents seem to get in the eyes of their children as the children become adults themselves.
JB: Raising teenagers is like working a 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle that's all sky. It's tough. I'm learning as I go, but I'm convinced that laughing together on the regular will create the kind of environment that will enable a parent to have the deeper conversations necessary to helping a teen navigate life. You don't have to go full speedo but you do have to go full speed at listening to, laughing with, and loving your kids well.