Maneuvering on stilts is an act of defiance against the basic laws of gravity. Cumbersome attachments on your legs with a minuscule amount of actual contact on the ground combined with a high center of gravity often means falling from a great distance.
It’s in this respect “powerbocking” or “bocking” came to be. Other names include “powerskips,” “powerisers,” “fly jumpers, “kangaroo shoes,” “jumper stilts,” “spring stilts,” or the generic “power stilts” depending on the model and brand.
Since walking on stilts isn’t enough of a rush, why not add springs so you can go airborne and travel at abnormally high speeds? That means running, jumping and catapulting farther and higher than humans had previously thought possible—without the aid of steroids! It’s also dangerous as all hell (note the video is graphic and features bone breaking).
The German inventor of the power stilts, Alexander Boeck, lends a perversion of his name to “bocking,” but it’s the willing participants in this sometimes bruise-inducing endeavor that provide it the rush Adrenalist readers so genuinely love.
So, what makes up a “powerbock” or a set of power stilts? Basically, you have a pair of shorter-than-average stilts, but there’s a binding on the top, similar to the way you would strap yourself into a snowboard. The straps, with the rubber footrest, provide maximum leverage with the stilt. The spring attached to the stilt is a fiberglass leaf spring comparable to the suspensions on wheeled vehicles like your car’s shocks. Think pogo sticks on stilts. If you’ve ever tried to pogo stick as a kid, you can understand why this is pretty difficult.
If you look at the picture below, you’ll see the power stilts are shorter than the usual pairs you’d see with a towering clown at a circus or carnival. This is to provide more stability for the various moves fly jumper’s perform. Notice the tiny tips at the end of the power stilts. That’s still a meager amount of surface area keeping the body upright on the cramped ends, so the risk is just as dangerous—although your mobility isn’t as limited as a standard pair of stilts. It’s also why you should always keep moving when you’re wearing power stilts because you’re likely to topple over when you remain still for too long.
Using only the powerbocker’s weight, a person is usually able to jump between three to five ft. in the air (sometimes much higher), and can travel more than 20 mph since a powerbocker stride can reach more than nine ft. It’s like being able to jump higher than Michael Jordan or as far as Carl Lewis while also running as fast as Michael Johnson. As Uncle Ben taught Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility, so a helmet, knee pads, wrist-guards and other safety measures should be employed when you strap them on. You shouldn’t use them for ill gain either.
Powerbockers haven’t made their way across the Ocean to North and South America very much, but they’re primarily an Asian dominated market. So much so, China used power stilt performers in its closing ceremonies during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. There has been some interest trickling into Europe as well, and they were patented in Germany. The power stilts usually retail between $200-$500 depending on the brand, and they’ve been incorporated into some contests, but they’re primarily a hobby or an interesting way to stay in shape.
Powerbocking also flows seamlessly into Parkour. The street sport of Parkour relies on jumping and running to reach the next building, scale the next wall or swing through the next obstacle; a pair of flying stilts only augments what you can do with your feet for Parkour. It also brings Parkour to a level unseen when bound by the human capacity to run and jump. Like we mentioned earlier, power stilts add so much to what you can do, it will make Parkour seem better than the movies.
But, part of the allure of powerbockers is the risk. Any Adrenalist reader can tell you the thrill is often wrapped up in the danger of an injury. There is no shortage of those when you combine jumping, flipping, and most importantly landing on tiny, pinpoint stilts. Crashing is bound to happen.
Whether you’re powerbocking to stay in shape, or you’re looking to experiment with the various obstacles around you, power stilts can show you moves and tricks you’d never thought possible.