By Liz Kaufman
At first, the metallic “clang” against the ground, combined with blurry human figures running 25MPH through a busy New York City street caught me off guard. Adults screamed and laughed in surprise. Children got excited, begging to see acrobatics and pointing. Taxis stopped short upon seeing these semi-kangaroo humans hurdling at them, even outracing them along the streets. Tourists came to an immediate halt to crowd and take pictures. A year later, it all just seems like background noise that’s easily tuned out.
To the surprise of many, I’m referring to a normal day in my life, not a movie like Predator. Humans really can run and jump that fast and high, ignoring gravity. In 2004, Alexander Bock, of Germany, patented his invention, “Powerskips.” The term “Power Bocking” or “Powerising” refers to the actual usage of these stilts, which involves jumping and running, much like le parkour, with elastic-like, spring-loaded stilts. It combines intense acrobatics with a science fiction type look. This gives the average person 12 feet of jumping height and the ability to run up to about 25 MPH.
Bockers have been seen on the MTV 2 Music Awards (2002), The Late Show with David Letterman, and even the 2005 opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Italy. It caused the popularity of this sport to grow drastically. Suprisingly, even though these extreme stilts have been on such popular televised events and have gained exposure, crowds of New Yorkers often oogle and point, having never seen a person use them…let alone a group of 20 or so jumping about NYC, making the entire Ellis Island ferry go ballistic and wave.
October 18, 2008 marked my second year photographing the event and my first year as a user of these kangaroo boots. Bock NYC is a yearly event for Bocking enthusiasts who meet up in the Big Apple to do what they love to do. Usually, it begins by the docks at Washington Square and progresses toward Times Square, and people gasp every bounce of the way.
Last year, Henry Holloway, an aspiring stuntman featured on The Late show with David Letterman, joined us for Bock 2007. Holloway was the best example of what the stilts are capable of doing. He jumped higher than anyone previously recorded, before nailing six back flips in a row. Until then, it was thought that only three to four flips and a height of no more than ten feet were the limits.
This year went even better than last year’s, with Bockers coming in from Wales, Britain, other parts of the U.S., and more locally. About 20 people or so showed up (not including fans and those in charge of cameras), which was an increase from last year. The increase in New York’s event might have something to do with the event called “Capital Bocking,” a yearly event that took place earlier this fall. At this event, a few hundred bockers met up, hopped, jumped, and ran all over London at once.
As far as the technical aspects are concerned, the stilts are curved, with a metallic arm. It’s the same concept of the newer prosthetic limbs by athletes. The springs and leverage mechanism ease back tension, allowing the body to jump without having a spinal impact. This allows for no back discomfort or pain and for older people to have an equal chance to enjoy them and get a great workout.
Jumping Stilts are now being caught up in the “Go Green” craze. While it is true that they can give a person the ability to keep up with traffic and not produce a carbon footprint, many are skeptical about their usefulness and ease of use. Yes, you have to strap them on and possibly some safety gear, but many bockers can do this in approximately two minutes, after familiar enough with equipment. I actually have spoken with people who do use these to get back and forth from jobs and college.
Regardless of how skilled you may be, watching people jump over your head is still enjoyable enough. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, watching one of the guys walk into a Starbucks wearing the stilts to order a drink is still hilarious after two years. From first hand experience, I can tell you that it isn’t that difficult to learn, even if you have poor balance or are afraid of heights, like I am. Children through older adults can use these and learn the same way one learns to ride a bicycle. After five hours, I was walking at a slightly fast pace around the campus, and another time I was walking in the middle of Manhattan.
If SB Press readers would like more information from a good, reputable source that sells quality merchandise, I recommend www.xphub.com. It’s important to be wary of companies selling cheaper models because, unlike your prescriptions, generic are not the same and will generally break down from poor quality parts.
For SB Press Readers who are interested in learning and enjoying the sport, email email@example.com for an SB Press Discount off equipment! The rep, Matt J, will give more information and references, answer all of your questions and give you a pretty decent decent discount that we cannot disclose in the paper. Simply fill the subject with with “Jump Around,” so they know it’s a Press reader.