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Pogo sticks take an extreme leap into the future

| Monday, May 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Dan Mahoney, age 20 of Nova Scotia tries a tough trick on a pogo stick using the crumbling brick walls and jutting articheture at the former Carrie Furnance site in Rankin on Monday May 6, 2013.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Michael Mena, age 19 of Florida, warms up on his pogo stick at the former Carrie Furnance site in Rankin on Monday May 6, 2013.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Dan Mahoney, age 20 of Nova Scotia performs tricks on his pogo stick with the former Carrie Furnance site buidling in the background in Rankin on Monday May 6, 2013.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
XPOGO members Biff Hutchison (left) and Michael Mena watch their teammates as the two sit on a former piece of machinery at the former Carrie Furnance site in Rankin on Monday May 6, 2013.

Pogo sticks are no longer just child's play.

The sport of extreme pogo has been gaining popularity in recent years, and this week, Pittsburgh plays host to an organization dedicated to helping it grow even more.

XPogo Films, an independent film production company that creates and distributes films showcasing the sport, is shooting their next short in Braddock with the world's top seven Xpogo athletes.

“I was really taken by the spirit of the town,” says CEO Nick Ryan, who studied at Carnegie Mellon University.

“I love the character of the town. There are a lot of parallels between the town and what we're doing — trying to command an audience and convince them the thing we're doing is viable for growth.”

Xpogo serves as the global governing body for the sport, managing multiple brands, talent, content, retail, online platforms and international events. They have shot short films around the world, including in Rio de Janiero, Hong Kong, New York, Rome and London. You can view them on the Xpogo website.

Their work locally will include a free community day May 8, featuring stunt exhibitions, clinics, donated pogo sticks for the town from Flybar, barbecue from Union Pig and Chicken, drinks and music.

“We wanted to give back to the town as well,” Ryan says.

The athletes don't use your average Toys ‘R Us pogo sticks. They perform on next generation versions, with enhanced durability and upgrades that let them fly as high as 10 feet in the air.

Perched atop these advanced pogos, athletes flip and twist, sometimes kicking off buildings or riding the side of the stick down a railing. It's all about the adrenaline rush, says Dalton Smith, 16, an Xpogo athlete from Franklin, Tenn.

“You always want to land new tricks,” Smith says. “It can be dangerous, but you try to take precautions. It is an extreme sport, so it gets kind of crazy.”

Smith practices at least two hours a day and says the group comes up with new tricks at least once a week. Many have signature moves — Smith's is the “slingshot flip,” when he jumps backward, does a front flip and lands facing forward.

“We like to get pretty creative,” he says.

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

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