Guide For New Hoopers

New hoopers- READ IT ALL! Don’t skim on your knowledge.

Hoop Size vs Body Size

Hoops come in a massive variety of colors, sizes, weights, materials, and even shapes! (Square hoops do exist, but I don’t suggest using them quite yet.) Lots of hoopers will tell you their favorite size, or type of tubing, but let it be known that there is not one golden perfect hoop that every hooper uses. We all have to measure our hoops to fit our body types, and skill levels. Someone who is 6ft tall might be better off with a slighter larger hoop than someone who is 5ft tall. Someone who is 5ft tall, but has a bit of a belly, might be better off with a bigger hoop than someone who is the same height, but skinny as a board! Do not be put off by how many different hoops there are because it’s very easy to get a feel for what you like.

For a new hoop dancer, take a measuring tape/yard stick and measure the distance from the bottom of your belly button all the way down to the floor. That measurement will be your new hoop’s outside diameter. NOTE: In the hooping world hoops are measure by either their outside or inside diameter. The outside diameter(OD) is the hoops OUTER measurement taken OUTSIDE of the tubing. The inside diamter(ID) just measure the INNER space WITHOUT the tubing. These two numbers can be drastically different if the hoop is made out of 1/2 inch tube vs a 1 1/2 inch tube. Most skilled hoopers measure in ID, but for starting out OD is just fine and makes things less complicated.

Now you have a base measurement for your hoop! This is where some people might need to make a little adjusting. There is a difference in how a hoop goes around your body based off of how big it is. You want that proportion to about the same on every new hooper’s body type. So if you have some belly your hoop will have less room even if you are the same height as someone with no belly, which is absolutely easy to account for. Lot’s of tutorials skip this very important factor in the measuring process, but I know that not all bodies come the same. Take your measuring tape and measure your wasit line. Then measure your hip line. If your waist line is bigger then go ahead and add a half inch to your base measurement for every inch that your belly is bigger than your waist. That should make the space proportional and feel a lot more comfortable! Example: Pretend I am 6"3. My hoop needs to be roughly 46" to account for my height. Now let’s say my hip measurement is 36", and my waist measurement is 40". That means I need to add a half inch for every inch of difference. So 40" – 36" = 4", 4" / 2 = 2" I need to add 2" to my hoop size making it 48" total. WOW that’s a big hoop, but it will get me started out! Remember that this is 48" OD (outside diamter). That is important when you go to order your brand new shiny hoop.

If this number is equal to or less than 0 just use your belly button height as your OD:

Great, we have you all measured up. The last factor is hoop weight. For new hoopers I cannot stress enough that you should snag a hoop with 160psi tubing, at 3/4inch diameter. PSI is the pound per square inch that a tubing type can hold of water bursting through it. Hoop tubing is made out off irrigation tubing that normally would have to undertake such pressure. Since 160 is relatively high compared to what skilled hoopers use it means that the hoop is also HEAVIER. You WANT a heavier hoop when you start out because it will force your muscles to work harder to nail in the basic motions. Yes, it will hurt when you inevitably smack yourself in the face, but it is sooo worth it.

Also a little tip to consider while shopping: Do not buy the shiniest hoop in the world for your first hoop. It WILL get scratched within a matter of DAYS. You want to go for something with a lot of grip tape so that way the hoop really sticks to your body and you can learn. After you have some experience totally buy a fancy hoop.

I do sell the 160psi hoops if you need one, one of mine is in the diagram above, but there are other stores online that I will list in the bottom of the post! Feel free to add ones you love in the comments and I can throw them up here too.

Waist Hooping

Ahhh waist hooping. This is the iconic hula hoop motion. Please keep in mind that this is not something that you have to be able to do right away. There are tons of other body parts to practice hooping on if you can’t seem to keep it around your waist. Try switching to your hands, or around your neck where it is harder for it to fall down. No hooper wants to be known as the one that has a hard time waist hooping, so I will give you a crash course.

First, stop thinking too hard about it. New hoopers seem to default to thinking that you have to move your hips around in a circle to make your hoop go in a circle. This is wrong. I just typed up something really elaborate about catching and throwing but I think I should save that for a less nubile introduction so stay tuned. ANYWAYS you do NOT have to move in a perfect circle like a weird spaghetti noodle to keep the hoop up. There are two ways people prefer to correctly waist hoop.

