The Sickos: The real sacrifice behind living vicariously

The sickos interviewInstagram: sickos

While browsing through YouTube, it’s easy to fall into the never-ending rabbit-hole of globetrotting vloggers living it up in a different country each week.

Their lifestyle seems so easy by comparison; they party ’til dawn in nearly every video, see amazing sights, and are presumably paid incomprehensible amounts of money to vacation all the time and upload their travels to the internet.

This theory might be true for some creators, but it isn’t the case for a YouTube group known as the ‘Sickos’ — although looking at their channel, one might think at first glance that these YouTubers benefit from the same golden goose that has cozied up to the rest of their peers.

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Who are the Sickos?

The Sickos are a group of childhood friends who’ve managed to stick together through adulthood, collectively deciding to flip the bird at ordinary life in favor of traveling the globe to pull off the occasional life-threatening stunt a la Evil Kenivel.

Hailing from Hood River, Oregon, each of the guys in the Sickos are athletes at heart, having grown up among a number of geographical landmarks fit for such hobbies as kiteboarding, surfing, skiing, hiking, and more.

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Watching their videos is like watching a hardcore episode of the Travel Channel. In each video they’re somewhere new (right now, they’re in the Swiss Alps), taking on some impossible feat — think of creating a giant rope swing on a naturally-occurring stone arch in the middle of the ocean with a jet ski. Each video is an adrenaline-inducing thrill ride with close friends, who have collectively labeled themselves as “professional fun-havers, full-time psych masters, and absolute kooks.”

Nearly two years after starting up their channel in February 2021, the Sickos have managed to accrue over 99,000 subscribers — as well as rub elbows with some major names like rapper Yung Gravy, who managed to save their skin after a brawl at a Barcelona nightclub went sour. With some of their biggest uploads hitting half a million views, it’s clear that this group has the potential for greatness, and they’re already well on their way…but the path isn’t always full of sunshine and roses.

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Traveling the world isn’t as easy as it looks

With such a busy schedule, it stands to reason that most casual viewers would think the Sickos are funded by a rich parent, or are at least paid handsomely for their unique content by various brands or sponsors… but that simply isn’t the case for these Hood River natives.

Although some of the Sickos have side hustles (with a few owning their own brands of merch and surf boards), only one of them has a full-time job that allows him to work remotely. The others in the group scrape by to save up for their next trip, and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, not everyone knows this, and the Sickos have experienced their fair share of criticism from unwitting viewers lashing out at their presumably lavish lifestyle.

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Sickos group photoInstagram: sickos

“It is really hard,” Charlie (the self-described ‘weirdo’ of the group) said of the criticism. “I don’t wanna say it’s frustrating for us, but we get a lot of comments like, ‘It’s daddy’s money,’ or ‘These kids are only making it because their parents are rich.’ It’s not that it discredits us, but it definitely hurts the soul a little bit when you’ve been grinding, trying to figure out how to make $3,000 so we can make the next part of the video series happen. But thankfully we’re getting to a part of our channel now where enough money is starting to come in, where we don’t have to worry about that as much.”

“It was really brutal at the start,” Kaden (the group’s ‘dad friend’) added. “We were extremely broke. Everybody was just scrounging for money. Eating rice and lettuce, whatever we could possibly do. It was brutal.”

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Luckily, the Sickos operate with a positive mindset and have, as a result, managed to foster an extremely uplifting and enthusiastic community of fans. Scrolling through the comments, most viewers are excited for their upcoming ventures and are very complimentary toward the YouTubers — something they say has changed from their humble beginnings when hardcore members of the surfing community took issue with their videos and stunts.

“For every one, minor criticism or negative comment, there’s a thousand of the real homies commenting positive stuff,” they said. “That’s our people. For every negative comment, there’s a thousand positive ones. That’s the headspace that we live in.”

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…but that didn’t stop their parents from trying to ward off the negativity in the early days.

“Early on, in our first videos whenever we’d get mean comments, our parents would fire back,” Kaden admitted.

“My mom sacrificed many hours online battling the haters,” Jackson added.

Flying high while high-flying

The Sickos’ bread and butter is their stunts — think bungee jumping from a 190-meter tall bridge in the Swiss Alps or crafting a 50-foot slip-n-slide that gets serious air. It’s what makes up the fabric of the Sickos’ collective identity as content creators, and it’s an integral part of their lives, too.

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That being said, there’s always an inherent amount of risk involved with these stunts — something the Sickos are highly aware of. According to the bunch of bffs, they always take risk into account, citing Will (the prankster friend and resident “bookworm”) as their unofficial stunt coordinator.

