Why you should care

Because cutting edge cool can now be earned sans cuts, scrapes and contusions.

“That’s a lonely-kid toy!”

A friend was holding forth on a whole raft of what he called “lonely-kid toys” or activities: unicycles, juggling, pogo sticks. Neither communal nor collective, these things favored the individual operator and were hard enough to master that only kids whose dance cards weren’t full of stuff to do with other kids were ever going to bother.

Which is really why they are so cool.

Stuff that flowers in the absence of popular attention gets cooler and downright weirder faster — which is where pogo sticks are at present. Today’s sensation junkies who are over and done with extreme unicycling, parkour, skateboarding and other forms of gravity defiance are opening up a new opportunity for the nearly forgotten toy. So, witness the birth of “extreme pogo” or Xpogo. Backflips with no hands, front flips and tricks without any names yet — oh, hell yes, they’re all here. On sticks that let 200-pound people like me get about 10 feet of air. Without the aid of explosions or schedule 1 narcotics.

First patented in America by Kansan George H. Herrington in the late 19th century, his invention languished until a couple of Germans, Ernst Gottschall and Hans Pohlig, registered something akin to the modern pogo stick (the first two letters of their last names, PO and GO, are purportedly the basis for the toy’s name). And later a Russian immigrant, George B. Hansburg, muscled in a new American patent for the two-handle design in 1957 but, aside from brief blips of interest in the 1970s, the stick has sat around largely unchanged until, well, right about now.

Backflips with no hands, front flips and tricks without any names yet…

And that ceaseless “what if?” thinking by extreme sports enthusiasts has caused companies like BowGo, Flybar and Vurtego to invent a rougher, tougher pogo stick. Which appears to be one that will, to paraphrase Sly Stone, take you higher — plus, help you land once you’ve gone higher and, all in all, make it easier to avoid killing yourself no matter how high you go.

Of course, as any adrenaline fiend will tell you, that’s precisely what they’re gunning for: the sense that a very definite limit has been pushed. With the Xpogo World Championships, aka Pogopalooza 11, and exhibition teams, the sport is gaining participants and making an active push into pop consciousness.

Which is to say that for about $230 online, you too can be the coolest lonely kid on your block.

Video:

Cooligans

Total disclosure: Author Eugene S. Robinson is a longtime pogo-sticker, unicyclist and skateboarder. Among other things.

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