One way is to put one foot in front of the other and gently rock back and forth trying to keep your legs straight so that way the rocking moves your hips and waist not your legs. Go FAST and use sharp movements. I am talking go so fast that you think the hoop will fling over your body and crash into a wall. You want to hear it wooshing. Momentum is a hooper’s best friend. Speed will ALWAYS help keep a hoop where you want it to be. I know you advanced hoopers reading this have some things to say about that statement, and how slowing down helps you go at the same speed with the hoop, but I am talking to the noobs that just need to keep it up at this point, not work on their flow.

The second way is to spread your legs out side to side lined up with your shoulders and rock from left to right and switching your weight from one foot to the other with feet pointing forward. Again try keeping your legs straight so the momentum is carried up to your waist/hips and not your legs. Just like the first option- GO FAST. FASTER THAN YOU COMFORTABLY WANT TO. I am not kidding you better lock up your cat or he will get knocked out. My cat won’t even get near my stationary hoops anymore.

How to Move Forward

As for EVERY trick in hoop dancing it will take time and practice. Seriously, it took me about six months and a plethora of briuses to hoop around my knees. I cannot stress enough how important it is to not be frustrated with yourself. Sometimes you have to spend eight hours straight hitting replay on a YouTube tutorial before the trick finally clicks. Sometimes you have to spend eight months straight on that YouTube tutorial before it finally clicks. Also the amount of time it takes you to learn one trick might be really short, but another will take you a year. Just work with it! I wrote another blog post about my personal methods for learning that you can check out that details my own learning process, and how it’s shaped me as a hooper.

There are good practices for new hoopers than can help you build a strong scaffolding for your new hoop life. Always try to hoop in both directions throughout your practices. At first you won’t favor a specific direction much over the other, but in time you will see how stupid one half of your body seems compared to the other. The best reason for doing this when you first start out is because you WILL have bruises all over one side of your body from going one way so you can’t practice without it hurting. Try going the opposite way and beating that side up and giving your main side a break. This might sound weird to read, but after a good day of practice you will know what I am talking about the next morning. New hoopers especially will have massive horrible bruises all over! They go away with time but they do hurt a ton. Try taking a bath in epsom salt to speed up the healing process.

If you feel yourself becoming frustrated with not being able to do a hoop trick, just move the heck on. Put it around your neck and try it there for a while. Try practicing isolations. (Google it!) Try spinning it around your hands and arms. Get weird.

Dancing

A lot of hoopers have the trick pony syndrome. They can do the coolest tricks in the world and look like a hot shot doing it, but they still look like they are just doing tricks rather than dancing. These are two different venues in the hooping world. If you want to learn how to hoop DANCE vs hoop, then you have to dance. No matter how many amazing tricks you can do it won’t look like dance unless you dance while doing it. I suggest watching some hoop dancing videos, and taking some belly dancing classes. Belly dancing is a great way to become a better hooper because not only does it focus on your entire body and how to control it, but it also is (mostly) a SOLO DANCE. This is very important because lots of dance styles require a partner, but not hooping, and not belly dancing. At first you might feel really silly but for the love of god just make a small dance routine and do it. Record yourself. Show your friends. IMPROVE. You will really shine when you go to a hoop jam and realize how many hoopers phase out when it comes to dancing.

Please feel free to contact me, leave comments, whatever you want! It would mean a lot to mean to hear how this guide helped, or didn’t help you. Any of you more skilled hoopers feel free to let me know if you think I should add or change something. Here are some resources I’ve found to be useful:

External Resources:

Hooping.org – Community forums, tutorials of the day, interviews, etc.
Hoop Trix – Kinda chaotic web design, but tons of tutorials based off of body parts and skill levels.
Hoop Mamas Store – My suggested newb hoop due to lots of grip tape. Comes in different sizes/weights and great color selections.
Babz Video Tutorials – Talented hooper that makes tutorials for all skill levels.
Reddit’s Hooping Community – Wonderful group of hoopers that are helpful and inspiring. My first choice when you need a question answered.
High Hoops – Great section of tricks, informative tutorials, and a glossary of hoop terms.

