Extreme Pogo is a young sport that sprang from an online forum and a small gathering in a Nebraska parking lot. Every year since, the best Xpogo athletes from around the world gather for one weekend to compete, show off new tricks, and celebrate the sport. This year “Pogopalooza 10” came to New York City. I followed professional Xpogo jumper Tone Staubs throughout the weekend.
Tone Staubs is a professional athlete. His sport is Extreme Pogo. It’s a job he dreamed about before it even existed.
“I brought my big air pogo stick to school one time, and I think it was my science teacher, she’s like, ‘Why do you have a pogo stick?’ I was like, ‘Well, I do tricks on my pogo stick, and I want to maybe turn it into a career one day,’” Staubs recalled. “She goes, ‘What, are you stupid?’ I was just like ‘What?! A teacher just called me stupid!’ And she just goes, ‘You can’t make a career out of riding a pogo stick.’”
Maybe it was crazy at the time, but last year Tone became a member of the first Xpogo Pro Team, and now he makes enough doing Xpogo that this is his day job. Landing his dream job, though, has added pressure to this year’s championships. Weeks before Pogopalooza, Tone was on the poster I saw, flying through the air on his pogo stick. Once Pogopalooza started that image was everywhere. It was on flags around the competition area, on backdrops at info booths, and on the schedules that were handed out to everyone who passed by. When you are the face of a sport that nobody has heard of, people expect you to be the best.
“Over this past year I was like, ‘Well, I’m pro. So I have to prove to everybody and myself that I can do all this stuff,’” Staubs said. “This year I’m actually taking time, planning out my entire run, making sure everything is clean and consistent and hopefully that will get me up on the podium in the first place spot.”
On the first day of Pogopalooza, I got to Tompkins Square Park to find Tone and the other athletes warming up. They were cracking jokes, throwing high fives, and they were bouncing seven or eight feet off the ground. They did flips and threw the pogo stick behind their backs or between their legs, somehow just barely getting the stick under them again before they came crashing to the ground.
First up was the “Big Air” qualifier. Tone had five minutes to put together a run of tricks that use the ground, the wooden boxes, walls, and grind rails that make up the course.
After his “Big Air” Tone broke his own world record for most jumps in a minute.
“So you broke your record?” I said.
“Yeah, unofficially right now the count for most bounces in a minute for the broken record that I just did is 269, which is four more than I had done previously, so I’m pretty stoked on that,” he said.
Tone was stoked about breaking his record. But he was already thinking ahead to the next day’s Big Air Final.
“Yeah, I qualified sixth place, but hopefully tomorrow that place will change because I plan on going a lot bigger tomorrow than I did today,” Staubs said.
The next day, Pogopalooza moved over to Union Square.
Tone was going bigger on his first run, stringing together a series of tricks all over the course. It was impressive to watch. Right at the end of his run he bounced through the center of the course, jumped off of two elevated boxes. He was about eight feet off the ground at this point. He flipped his pogo stick all the way around and then just missed his landing.
“Yeah, I went to throw a stick flip off the little slant to slant line over the big gap, and I just only got my toes on, and it shot up, the peg shot into my knee cap and that’s really swollen and hurt now and took it in the chest and the jaw too at the very top, so that didn’t feel very good, but other than that I’m fine, for a little bit,” he said. ”I’m going to let it rest and then go out and throw down for best trick until it just won’t move.”
Tone was struggling just to walk at this point. He told me that he was done with Big Air for the day. But after more than an hour of rain delay, Tone got back on his stick and he completed his second run.
“I just figured, you know what, why not?” he said. ”Because everybody else is doing it, so I might as well do what I can.”
Finally it was time for best trick. The jumpers had 30 minutes to land the craziest tricks that they could think up. With about three minutes left, Tone landed one, even on his hurt leg.
“Best trick, I kept going out to throw the ‘Infinity Wrap,’ and I couldn’t really feel it. I wasn’t really getting it around today, so I just went out, threw a safety trick which was the ‘G Varial,’ and I thought it was impressive, but I guess it wasn’t good enough to place this year.”
Going into the weekend, Tone had dreams of winning both Big Air and Best Trick. But, he missed one landing by a couple inches, hurt his knee, and fell out of the top three in both events. But for Tone, there’s always the next show, the next video shoot, the next competition, because Tone Staubs is a professional Xpogo athlete.
“Pogopalooza is done, and I went out and tried my hardest,” he said. ”Couldn’t quite bring home a medal, but you know what, it’s never a bad time out here. It’s never boring. It’s never bad vibes with anybody. It’s all about promoting the sport of Xpogo and having some fun, and that’s exactly what I did.”