Move over, Daddy-O! If you thought the insatiable drinking bird or the slinky were the be-all end-all of toys, have I got a surprise for you! You've probably seen the hula hoop in pictures. Hot dog, you might even own one yourself if you've got enough scratch. After all, here in the '50s, where Wham-O founders Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin are producing 50,000 hoops per day, there's no more popular pastime than hooping with the gang. If you aren't familiar with the tricks to master the skill that will show the jocks who really has the moves, we have you covered.
Not All Hoops are Created Equal
The first thing you need to know about hula hooping is that not all hoops are created equal. The bundle of small, cheap plastic hoops you might find at the two dollar store won't move in the same manner as a larger, heavier hoop. Larger hoops are slower, and make fewer revolutions per minute, giving you more time to correct your hoop technique before it hits the floor. In addition, weighted hoops are easier to control than their lighter counterparts.
Proper hoop sizing depends on your height. On its side, you want the hoop to stand at a height that's below your chest, but above the waist. Smaller hoops are great for tricks, but if you're just getting started, larger hoops are easier to manage.
Move Those Hoopin' Hips, Hot Shot
If you can do the swing, you have the moves needed to hoop with the best of them. But first, you'll need the right stance. With one foot slightly in front of the other, hold the hoop with both hands so it's level with your lower back. That doohickey is gonna be swingin' around your waist, so give it a good spin in one direction while you move those hips in the opposite one. Rhythm and coordination are key here!
Don't move your body in a completely circular motion in an attempt to match the hoop.You'll have to oscillate your hips, moving front to back as the hoop revolves around you. Think of your hips as drawing a more oblong shape rather than a perfect circle, with the hoop resting on your stomach as you swing forward, and your back as you, well, back it up. Don't let your hips go crazy though, a little movement goes a long way. Don't forget to play some tunes while you dance around! Hooping is more fun with Teresa Brewer on vocals.
Troubleshooting Troubled Hooping
If you think your technique is solid enough, but still find your hoop falling down to your ankles, you might want to reconsider your style of dress. Increasing the amount of friction between you and the hoop could make a bit of difference, so avoid hooping while wearing something especially smooth and silky, such as your satin nightgown, or your favourite silk party pants.
Can't get that rotation rhythm just right? If you're rotating clockwise, try moving counter-clockwise, and spinning the hoop in the opposite direction. Try moving those hips in the other direction instead, and remember to spin your hoop at the opposite rotation of your hips.
The worst feeling during a hooping session is that slow and steady drop of the hoop, a precursor to its final destination: The ground. You can still save the day and look like the bee's knees at your ice cream social by employing your literal knees. Bending them a little while leaning back and increasing your hip rotation speed can save you from disaster and ensure you're still a contender in whatever hoop-off you're trying to win.
Wait, Where's the Name From, Anyway?
Oh, curious about the hula hoop's name, are you? Well, if you thought hula hooping originated from the same region as the hula dance, you're in for a surprise. While British sailors called them hula hoops after noting the similarities between the Hawaiian hula dancing and hooping motion, hoops (and the hip-hugging hoop pastime) have been around since 3000BCE, when Egyptians would play with hoops made of long stalks of grass and dried grapevines.