Spatial Reasoning & Hoops

To foster a better connection with your hoop it is best to also foster a knack for spatial reasoning.

‘Spatial-temporal reasoning is the ability to visualize spatial patterns and mentally manipulate them over a time-ordered sequence of spatial transformations. This ability is important for generating and conceptualizing solutions to multi-step problems that arise in areas such as architecture, engineering, science, mathematics, art, games, and everyday life.’
Someone on the Internet

Translating that to the hoop world means having awareness of where your hoop is in space, how it got there, and where it can potentially go from there.

My current fascination with the spatial reasoning theory is hoops in two dimensional space. I stumbled into the theory after attempting to lean forward with my torso parallel to the ground, and pass the hoop horizontally over my back from one hand to the other. Basically you swing a hoop in one hand over your head, lean forward while keeping the hoop in the horizontal plane, bring the hoop over your back, and switch it to your opposite hand. Since my vision of what goes on behind my back is limited I had to break down the move and visualize each movement. I noticed that my main focus was placed on prohibiting my hoop to leave the horizontal plane to avoid smacking myself in the head while swinging it over my back.

That process led me to thinking about how many other tricks rest within each individual plane, and how that can help my flow. Essentially the aesthetics of my particular hooping style relies on agile and fluid motions, level changes, and less on jagged breaks. Not that there is anything wrong with breaks, but there is a time and a place! If I maintain the motion in the horizontal plane I can have a pleasant sequence along the lines of: lasso over the head, bring town to my waist, drop it to my knees, and then shimmy it up to my chest, all while keeping the hoop in my horizontal plane. A vertical sequence could include: vertical isolation, stepping through my hoop, another vertical isolation, and then ducking my torso in and vertically chest hooping.

To bring this back around to spatial reasoning, awarenes of your hoop in space can open up the door to planar mastery. It can help you reason through tricks by understanding motion and momentum, which can help you learn the more complicated tricks. In the end, making sure your body is hitting each point of your hoop to stabilize it’s position is my best piece of advice. Whether you are trying to step through a vertical isolation, or spin your hoop horiztontally infront of you and jumping into it, planar motion and spatial reasoning are musts to comprehend. With that focus I avoided hitting my torso repeatedly, and entered into a new dimension of my hooping life.

Make a Dance Hoop

Materials:

Instructions:

  1. Measuring the appropriate circumference for your hoop is an important step to ensure that you will be able to get the most out of your hooping experience. Smaller hoops require more momentum to keep up so they aren’t ideal for beginners. To figure out your size pull some of your tubing out and make rough hoop shape. Then hold that shape up to your body and give it enough slack the potential ends meet right at your belly button.

    Basing the measurement just off of height doesn’t account for all body types. If you are relatively short and have a bit of a tummy then and add a couple inches to that measurement! Waist to height ratios differ for everyone.
  2. After measuring your tube take your pipe cutter and slice that sucker off of the roll. Watch out for your fingers, those cutters are freaking scary…
  3. Bring a pot water to a boil. It doesn’t matter exactly how much as long as you can submerge about four inches of tubing in it.
  4. Have your internal coupler within reach of your water for the next step.
  5. Submerge either end of the tubing about four inches into the boiling water and hold it there for 30 seconds. Remove the end and immediately push the internal coupler inside as far as it will go. There should be an evident stopping point in the middle of the coupler where the other end of the tubing will go.
  6. Rinse and repeat for the other end. Submerge for 30 seconds, remove from the water, and bend your ends together and insert the coupler into the other end of the hoop to form a wonky circle.
  7. NOTE: Your hoop might not look like a perfect circle! If it does then you’re a master hoop crafter. To even it out let it sit until the tubing is cool to touch, and then start hooping with it. The bare tubing and not-quite-round shape will feel very awkward at first but keep at it. The harder you spin it the faster it will take to morph into a circle. You can do this for as long as you want to. I usually hoop for about ten minutes before I get impatient and tape it up and all my hoops turned out just fine… :)
  8. Taping is the only complicated part of this process, but just follow closely and you’ll understand! You will tape your hoop all the way around a total of FOUR times to create the swirl. For the sake of brevity I am going to refer to your duct tape or fancy tape as just duct tape from here on out.

