The XPogo scene is small, but the niche they inhabit will grow once more people are exposed to the incredible talent of the XPogo athletes.
Pogopalooza 10, a festival celebrating everything extreme pogo, is coming to Union Square in New York City this weekend. The growing rivalry between the top ranked XPogo jumpers in the world will only add to an already explosive event. Biff Hutchinson and the young XPogo star who finished right behind him in Pogopalooza 9, Dalton Smith, are making this the most explosive Pogopalooza yet.
XPogo’s growth shot up after XPogo, LLC was formed three and a half years ago by three of the originators of XPogo: Nick Ryan, Nick McClintock and Fred Gryzbowski. We caught up with Nick Ryan to talk about the early years of the sport, and how the advent of YouTube and the collaborations with pogo stick manufacturers led to where XPogo is today.
Adrenalist: Tell us about the beginning of XPogo.
Nick Ryan: In the beginning, about 13 years ago, there were about six of us that got pogo sticks just like everyone does for Christmas or Birthdays. For whatever reason, we just didn’t stop jumping on them. Because there was a mod of extreme sports pervading culture back then, we decided that we were going to try and do tricks on pogo sticks. This was before YouTube, before Facebook, so there was really no way to connect with people. We didn’t really even have cell phones.
The six of us – independently without knowledge of anybody else – began developing tricks in our backyard, with our local communities, towns and cities. We started to connect eventually through our website, which was XPogo.com. That’s been live for about 12 years, and it was the first way we began to discover one another to share some video and pictures. It was basically just a forum where we began talking.
We began to talk to some pogo stick companies that are out there. The idea had been kicked around in the past, but this was the first time we talked to an actual pogo stick company about creating an extreme pogo stick. It happened a few times in the 20th century, but it fizzled out because there wasn’t any culture to support it.
So we worked hand-in-hand with these pogo companies that were having ideas about adult pogo sticks. We took all the tricks we developed over the first 3 or 4 years we started, and we began working with Flybar, Vertigo, Bogo and a few of these guys who could create sticks to support a new generation of riders. Whether it’s people who want to get a really good workout, adults who just want to bounce on the stick, or the athletes that want a new extreme sport to just go crazy on, the extreme pogo stick was the device that could do it all.
A: Did you guys do any DIY modifications in the beginning?
NR: In the beginning, we just destroyed them. We had such high aspirations and they couldn’t handle it. When I was a kid, Toys ‘R Us had a 90-day return policy, and I actually broke like 17 of them until they told me I wasn’t allowed to go back. We started to reinforce them and became sort of expert engineers. Unfortunately, we could make them tougher, but we couldn’t go any higher, and that’s what we wanted. That’s why we began to talk to these companies. The new technologies meant that, rather than go one foot off the ground, we could go seven feet off the ground. That’s the genesis of the whole thing.
When we started working with these companies, one of our business partners and I started touring the country with these companies, going to different expos to help promote these products. At the same time, when YouTube finally came about, which was a while into the whole process, we finally began to share videos, which is the single biggest thing that’s helped to spark a new generation of jumpers.
Because of how information travels so fast these days, we were able to reach out to people in Australia as fast we were to people next door to us. We began to spearhead a community around the whole thing, even though it was still very small. It was 2003 when one of the original founders decided that he was going to hold the first get together, and he called it Pogopalooza. It was in a parking lot in Nebraska.
We really started from the bottom. A few guys went there and they pogo’d off a little box. The prize was Trail Mix for different competitions. It created a precedent that, at least once a year, the best guys were going to meet. It started to be this real, annual checkpoint for everybody to see the progress of the sport.
We began to work bigger and harder. As sticks were starting to get better and wilder, things started to grow. It was all sort of incohesive for a long time. It wasn’t until about three and a half years ago that we were getting a lot of momentum, but it was firing all over the place, so there wasn’t a lot of structure to it.
Nick McClintock, Fred Gryzbowski and I formed XPogo LLC, to bring the pogo train home. That’s where we are now. If you look at the whole history, after we formed this company, there was a tremendous spike in the whole XPogo world. Today, we run a company that represents the top XPogo talent worldwide. We also develop a lot of content. We have a division called XPogo Films, which we do lots of work with for different brands. Finally, we produce events like Pogopalooza, which has grown from a parking lot in Nebraska to the middle of Manhattan with guys from all over the world competing.
Nick Ryan and his two partners are the godfathers of the XPogo movement, but you need fresh talent if it’s really going to take off. That’s where the two top-ranked jumpers in the world, Biff Hutchinson and Dalton Smith, come in.
Hutchinson is from Burley, Idaho, and Smith is from Franklin, Tennessee, so you can get an appreciation for how wide the scope of XPogo has become in just a few years. While Smith is young, just 16-years-old, he’s been competing for four years. Hutchinson has been competing for four years as well, and is just 18.
