When Anthony Armer—better known as the formerly anonymous thrill-seeker 8booth—flew through the cold night air after leaping off the top of Laguna Beach's Pacific Edge Hotel late last December, he had a single thought. "I knew that I was fucked," he recalls, "but I knew that I wasn't, like, death fucked."
Armer was right. The bandana-clad jumper came just a bit shy of his intended swimming-pool target and instead landed on both of his feet on the concrete deck before intentionally launching himself into the water in an attempt to minimize the damage.
In hindsight, the 29-year-old knows how much worse the injury could've been. Typically, the 6-foot-4-inch Armer turns a bit sideways and tucks his knees into his chest when leaping into a pool, ocean or any other body of water that shouldn't be deep enough to catch his weight. But in the fraction of a second before he hit the ground, 8booth—a nickname derived from Armer's middle name, Booth—knew that his usual safety tactic would lead to a fractured tailbone and likely far worse injuries. Instead, he chose to sacrifice his feet.
"As soon as I hit the pool, I knew I fucked up, but I was more bummed that I missed the jump than that I was in pain," Armer says. "I got to the edge of the pool, looked down at my feet, and they were just mangled. They looked like they literally got run over by a tractor or some shit, but I didn't really have any pain until I was halfway to the hospital because my adrenaline was just pumping. I knew as soon as I looked at them that I was out for a year, for sure, and I think realizing that then helped me a lot."
As with so many great mistakes before this, Armer's latest misfire wasn't necessarily a physical error but a mental one. Despite never having been to that specific location before, the South County native had convinced himself that he'd mastered the art of jumping into hotel pools after rapidly gaining internet notoriety as an anonymous thrill-seeker over the previous five months—particularly following the public release of his name and face after a stunt-related arrest two months prior. It was only a few days earlier—at a Christmas party, no less—that he soared over what he believed was a much bigger gap, and his thousands of YouTube and Instagram followers appreciated the steady stream of new content. But unlike the vast majority of his now-viral jumps, Armer disobeyed his gut when what started as a late-night scouting visit turned into a live run.
"My ego got up there, and that's when you get fucked," Armer says. "I was just going to scope it out or maybe put cameras up, but I got up there and thought, 'I got this shit.' I felt something weird in my head—and when you have feelings when you're doing shit like this, you have to listen to them—but I went against it. It was bigger than I thought—probably like 28 feet—but it was, like, pitch-black on the roof, and there were pipes everywhere. On one of the run-ups, I just went for it."
Upon arriving at the hospital, it seemed unlikely Armer would ever walk normally again. The adrenaline junkie's feet had been crushed to the point at which bones stuck out in every direction; plenty of doctors might have considered amputation. Instead, the surgeon loaded up what was left of the wounded jumper's feet with metal bars to help them re-form correctly and attempt to salvage his long-term mobility. "I honestly wasn't too concerned about it because I've been through injuries before and I know how things heal," Armer says about the possibility of losing his feet. "This is obviously the gnarliest shit I've been through. I knew I was in for a good one, so I kind of just flipped pages for six months, where it was just [about] waking up and going to sleep over and over again. I just started without a cane about a month ago, so it's just one step at a time, basically. Next, I'm trying to walk to the toilet and piss in the morning without putting shoes on because it's fucking gnarly walking without shoes on since my feet aren't really re-formed yet."
Shattering his feet wasn't Armer's first major injury—and it likely won't be his last, predicts Kelly Knievel, the son of legendary stuntman Evel Knievel. He has seen more than his fair share of youngsters injure themselves after being inspired by his father. For that reason, he wasn't surprised to hear that Armer almost lost his feet after growing up admiring the fearless late icon. "Young guys, more often than not, have more talent and balls than brains," Knievel says. "My advice would be to get into the stunt business, where he can follow his passion and actually make some money. I know you have to be a little crazy and an attention seeker, but be smart, be a showman, be professional, and understand you better be man enough to accept the consequences when it doesn't go as planned."
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For as long as he's been able to walk, Armer has found the most death-defying ways to burn his unending energy. As a child, he was diagnosed with ADHD, and according to his mother, he was always a handful. From filming and performing bike stunts to his unexpected passion for golf, the kid who would go on to become 8booth always found a way to take everything he did to the extreme—even if his body would give out in the process. "Ever since birth, I've always had this wild, crazy need for an outlet," Armer says. "As a kid, I was always riding a bike and doing bike jumps—then I was golfing super-hard until I threw my back out. Then I got into downhill skating, and I was going 55-plus [mph] on these hills and just eating shit. I didn't know how to slide, so I'd have to bomb everything without sliding or stopping, and that was tearing me up. I've always just wanted to push it in some way and have someone out there notice."