First, sit down on a chair or couch and hold your hoop in between your knees.

The duct tape layer comes first because the edges of duct tape, and most fancy tapes, tend to come up if the edges are not sealed down by a different type of tape. Unravel a couple inches of duct tape from your roll and hold it at an angle across the hoop and gently press it down. Continue unravelling your tape by bringing it around the back of the hoop, and to the front again moving down at the same angle all the way around the hoop. Make sure it’s staying creased down the back as well. Take care to NOT tug on the tape and mess up your angle! It should be apparent down the side of your hoop if they are different. If you deviate a tiny bit don’t fret too much but try and keep it consistent. It’s a painstaking but oddly hypnotizing process.

When you make it around to where you started you might notice that your ending position doesn’t line up with where you started… Sad. :( Try and pull it over as close as possible so they meet. If it’s about a centimeter away that’s fine. Any more than I would consider retaping the entire hoop. It’s important that the first layer of tape is as close to perfect as possible because it acts as a base for the other layers.

Next we have to seal down the edges of the duct tape with electrical tape. In order to completely seal the duct tape edges you have to apply two layers on the top edge, and the bottom edge. Start from any spot on your hoop, it does not have to be where you started the duct tape. Line up your electrical tape with the same angle as your duct tape and cover the top edge of the duct tape by about half a centimeter and begin unraveling. Follow only the edge of the duct tape you are sealing down! Do not accidentally start taping the bottom edge if you started with the top. When your ends meet cut it and seal the other edge of the duct tape the same way.

Since we are sealing the last layer with grip tape, the electrical tape job doesn’t have to be perfect as long as the edges of the duct tape are evenly covered, and the same amount of duct tape is exposed between each layer. Simply line up your gaffers tape with any part that is exposed and continue the angle. This part is the most forgiving because you can see exactly which parts of the hoop are left to cover. When your ends meet, cut it!

Enjoy your new hoop!

Hooping in the Singularity

A Personal Learning Process

It flusters me when I set my sights on a trick but as far as I can tell the hooper I’m watching is performing pure maigc. The illusion created is beyond anything I can iron out in my head, but I’ll be damned if that will stop me from learning it! That is the drive I carry with me through the bruises and despair.

Learning a trick takes a lot of patience and endurance. It’s a dynamic process that involves overcoming physical and emotional apprehensions. We can break down and dissect the different planes to not only make learning easier, but also to foster a better connection between you and your hoop.

Taking small precautions can help you mentally prepare for the harder obstacles while learning. This part is mostly for body tricks where you throw your hoop around and risk hurting yourself, unlike an isolation. My biggest piece of advice for protecting yourself from physical harm is to wear shoes, and work each trick out in slow motion first! When a weighted hoop falls it can hit the peroneal nerve, on the top of your foot, and that is very painful. Bruises happen when you are new to hooping, or hooped intensively. Take care to focus hooping on zones of your body that are healthy and can take a rigorous beating. When I was learning to go from hooping into a lasso I practiced lifting from my waist one day, and then switched to my hips the next to relieve my waist of further damage.

To get over the emotional hurdle remember that no trick is magic, you can dispel the illusion! You might fling your hoop across the room, and your pets might think you look silly, but it will click eventually. Take time to study the movements from each angle and calculate where your body should be in relation to your hoop. Should your inactive hand be ready to catch a hoop at the 3 o’clock position, or the 9 o’clock position? Does it matter if your hand is on the inside or outside of the hoop? Go very slowly and work up your momentum until you have more confidence to put some spin on it. Spinning in front of a mirror is always a good way to be self-critical. Honestly I hoop the best when I have had a bit to drink, and I can watch myself move. It helps me mind not only the dyanmics of the trick, but also the small accents like posture that make or break a routine.

If you find yourself fumbling and getting aggravated then take a breather. Stop and think about each minute motion and why the hoop is reacting that way. Visualize each movement and how it will bend the hoop to your will. Sometimes it is hard to have that grounding outlook of cause and effect at which point I would stop for the day and pick it up again later.

Practicing with a fellow hooper is also beneficial to scoping out the issues you miss when you are alone. They can objectively see your mistakes and push you in the right direction. Other people likely have their own unique process of learning that you can benefit from.