[This week Hooping.org columnist Lara Eastburn gets into the Hooposophy of hoop size and demystifies it for us.]
I estimate that I’ve received over 1000 emails and phone calls that focus on questions about hoop sizing. And now that there are more tubing options than ever, hoop size confusion is understandably a bigger issue than ever! How do I know when I’m ready for a smaller hoop? What size hoop should I start with? What about LED and fire hoops? How are hoops measured, anyway? Before we dig into the nitty gritty and roll around in the mud a bit, let’s start by strapping our boots on and taking some of the pressure off. Let’s be clear from the start: There is NO guiding rule for what size hoop will be best for you. While the hoop itself behaves according to the unvarying laws of physics, how that hoop interacts with your individual body, mind, and style is a special kind of alchemy. And your ideal hoop size will most likely change over time. If you continue to hoop regularly, it’s nearly an inevitability. But it ain’t rocket science. Don’t fret … let’s break down some of those variables for you.
Disclaimer: The suggestions in this article are based on nine years of experience making hoops, teaching hoopdance, and working my “hoop-fitting” magic across the U.S.. I hope they help, but in the end (as in all things!), only you can decide what’s best for you. Period.
Where To Start: The Basics
If you’ve got a handle on your beginning hoop size, go ahead and scroll down to the next section. If you’re a relatively new hooper or having trouble finding the right hoop size, then this part is for you! Here are some basics. The most prevalent type of hoop tubing is Polyethylene (Poly, for short). It’s mainly used for irrigation. There are two numbers you’ll need to determine your tubing size — outer tubing diameter and PSI. The most commonly used diameter tubing for hooping is ¾ inch. The PSI refers to how many pounds of water pressure per square inch the tubing could take for irrigation purposes. For our purposes, though, the PSI tells us how thick (and thus, how heavy) the tubing wall is. Thinner and/or smaller = lighter and faster. Thicker and/or larger = heavier and slower.
Let’s start with a baseline and then tweak things from there. Most, but not all, beginning hoopers will feel comfortable in a hoop made from ¾” 160psi tubing that is somewhere between 40 and 44 inches in diameter. So let’s begin this pretend “hoop-fitting” with a 42” hoop.
Now, where’s your head? Are you already a dancer of some kind, or is the very idea of moving with your hoop completely new and slightly intimidating? If you’re already familiar with creative movement (belly dancing, modern, ballroom, club … doesn’t matter), you’ll have an edge on the learning curve and you can start smaller. Go ahead and take 2-3 inches off your hoop. Are you already athletic and fit? Do the same. If shaking yo’ booty is going to be new for you, stick with the 42” going into the next section.
Now let’s factor in your body type. If you’re heavier than most, add 2 to 4 inches, depending. If you’re shorter than 5’4” and/or very slim, take 2-4 inches off your hoop size. You will also likely want to experiment with a smaller PSI. 125 or 100 PSI will accommodate smaller frames AND smaller hands (This will come in handy when lifting your hoop or attempting off-body manipulation).
Size Versus Tempo. Size, weight, and experience are not by any means the only things to take into account when determining your hoop size. So, how do you want to move in your hoop? If the idea of long, smooth sessions waist-groovin’ to Miles Davis suits you just fine, stick with the larger diameter hoops. If you want to trick out to the fastest, trippiest tunes you can find, go smaller. Personally, I refer to my hoops in terms of tempo. I’ve got my Coltrane and my James Brown, if you know what I mean. Hoop sizing can have just as much to do with your mood and style.
Last Note for Beginners. If you’re having very real trouble keeping your hoop up, it’s too small. Really. Just get or make a bigger one until you find your groove. If you can keep it going for 5-10 seconds at a time, you’re fine. Put on the music that without fail reaches up out of the ground, grabs a hold of your rear and shakes it whether you intend it to or not. And work it. Please trust me when I say that music matters. A lot. Lastly, whether you’re making your own hoops or purchasing them, keep in mind that you can always make a hoop smaller, but you can’t make it bigger.
I’ve already got the perfect hoop for me. What size is it?
Though hoops are sized by diameter, the ONLY accurate way to measure them is by circumference. You’ll need a soft (sewing) measuring tape. Measure from one side of the connection to the other, sliding the measuring tape across the outside of the tubing for the entire length of the hoop. Then use a circumference calculator like this one to get your diameter.
Am I Ready For a Smaller Hoop? Odds are that if you’re asking this question, you are ready. But here’s how to know for sure. When you’re in your hoop, it will feel sluggish. You may have the sense that you’d like it to go faster, or perhaps it’s feeling too-thick in your hand. If you think it’s time, you have three options: smaller (hoop diameter), lighter (tubing PSI), or both. Go with your intuition. If you like the speed, but are weary with the weight, go with lighter PSI. If you like how it feels on your body, but want to speed things up, then take it down 2 inches at a time. If you’re using a hoop that is smaller than 39” in diameter, you’re probably ready to move down in PSI, too.
If you’re feeling the urge to move down in size, but are still beginning, keep that bigger hoop around for learning new movements. It’ll also come in handy when you’re trying to hook your BFF. Whatever change you make to your hoop’s size or weight, you’ll need a good couple afternoons with it to adjust. It’s like breaking in a new pair of shoes or a new pillow. You’ll be teaching your body and your muscle memory a new rhythm. Have faith. If you’re ready for a smaller hoop, then you’re ready for the challenge and the change.
LED and Fire Hoops.
LED and Fire hoops are different animals from your standard fare. LED hoops will have less tape on them than day hoops, hence less weight. They also have internal electronic workings that may feel different to you at first. Since LED hoops are an investment for many hoopers, you’ll want to get the size that corresponds to the fastest, lightest hoop you enjoy. You want your LED hoop investment to bring you enjoyment as far along in your process as it can.
When you’re ready for fire, it’s important to remember that the hoop’s wicks will increase the working circumference of your hoop by 12-16 inches (6-8 inch wicks on all sides). This increases the weight of the hoop and affects what you can do with it. If you do a step through just fine in a 38” hoop, for example, you’ll have to lift your knee and hoop 6-8 inches higher with a fire hoop. I recommend getting a fire hoop that is at least 2 inches smaller in diameter than what you use normally. I’ll leave fire safety for another day or columnist, but suffice it to say that you will want to practice with your new fire hoop extensively while unlit to get used to its “wingspan” and weight.
If you’re in an area that has alot of hoopers, or you’ve been to a hooping festival recently, you’ve probably caught a glimpse of these fancy wonders. Rich Porter was the first to break it down for us with these polypro hoop-making instructions. They’re fast. They’re light. They’re incredible. If you’re hooping with ½: tubing that’s 38” in diameter or less and want to up your practice, it’s for you.
Lara Eastburn has been dancing in meadows and singing with the moon while spinning in circles for eons at Superhooper.org. Beyond commenting here, you can also discuss this and other topics related to the Hooposophy for living in Hooping.org’s Hooposophy Group and Gorum. Lara is also the planting and gardening force behind discovering our hooping community roots: The Hooping Family Tree Project.