His initial interest in jumping from rooftops and cliffs came about as a byproduct of his parents' divorce. After their split when he was 7 years old, Armer began spending time with his dad in Newport Beach. It was there that he began daydreaming of leaping from abandoned buildings; during his ride to school, he'd wonder why he'd never seen anyone jump off the cliffs of El Moro in Crystal Cove State Park—a feat that would earn him fame and nearly take his life as an adult.
Throughout his high-school years, his status in the Laguna Beach amateur-stunt community picked up some steam. As Armer explored bigger and more terrifying stunts, his friends and some of South County's other adrenaline seekers took notice. "He was definitely the local legend of the dirt jumps," says Armer's childhood friend Sam. "Everywhere you'd go, you'd hear about this guy Anthony who would jump off big things. He was the one who was constantly doing bigger things than other people were willing to do."
After graduating from high school, Armer headed to Cal State Chico for a couple of years of partying with a touch of learning. After his sophomore year, it became apparent higher education wasn't meant for him, so he returned to his hometown in an attempt to find a calling among the places and people he loved. Unfortunately, Armer quickly learned that most of his friends had moved on either geographically or into adulthood.
After a brief stint working in the service industry, the life-changing moment Armer was looking for came when he saw an old friend's Facebook post about going to the beach. An avid diver, Armer jumped at the chance to have a beach buddy. When his beach-going companion insisted on making a detour to pick up his GoPro, Armer initially wasn't amused by the delay. As it turns out, the decision to retrieve the camera and the fun the duo had with it that day ended up effectively birthing the first prototypes of 8booth's videos. "He brought the GoPro back to the beach the next day, and I was trying to figure out how I could go diving with it," Armer recalls. "I rigged it to the end of a broken fishing pole, went diving with it, and then just told him I was taking the GoPro home because I knew that, otherwise, I would never get the footage. Once I saw how sick the footage was underwater, I just became obsessed with it. It was like, 'Fuck putting selfies on Instagram trying to get followers; this is so much sicker.'"
Over the next several months, Armer spent hours perfecting camera angles and seeing which types of stunts made for the best footage. In some ways, the quick Instagram clips he produced were the evolution of the eight-second bike videos he'd created as a kid with an AOL account, but it wasn't until a surfing friend pointed out he could get a true first-person perspective by holding the GoPro in his mouth that things really clicked. "I'd been going to Table Rock [Beach] for, like, three weeks in a row and just staring at this one roof there," Armer says. "It was like I was possessed. I'd been talking about this thing for, like, three years now, and one day, I just went there with the GoPro and turned that shit on. The [first-person point of view] from biting the GoPro was sick because you could angle it with your teeth. I started posting these things on Instagram, and it just blew up."
Although he'd been recording his jumps since 2015, the July 2016 video from Table Rock was the first to truly get 8booth recognition on Instagram. Armer realized if he played his cards right he'd never have to work another day job, so he went to local skate and surf clothing company Gooch Apparel to get a sponsorship and offer to edit a video for them.
Even with brands throwing free merchandise at him and his follower count skyrocketing, Armer couldn't help but feel as if the other shoe was bound to drop. He'd upped both the regularity and intensity of his stunts, and these runs were putting some serious wear and tear on his athletic body. There were only so many times he'd be able to jump before a misstep caught up with him.
Although his career-threatening injury wouldn't happen for five more months, it was just a few weeks after the Table Rock jump that 8booth made waves throughout the internet for narrowly avoiding certain death when living out his childhood dream of leaping almost 100 feet down into the rocky waters of Crystal Cove. "I'd wake up feeling like a train hit me, but I kept doing it every day," Armer says. "I started hitting these pools I'd been looking at forever, and then, one day, I decided I'd hit El Moro. I jumped that thing and literally thought I was going to die—like it said, 'Game Over' in an arcade voice in my head. I was surprised I lived after that, and I didn't know what to do with the footage. I'd never used YouTube before, but I was wounded for, like, two weeks after that, so I posted it on my brand-new YouTube with minimal description, and that shit was at, like, 4,000 views within two or three days."
The GoPro footage—which, as with most 8booth videos, is not for the faint of heart—was quickly picked up by CBS, NBC and a host of other global outlets. Not only did the numerous articles stating how lucky he was to be alive give Armer's Instagram yet another boost, but it also marked the beginning of his YouTube channel, which became his primary way of sharing his fearlessness with the world.
In the coming months, Armer would draw more fans by successfully landing jumps from hotels in Laguna Beach, a Catalina Island cliff, and an eight-story apartment building in Newport Beach—which he chose because it was just taller than 120 feet, the exact height a man told him he'd never survive. While Armer's increased output had him drawing more eyes on social media, it also meant he was getting unwanted attention from the Laguna Beach Police Department.
