The history of hula hoop is a long and fascinating one. Did you know that people were using hula hoops for exercise and play in ancient Egypt?
The Hula Hoop in Ancient Times
Although the hula hoop was not known as a hula hoop at the time, hooping was a popular form of exercise and entertainment for centuries. Children would use a stick to run next to a hoop and keep it moving. Sometimes they would twirl it around their waists. These early hoops were made of grapevine, bamboo, and other flexible, lightweight, natural materials.
In the 14th century, hooping found its way into Europe. Children played with hoops in a variety of sizes and materials. By the 1800s, the hoop had become popular in the United States and all over the world. It was during this time that sailors saw the hula dancing of the Hawaiian Islands. It seemed so similar to the motion used when using a hoop that they began to refer to the hoop as the "hula hoop".
History of Hula Hoop in Modern Times
In the 1950s, a wooden hula hoop was introduced by a company in Australia. These hoops grew in popularity. In the late 1950s a company called Wham-O, founded by Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin, reinvented the hula hoop, creating it out of plastic in 1958. They also trademarked the name "Hula Hoop".
The first of these hula hoops sold for $1.98 in toy stores as well as variety stores like Woolworths. Later specialty items like glitter, sound beads, and other decorations were added.
In the late 1950s and 1960s, hula hooping really became popular among teenagers. Hula hoop contests were everywhere. People began competing to break each other's hula hooping records
Hula Hoop Trivia
- The longest recorded time to hula hoop was set by Kym Coberly of the United States in 1984. She hula hooped for 72 hours.
- Paul Blair spun the most hoops at one time, numbering 132. This was recorded on video November 12, 2009.
- Ashrita Furman ran one mile in 18 minutes and 7 seconds while hula hooping. This occurred in 2002 in Munich, Germany.
- The fastest hula hoop spinning was done on November 8, 2008 in Beijing, China. Xia Tao spun the hoop 211 full rotations in one minute.
- Ashrita Furman hula hooped underwater for a record 2 minutes and 38 seconds.
- Japan banned the hula hoop at one time because of the suggestive movements of the hips.
Decorated Hula Hoops
Modern hula hooping is more than a fad or a teenage craze. Today there are dance troupes that create dance movements while hula hooping as well as exercise classes that focus on the hula hoop. Adults, teenagers, and children all enjoy this excellent form of exercise. Today's hula hoop may be weighted to help with a workout. Some hula hoop entertainers get special hoops with spokes that are set on fire, essentially allowing them to spin a burning hoop for a dramatic show.
Other hoops may be decorated with:
- Glow in the dark tape
- Colored tape
- LED lights
- Clear tubing that has liquid, sparkles, or balls inside
Those enthusiasts who used hoops in the early history of hula hoop might not recognize hula hooping today. Yet this simple toy has become a symbol of the 1950s and 1960s and a much loved exercise tool of the 21st century. It is consistently one of the best selling toys of all time.