The Joy of Hoop Rolling

For the skilled practitioner, hoop rolling is a game that produces an elevation of the soul approaching nirvana.


| July/August 1979


To the children I grew up with, hoop rolling wasn't just recreation, it was an ascent into nirvana. The speed, control, and music of the game produced an elevation of the soul against which all later ecstasies were to be judged.

Whrr-i-i-i-n-n-n-g! Folks could hear us coming through the hollows on those ages-ago-West-Virginia mornings with sand dewed to our bare and forever running feet. And despite the sharp clanks, donks, and dinks of metal hoops bouncing over the rocks in the road, our wheels never lost their abrasive rhythms, nor we our maestro like control.

Discover the Wheel

In spite of all their wonderworking powers, the instruments of  hoop rolling are very easy to make (or find). Strictly speaking, that moving circle of delight is less a wheel than a metal rim (could be wood, but preferably metal) that's smooth both inside and out, and the spinning "halo" is propelled and guided by a "paddle" made of stiff wire.

You don't, of course, just go out and buy a wheel. You have to recognize it in another form and then retrieve it for your own good ends. I've used a thin slice of eight-inch iron pipe ... an ornamental wire circle from an old steering wheel ... a bicycle wheel with the spokes removed ... a hoop from a discarded nail keg ... and, recently, the round tubular footrest from a bar stool. Whatever their origins, humble or exalted, the best wheels are those between 8 and 12 inches in diameter and an inch or less wide.

Personalized Paddle

I made most of my paddles from the thick metal-strand spools on which barbed fencing was wound. However, any stiff but bendable wire of drinking-straw thickness will do. Start with a piece that's 36 to 40 inches long. (A good paddle, when gripped, should extend from your hand to your ankle.)

The end of the paddle that touches the wheel should be bent into a U shape—about four inches long and just a bit wider than the wheel's rim—that's held parallel to the ground when in operation. The top five-inch section of the upright shaft is doubled over to provide a grip that keeps the wire from turning in the operator's hand.





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