When calls reporting trespassing jumpers drastically increased, Corporal Cornelius Ashton investigated and eventually had Armer arrested last fall on two counts of both unauthorized entry of a dwelling and trespassing with intent to interfere with business. Aside from the obvious illegality of what 8booth had become known for, he was also beginning to inspire younger daredevils to endanger their own lives. "The big issues with the jumping with Mr. Armer were that it was unsafe, and we were starting to get copycats," Ashton says. "A lot of younger kids were copying Mr. Armer, and we definitely wanted to stop that from happening. We were concerned that he was going to hurt himself one day—and he actually did end up sustaining injuries from his last jump.
"I'm all for inspiring kids, but when you're inspiring them to do something unsafe that could have an impact on their life and their safety, I'm totally against it," Ashton continues. "Seeing these copycats is concerning for us and the community, as well, because you have younger kids who are trespassing on private property and breaking laws to get access to areas where they can jump from high-rises. It's an adrenaline rush, but it's unsafe, and the evidence of that would be just looking at Mr. Armer and what happened to his feet."
The arrest went about as smoothly as it could have early one morning in late October. After months of sneaking around and becoming paranoid of being seen even holding a GoPro, Armer was pretty certain it would happen eventually. "I'm surprised I got away with it as long as I did," Armer says of his arrest. "I got away with it for three months in South Orange County, jumping off roofs illegally with a bandana on. I was just waiting for it, honestly. The whole thing is mind-boggling."
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Despite being most famous for the things he's done with the bulk of his face covered by a bandana, anyone who knows the man behind the 8booth moniker could pick his oversized smile out from a crowd, and his light brown hair matches his beachy tan well enough to resemble the most Abercrombie-friendly guy on Jackass.
With the help of a pair of red New Balance shoes, Armer's still-healing feet get around this North Laguna back yard without the help of a cane or wheelchair—a pretty significant accomplishment for a guy who faced the possibility of never walking again last winter. "I was crawling for seven months," Armer says. "You start to feel like an animal when you're crawling in front of your family, your friends, your dog, everyone. When you're hungry at night, you can't even get food. It fucking sucked."
At this point, some of the biggest hurdles left in Armer's recovery are mental. As a man who loves to go on spontaneous adventures at a moment's notice, it wasn't easy for him to temporarily retire from performing stunts and focus solely on filming and editing videos for others. More than anything, being behind the camera has kept Armer busy and somewhat satisfied while his feet fully heal. "I just don't want to work," Armer says between casual puffs on an e-cigarette. "I don't want to have a boss who tells me what to do. If you're content in your life, that's what matters. Money and all that shit doesn't really matter as long as you're mentally secure and happy."
Though Armer won't be back to his usual insanity for a while longer, he knows he'll never really be able to go back to being a mystery jumper known only as 8booth. After his arrest, injury and related appearance on Tosh.0, Armer became too big of a celebrity in certain circles to remain anonymous. "Once they published my name and I showed my face on my YouTube, it was crazy because I couldn't walk across the street without someone yelling my name," Armer says. "It was more fun when I was hidden and it was all a mystery, but I don't let it get to me. I'm not finished with what I'm doing yet, and I know as soon as I start thinking I'm something, then I'm nothing. Everything you've seen so far is just starter shit."
With the 143,000 people who subscribe to Armer's YouTube channel and his many Instagram followers, the local police department's concerns about copycats have become the new reality. The Laguna legend has seen dozens of similarly nicknamed teenagers reach out to him online with insane jumping videos of their own, as they look to build a social media following or just chase the same rush of adrenaline. Although Armer isn't trying to create copycats—and openly states he has no advice for anyone who wants to follow in his fearless footsteps—two of Orange County's most well-known teenage thrill-seekers confirmed to the Weekly that 8booth's videos served as inspiration for their amateur jumping careers.
"All the lifeguards hate me," Armer says and laughs. "There are, like, 10 different groups of young kids who don't even know each other jumping off shit now. Kids from other countries are sending me bandana clips of them jumping off shit. It's crazy. I did not expect the younger kids to get so hyped off my shit."
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"He will still always be the original," says Armer's close friend and photographer Greg Viviani. "He's the guy who started it and got known for being the daredevil and cliff jumper in Orange County and Laguna."
Thanks to the inconvenience of being forced to pose for selfies when spotted in public and the constant streams of both love and hate erupting via social media, Armer decided to ditch his phone for three months before recently returning to posting. It's a sign that when he's healthy enough to return with bigger and crazier leaps, the daredevil won't be concerned with how many likes he gets or what the general public thinks of his decision-making abilities. When he first began jumping, he was just a dude with 700 Instagram followers and a passion for getting the best footage of his crazy stunts. "I never did it for the views," Armer says. "People say that all the time on my videos, but really I did it to perfect the camera angles and to see what I was capable of doing. It looked unreal on camera, and that's all I was obsessing on. I just wanted to see how far I could take it.
"I change into a different person when that bandana comes on," Armer continues. "All of those jumps that I did, they were raw first runs—I'd never jumped any of them before. A lot of times I didn't know what I was doing or where I was going, but once you jump it on camera, you don't need to do it again."
Additional reporting by Frank John Tristan.