Hopping To The Extreme At Pogopalooza The springy, squeaky toy that bounced a few inches into the air has gone extreme. At Pogopalooza 7 in Salt Lake City this weekend, top pogo athletes are executing twists, turns and flips on high-performance aluminum tubes that catapult them eight feet or more into the air.

Hopping To The Extreme At Pogopalooza

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Is nothing sacred? These days even pogo sticking's gone extreme. Athletes now compete on turbo-charged tubes that catapult them into the air. Jenny Brundin from member station KUER reports on this year's Pogopalooza festival in Salt Lake City.

(Soundbite of commercial)

Unidentified Child #1: What's that kid doing?

Unidentified Child #2: Hes hopping on a Hop Rod.

JENNY BRUNDIN: In the summer of 72, my brother Mike was like the kid in this pogo stick commercial, a hoppin fool.

(Soundbite of pogo stick)

BRUNDIN: He swears he broke the world record for most consecutive jumps. That coil spring pogo stick was the coolest thing we could imagine. Just bouncing. Up and down. That was enough.

Fast forward 30 years. Fred Gryzbowski gets a pogo stick for Christmas.�

Mr. FRED GRYZBOWSKI: Just jumping up and down - its like why?

BRUNDIN: It didnt make sense to Gryzbowski, who grew up in the era of extreme sports. He saw potential. He started doing tricks like spins and jumping without hands.�

Mr. GRYZBOWSKI: I thought like I invented this new thing, Oh, extreme pogo-ing. And then I looked online.

BRUNDIN: And he found a small group of kids who thought they had invented the sport. The kids began swapping tricks on YouTube. And soon the technology caught up.

(Soundbite of compressed air)

BRUNDIN: Some of todays high-performance sticks are filled with compressed air, like this one. Others contain fiberglass, or giant rubber-bands. And they send jumpers flying.

(Soundbite of pogo stick)

Unidentified Man: Everybodys thats here, thank you and welcome to Pogopalooza 7.

BRUNDIN: The worlds only extreme pogo sticking competition is held in a different city each year.�

(Soundbite of music)

BRUNDIN: At the preliminary rounds on Friday, 30 of the worlds best bouncers are competing in four categories: Big Air, Tech, Best Trick and High Jump, which this year could clear nine, nine-and-a-half feet.�

Mr. DALTON SMITH: When youre up in the air, it feels like youre flying.

BRUNDIN: Fourteen-year-old Dalton Smith is the youngest competitor. Kids seem to retire around 21.�

Mr. SMITH: You gotta quit before you die, I guess.

BRUNDIN: The sport is risky. The jumpers twist and flip and wipe out a lot. They stop for a few seconds now and again, exhausted. One of the most tiring is this event, called Most Jumps In A Minute.

Unidentified Person: The pogo stick must completely leave the ground (unintelligible) on every bounce.

BRUNDIN: The crowd appears incredulous as they watch a skinny young man who looks like hes jack-hammering.

On other tricks, judges look for originality, height, execution and good landings. Pogopalooza co-founder Nick Ryan says his goal for extreme pogo sticking is respect.

Mr. NICK RYAN (Co-founder, Pogopalooza): I want to see it become a staple of culture in the same way that skateboarding is and BMX is.�

BRUNDIN: But he concedes the sport has a ways to go.

Mr. RYAN: If you just tell someone like, oh, Im an extreme pogo athlete, people laugh. Of course people laugh. I would laugh.�

BRUNDIN: But the crowds will be cheering today when they crown this years pogo champions.

For NPR News, Im Jenny Brundin in Salt Lake City.

(Soundbite of music)

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