We got a chance to talk with Hutchinson and Smith, as well as street specialist, Tone Staubs, as they were impressing pedestrians while jumping at Brooklyn’s Continental Army Plaza earlier this month.
First we spoke with the world’s No. 1 ranked XPogo jumper, Hutchinson.
Adrenalist: Is there any competition between you and Dalton Smith?
Biff Hutchinson: We’re always going to compete within ourselves. We have a game we call “SKATE,” which is like horse with basketball or skateboarding tricks. Basically, we do a trick, but on a pogo stick. If the other person can’t match it, they get a letter. We’re always having mini-competitions.
A: Do you have something lined up for later this month (Pogopalooza 10)? A secret, killer trick maybe? Do you keep it secret from the other jumpers?
BH: Yeah, we try to hype the event up a little bit. But I don’t keep them from these guys, particularly.
A: You’ve been doing this for seven years. When did you realize you wanted to do it professionally?
BH: I got into it before I was 12 because I got my first real pogo stick before then. I was just jumping on it for fun because it was entertaining and different. Then, when I realized that other people were doing tricks and stuff on it, I just decided that’s what I wanted to do and started practicing as much as I could every day as a kid.
A: Did you reach out to the XPogo people?
BH: Yeah, with XPogo, there’s always been this really tight online community. Through forums, and now Facebook as it’s shifted. We’ve always been super tight.
A: So you didn’t grow up with any of these guys in Idaho?
BH: Right – I didn’t really get with them until I had been pogoing for years and years. Just having that online community really helped me; especially since I didn’t have that many people to pogo with when I was growing up.
A: Were people giving you advice online or just offering pointers?
BH: Yeah, if you need help with a trick, or you want to brag about something, the community is always there. Everything goes up there, and the feedback from your peers is amazing.
At this point, Staubs came over to chime in on the interview.
A: Are all of you guys represented? How do you afford to travel so much since none of you are from the NYC area?
BH: These dudes, XPogo, and the stick companies, give us free sticks when we represent them.
A: Do you guys go through them pretty quickly?
Tone Staubs: Individual parts, like handlebars, break pretty easily. They require maintenance. I’ve already gone through a pair of pegs on this stick.
A: Are you guys doing all three competitions for Pogopalooza: Big Air, Best Trick, High Jump?
TS: I’ll be doing best trick and best run, and I might try high jump, but I’ve never really been good at it.
BH: I’m going to do Big Air, Best Trick and High Jump, so all three.
At this point Smith walks over to join the conversation. He’s ranked right behind Biff in XPogo’s rankings after finishing second to him at Pogopalooza last year. While most of the XPogo sponsored guys don’t really pay attention to the rankings, they do compete with one another, and there are rivalries.
A: Talk a little bit about Pogopalooza and competing against one another in the three competitions.
BH: On the jams, you get two solo runs that are 90 seconds, and that’s where you pull out the best stuff you can do. You use all the features the park has to offer.
A: Are there points off if you fall?
Dalton Smith: If you fall off a couple times during a run you can be disqualified or get demerits, but you’re really just trying to have clean runs.
A: So you guys are aware of what you’re going to do, generally?
BH: I try to get a solid three big things in my run that I want to hit. Whatever goes around them is whatever.
DS: In Pogopalooza 7, the first year I went, I was just jumping and getting super hyped. I thought, “OK, I’m gonna try a double backflip.” I went for a double backflip and I didn’t make it and hit the ground and broke both kneecaps.
A: Do you ever attempt to set World Records, like the guy who recently set the backflips record? I know there are Guinness World Record reps that visit Pogopalooza to affirm new records every year.
BH: I have three world records: least amount of jumps in a minute, world’s highest front flip, which is 8 feet 1 inch, and I also have the most synchronized front flips.
A: Do you guys focus on specific competitions?
BH: The guy who has the record for high jump didn’t place in Big Air, but he’s still super good in the High Jump.
DS: We know pretty much who is going to win, but only like five guys can win.
BH: Big Air is usually a wild card. That’s what I’ve always focused on in the past.
A: Thanks for speaking with us, guys. Good luck in the competition.
Remember to check out Pogopalooza 10 this weekend in Union Square Park where you’ll get to watch Hutchinson, Smith, Staubs and all the other XPogo Pros as they compete in Pogopalooza 10.
XPogo has come a long way since Nick Ryan and his friends were playing around with Toys ‘R Us pogo sticks hoping to land an amazing trick. Now, guys are flying 10 feet in the air and attempting double backflips. That’s a testament to Ryan’s marketing skills and the talents of the young athletes who he’s leading around the world as they show XPogo to the masses.