Flynn Nyman can’t practice anywhere without drawing a crowd. After all, a 14-year-old kid backflipping 10 feet in the air with a 15-pound pogo stick between his legs is going to stand out.
“People always ask me to do a backflip every time I practice,” Flynn said during a recent practice session at Oregon State University.
Seconds later, as if on cue, several college students put their Ultimate Frisbee game on hold and started shouting.
“Are you seeing this?” one person shouted.
“What? That can’t be real,” another yelled. “Do a backflip!”
Flynn smiled and a few seconds later slammed his pogo stick into the ground, vaulted high into the air and backflipped off his stick, immediately drawing cheers and applause.
“It’s always a weird thing when you tell people you pogo stick,” Flynn said. “So I usually say it’s like a portable trampoline. But when they see it, they finally get it.”
During the week, Flynn attends Linus Pauling Middle School. But on most weekends, he’s dazzling stadium crowds or traveling to exotic locations as a member of XPogo, a professional extreme pogo company that spreads word of the fast-growing sport all over the world. Flynn joined the team in August 2015, after winning the national amateur competition in June 2015 at XPogo’s signature event, Pogopalooza.
“It was my first competition, so that was pretty exciting,” he said. “If I had known what it meant, that I’d be getting to travel and get to do extreme pogo professionally, I probably would’ve been even more excited.”
At 13, Flynn was the youngest person to join the team, but he had already been practicing for three years. It all started, he said, when he saw an extreme pogo stick in a magazine and immediately went to YouTube to see one in action. Ten seconds into the first video, Flynn said he was hooked.
“I thought, ‘this seems impossible. I’ve got to try it,’” Flynn recalled. “I’ve always been into the weirder action sports, but this was crazy.”
Flynn went out to practice on a small standard pogo stick, the traditional toy with a compressed spring, but it quickly broke. He managed to convinced his parents, Matt and May Nyman, to buy another stick.
“That one broke too,” he said with a laugh. “I then convinced them to buy me another … that one broke too.”
Somehow, Flynn convinced his parents to buy one more — but this time they bought a high-performance air compressed stick capable of launching someone 10 feet in the air. Flynn, then 10, got to practicing right away.
“I knew how to pogo stick, but I really wanted to try some of those tricks I had seen,” Flynn said. “Nobody else does this. It’s uncharted territory.”
In addition to testing his height off the ground, Flynn practiced on a trampoline, a method known as “trampogo,” for two hours every day for months. His goal was to eventually enter an XPogo competition. But first he needed to build up his “air awareness.”
“It’s the idea of knowing where you are in the air and whether you’re ready for the trick or if you’re going to hurt yourself,” he said. “The scariest part of any trick is the landing. And it’s pretty scary trying to land a backflip with a 15-pound piece of metal between your legs if you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Flynn’s mother, May, remembered her son attempting his first backflip.
“I was pretty excited and it was just incredible when he finally did it,” she said. “People always ask how I can stand to watch him do it. It’s because he knows what he’s doing. He doesn’t take risks unless he knows he’s ready. I worry more when he travels, not when he’s performing.”
May, a former gymnast, said Flynn has always been ahead of the curve.
“He taught himself how to ride a bicycle when he was 2 years old. He would bike to preschool every day on his own,” she said. “Even as a former gymnast, he’s far surpassed anything I’ve done.”
As a part of XPogo, Flynn travels near and far, sometimes with months’ notice, other times with only a day or two of prep time. A few weeks ago, Flynn performed with the team during the halftime show for an OSU men’s basketball game. He also did a recent gig for McMinnville High School.
But most of Flynn’s shows take him much farther away from home. He’s performed at county fairs in other states, done halftime shows at several NBA and college games, and he’s done video shoots in New York, Montana and Dubai.
“It’s great,” he said. “I’m getting to do so many things I would never be able to do without this opportunity.”
And through it all, Flynn has only ever suffered very minor and short-term injuries.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to not have any real bad injuries,” he said. “But that’s also why I practice on turf or on mats. I want to keep doing it.”
Flynn is contracted with XPogo through 2019. After that, he’s hoping to continue growing the sport.
“I love performing. Before shows, it’s always pretty nerve-racking,” he said. “But once I’m out there on the stick, I’m in my natural state.”