I have a confession. Growing up I was the token dorky kid that you find in every high school who rode unicycles instead of throwing footballs, who walked on stilts instead of having muscles and basically did other weird shit that effectively stopped girls from wanting to kiss me ever.
Even though I’m obviously trendy AF now, that oddball kid still lives somewhere inside me. And that inner weirdo loves nothing more than odd extreme sports. So naturally, when DSM learned of the existence of ‘extreme pogo’ we had to track down an elite pogo athlete and get the low down on what makes them
Enter Ryan O’Malley, AKA the “Patron Saint of Pogo”. Ryan has been bouncing for years, pushing the envelope of what’s possible on a bouncy stick with handlebars, along side members of his and other elite pogo crews around the globe. He walks us through the ups and downs (sorry) of his sport, from epic injuries sustained after 5m-high backflips gone wrong, to world records and high placings at “Pogopalooza“, the world championships of extreme pogo.
DSM: It’s an honour to be talking to “The Patron Saint of Pogo” himself! You’ve been in the pogo game a long time now. Tell us the story of how you first came to bounce and what you love about it so much.
ROM: Thank you for the opportunity! I love doing anything I can to spread the word about extreme pogo.
I started bouncing about 13 years ago as a bored kid in Florida. My buddy Nick Ryan and I saw a video of a dude doing flips, grinds, and gaps on an extreme pogo stick and we knew we had to get into that. We both quickly started trying the tricks we saw in the videos, and we found an emerging community of pogo stick enthusiasts online from around the world.
“I met most of my longest lasting friendships from that community. The fact that all of my friends were so hyped on seeing every new trick and video I could put together really fueled me to push myself to the edge of my ability.”
DSM: Extreme pogo is a seriously brutal sport at times, if you get it wrong. Your soft, squishy brain is like, 16ft off the ground when you’re doing these stunts. Tell us about the worst times a trick has gone wrong, and how you dust yourself off and psych up for the stick again afterwards.
ROM: Oh yeah, it can be dangerous. I have fallen more times than I can count, and I have broken four bones over the last ten years. The worst bail I had was as a teenager.
“I was out bouncing around and went for a backflip, but when I landed, I slipped out (a common problem in the pogo world). I slammed my face directly onto the concrete, knocking me out and knocking out a tooth at the same time, before going into a seizure.”
Luckily I was near an outdoor restaurant where an off duty paramedic was eating dinner. She ran over and helped stabilize me while the ambulance came. I stayed off the pogo stick for a few weeks after that, but I always had the intention to get back on and pick up where I left off.
“On my first day back I had relanded most of my tricks and backflips on grass, which is a much softer alternative for learning and rehabilitation as you can imagine.”
DSM: Is there a pogo world rankings and world championships? How far off seeing pogo in the Olympics do you think we are?
ROM: Typically every year there is an event called Pogopalooza, the world championships of extreme pogo.
It didn’t happen this year due to a lack of funds, but it is expected to return in 2018. The riders would compete in three different disciplines, including High Jump, Best Trick, and Freestyle. I was never one to compete seriously, but I had a few good runs over the years and took home fifth place back in 2014.
“I think we are still a ways away from the Olympics, but seeing skateboarding being added gave our community a bit of hope that it could happen in the future!”
DSM: What pogo achievements are you most proud of?
ROM: I know it’s a cheesy answer, but I would say the whole experience is my most proud achievement.
“As a kid, I hardly left my town in Florida, but pogoing has led me all over the world. Because of that, I was able to meet so many new people, including the love of my life.”
I have been able to enjoy different types of food and sightsee around parts of the world that most tourists don’t explore. I love the fact that I’m able to say that I toured the world doing what I loved doing, with my best friends.
DSM: Got some tips for newbies who are keen to give pogo a try themselves?
ROM: My first tip is stay persistent. It took years of practice to get to the point I am now.
“If you fall down on a trick, get back up, analyze what went wrong, and get back on the stick for another attempt. You’ll get it eventually.”
My other tip is to join that awesome community I am talking about. Our Facebook group “Pogo Chat” is full of pros and other pogo enthusiasts that would love to see what you can do.
Post your progression on Instagram and use #xpogo, we’ll see it. Whatever you do, just get out there and Go Pogo. It’s crazy what a little motivation can help you achieve.
Follow Ryan on Instagram here.
And Xpogo here!