“It’s a pretty spicy subject,” Charlie said of the topic. “It can be pretty dangerous, but we’ve been doing everything for so long, and we’re pretty calculated people. I honestly feel like we’ve never put us, or anyone, at serious risk. We know the risk going in.”

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“Will’s a bit of a bookworm and he’s always really dove into the idea of safety and has engineered our ideas and keeps us safe,” Kaden assured.

With that being said, the group claims they haven’t had any major brushes with danger despite their long resume of wild physical feats. However, they did cite their jetski-powered rope swing as their most dangerous stunt, noting how Max nearly landed head-first on the edge of the jetski, which was idling a little too closely to his landing spot in the water when he fell from the air.

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“That was sketchy, because that was a miscalculation,” they said. “Normally, there’s nothing to hit, but we were filming from the back of a ski and that was close, and that could have been pretty bad. We’ve had a lot of bad jet-ski accidents. It usually involves a jet-ski.”

Started from the bottom

Although the Sickos might not have always been scoring sick barrels across the world, they’ve been interested in film from a very young age — something they say acted as an inspiration for their current pursuits.

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“Always, since we were little kids, we were running around with cameras and filming each other doing stuff long before YouTube, long before putting it anywhere,” Jackson explained. “And then we always talked about doing a movie, and it evolved through jobs, and then YouTube itself.”

“Everyone was pretty into filming, and so our whole original idea to make a movie,” Kaden added. “We always wanted to make a movie type thing, like a film almost, and then Jackson got his YouTube job with Jamie, and then Jackson got into YouTube, and so everyone was kinda like, ‘Oh, maybe YouTube episodes are a better option than making a movie.’ It kind of evolved.”

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Sickos instagram car photoInstagram: sickos

Now, the Sickos are living life to the fullest while trying to build a YouTube empire at the same time. Considering the sheer amount of people involved in their channel, on top of being best friends, it might be reflex to think that these relationships might suffer under their business arrangement — but for this group of guys, they claim it’s actually quite easy.

“I think we took a really smart approach from the beginning,” Charlie said. “I think I speak for everyone when I say that we noticed, most times, business with friendships fall apart when people arent on the same page from the start. We just made sure everyone had a clear idea and understanding of how things are gonna work and everyone is on the same page from the very beginning. We all bicker with each other, but it’s like brotherly love at this point.”

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Celebrities, Yung Gravy, and Netflix shows

The Sickos’ travels saw them bump into American rapper Yung Gravy during a stint in Barcelona, who helped them recover a camera SD card they lost during a scuffle with security at a night club. (It’s unlike the Sickos to get into trouble — although they do credit the NELK Boys and Jackass as their content inspo.) According to Forest, the group got to know Gravy through their connections with other influencers on top of a connection closer to home: Their own friend and another member of the Sickos, Cale.

“Our friend, Cale, is a TikTok dancer and got a job working for Yung Gravy, and he came to Barcelona with us,” Forest said of the encounter. “And we were hanging out with Kale and were like, ‘What if we got Yung Gravy to be in our video?’ So Cale reached out to Yung Gravy and got him to help out with the video, and that’s kind of how that ended up.”

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Although the Sickos don’t have any other celebrity connections they could tell us about, we did broach the topic of their viewers requesting them to get a Netflix show — something they’re open to, if the possibility arises, although it’s not necessarily their cup of tea compared to what they’re able to do on YouTube.

“We don’t ever want to say no to any opportunities right off the bat, we’d just have to know the specifics of everything,” Charlie said of the idea. “I think there is something great about making your own content and the limitless reach that YouTube has. I think it’s really fun for us to put out a video and see how many people we can get to watch it, and you don’t have that satisfaction I imagine on Netflix or HBO.”

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The Sickos’ content is especially unique in that it feels a bit like a sitcom mixed with their real-life adventures, something that YouTubers say is central to their identity.

“We look at it like, it can be an episode out of a TV show. A YouTube channel is just about a vlog, but we look at it like it can be an episode out of a TV show like ‘Friends,’ and that kind of ties it into this — going from wanting to make it a movie, to now we’re making a YouTube show, but the two are still super intertwined.”

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The Sickos are still just getting started, but it’s clear they have the drive, knowledge, and community to make their dreams come true to one day become those YouTubers who don’t have to worry about scrounging up enough change for their next big trip. Until then, it’s onward and upward — and there’s no telling where their travels will take them next.