Give him a big hand! Radio presenter completes a year of handstands

Jeff Ayliffe completes handstand no 365 on December 31 2019, supporting himself on one hand in the middle of a river off the Seven Passes Road near Wilderness in the Western Cape.
Jeff Ayliffe completes handstand no 365 on December 31 2019, supporting himself on one hand in the middle of a river off the Seven Passes Road near Wilderness in the Western Cape.
Image: Facebook/Jeff Ayliffe

After 364 handstands in 2019, Jeff Ayliffe knew there was only one place to complete his Handstand365 project.

“I did what I’ve done so often in my life. I returned, alone, to the source. The place it all began,” the 57-year-old radio sports presenter said on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

This was in the middle of a river alongside the Seven Passes Road in Wilderness, in the Western Cape, where his GoPro captured his one-handed handstand.

Jeff Ayliffe does the first of 365 handstands in the middle of a river off the Seven Passes Road in Wilderness, in the Western Cape.
Jeff Ayliffe does the first of 365 handstands in the middle of a river off the Seven Passes Road in Wilderness, in the Western Cape.
Image: Facebook/Jeff Ayliffe

“I drove to the exact spot on the river,” Ayliffe said. “I wandered down in light rain, and sat on the exact rocks, and just thought about the year, and what it had meant.

“I remembered the highs, the near misses, the growth. I placed myself under no pressure to even take a picture. But the simple act of returning to the source felt right.”

Since January 1, Ayliffe has done handstands on the Table Mountain cable car, in a shop window, on a surfboard, on a plane at 35,000ft and even next to Cape Town’s Noon Gun as it fired.

Jeff Ayliffe's first attempt at a one-handed handstand. 'It's a handstand I've never really mastered because of the pressure on the load-bearing wrist and shoulder, and it's only the second time I've managed to hold it for the 1.5 seconds it takes for the picture,' he said on January 3 2019. 'Trick is to go up into a split-legged handstand, get comfortable, then slowly start to transfer the weight onto the one arm. Just as you feel you're on the point of tipping, slowly raise the other arm to 90 degrees. I'm unlikely to do this too often. Damage potential.'
Jeff Ayliffe's first attempt at a one-handed handstand. 'It's a handstand I've never really mastered because of the pressure on the load-bearing wrist and shoulder, and it's only the second time I've managed to hold it for the 1.5 seconds it takes for the picture,' he said on January 3 2019. 'Trick is to go up into a split-legged handstand, get comfortable, then slowly start to transfer the weight onto the one arm. Just as you feel you're on the point of tipping, slowly raise the other arm to 90 degrees. I'm unlikely to do this too often. Damage potential.'
Image: Facebook/Jeff Ayliffe

Thousands of people have seen him upside-down, tens of thousands more have seen the photographs, but on Tuesday there was no one watching.

“I started the GoPro, shooting images on auto. I felt, to use the words from Bob Seger, ‘Like a rock’. It’s a cliché, but it felt as if the entire year had guided me to this moment,” said Ayliffe.

“Slowly transferring weight over to my right arm, with my mind focused on 365 days of constant conditioning and beautiful lightness, I slowly raised my left arm, not to 90 degrees, but up, and alongside my body. I held it for the image. And I was steady. ‘Like a rock.'”

Ayliffe told the Sunday Times in December he had been doing handstands since joining a gymnastics club in Pietermaritzburg at the age of six.

“There’s something about the act of balancing on my hands that I enjoy. I love the feeling of being in control when you hit a handstand’s sweet spot,” he said.

Jeff Ayliffe's Christmas handstand.
Jeff Ayliffe's Christmas handstand.
Image: Facebook/Jeff Ayliffe

Now the handstands are done, the work continues. Ayliffe hopes to publish the images in a book and will donate the proceeds to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town.

“This has taught me that with the support and encouragement of friends, nothing is impossible. The personal messages and the comments provided the catalyst that drove me every day to keep pushing my own limits,” he said.


X