Hoop Retreat Virgins, Listen Up

Shannon Herrington
Shannon Herrington

[Shannon Herrington joins the Hooping.org team this week, starting with sharing what she learned from attending her first hoop retreat.]

by Shannon Herrington

I’ll let you in on a little secret. It wasn’t until I turned 21 that I had ever been to real concert that wasn’t the Backstreet Boys. Which means that I’ve never been to any sort of music festival either. The only thing I knew about camping was 4-H camp, but my excitement for hooping ultimately challenged me to attend a multi-prop flow arts retreat in my area called Flow Camp. One of the amazing things about hooping is all the awesome possibilities for learning in a variety of places, including these opportunities called “hooping retreats”. Hoopcamp and Return to Roots are just around the corner and the Florida Flow Fest and SWhoop UK will be here before you know it. But I was terrified to go to Flow Camp. I didn’t know what to expect. In my perfect world, everything would have been listed in an itemized schedule to calm my fears. I’d begged all my friends to go with me to no avail. I had wished that someone I knew would be there to hold my hand, but they weren’t. What did I do? I went anyway. And now that I know what to expect having been the hooping retreat virgin, I’d like to share with all of the other festival/retreat virgins out there a few helpful tips to make your first hooping retreat experience a winner.

1. Sleep: I don’t think I fully realized that there would be people up till 5 AM hooping.  I didn’t sleep well the first night because I didn’t pack the right blanket for a very cold Kentucky night. I didn’t pack melatonin (sleep aid) because I figured I’d hoop myself into exhaustion and wouldn’t need it. I was exhausted all weekend.  I just couldn’t sleep between the car doors slamming and hoopers yelling. In fact I didn’t sleep for 24 hours the first night I was at Flow Camp. There was music playing all night long, not that I minded, but be prepared. Next year, I will make sure to pack a warmer blanket, ear plugs, and melatonin.

2. Rest: This goes hand in hand with sleeping. You don’t want to hoop yourself to illness. The first day of workshops, I started to feel sick after three classes. At one point, I looked at my packed full schedule and made a choice to rest during one class that I wasn’t super thrilled to take.  You don’t have to take all the classes that are offered. You know your body. If after hooping for three straight hours you’re exhausted, please take a break. There are no penalties for taking rest breaks.

3. Bug Spray, Baby Wipes, Portable Toilet Paper and Sunscreen: If your retreat area is prone to mosquitoes, bathe in the bug spray. It sucks to be scratching while you are trying to hoop. And chances are you will be outdoors – a lot. I ran out of sunscreen and soon found myself with stinging shoulders, which is also not recommended for hooping. While it is my understanding that many retreats do have bathrooms, you never want to find yourself stuck in a porta-potty with no toilet paper. Usually you can find portable toilet paper in the camping section. Baby wipes can make cleaning up a little a breeze.

4. Transport: How will you transport your hoops to the event? If you are going to a multi-prop retreat, like I did, how will you carry everything? I wasn’t just carrying a big hoop, I was carrying fire fans, a flow wand, a bellydance belt, minis, poi, a contact juggling ball and all the other random stuff I needed throughout the weekend. Trying to fit large fire fans in your bag is not fun. I’d suggest testing your transport system a week beforehand to make sure it will work. If you are flying simply put all your hoops together and saran wrap them together with some tape to hold everything in place. That way you can check them easily as a single baggage item.

5. Arnica: Everyone suggests having arnica lotion when you become a hooper. I never bought any though because I don’t get hooping bruises. That weekend at Flow Camp, however, I had my first real hooping bruises from doing reversals with a heavy hoop. I had meant to get arnica before I left, just in case, but I never had the time. Hopefully you can make the time.

6: Don’t Forget Your LED Hoop Charger: While this wasn’t my problem, a girl near my original campsite didn’t bring her LED hoop charger and her LED drained within a few hours. Even if you don’t have a car to wall converter, someone else might and they will probably let you use it. If your hoop uses batteries, bring extra batteries. You’re going to want to be able to light up the night a lot longer than you usually would.

7. Be Ready to Work: Isn’t that the reason you registered for the retreat? You will be going full force all day with your hooping self! In one class I participated in, I was told to shimmy up the hoop with stomach muscles. No arms. No cheating, but it showed me I can do that.  I didn’t think I was able to do something like that. My muscles are still sore from this move alone and I’m smiling about it.

Overall, your first retreat/festival is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  The people you will meet are the absolute best people ever.  If you’ve not been around a lot of hoopers, you may be shell shocked.  It’s amazing how most of the people that are interested in flow arts are compassionate and caring.  They also love hooping and get why you love it, too. On the second day, I lost a little pouch filled with all my money. The next day, my pouch was turned in with the money inside. How many times does that happen in life? Hooping retreats can enable you to make new friends and participate in classes that you wouldn’t normally have the chance to take. Flow Camp was in my price range and in my area so it was perfect for me and it opened me to other flow arts. Find the event that is right for you and your needs and go. While I wish I could hold your hand through your first hooping retreat, maybe these suggestions will help you have an unforgettable experience.


Shannon HerringtonShannon Herrington/ of Hoop Love lives in Nicholasville, Kentucky, USA.

16 thoughts on “Hoop Retreat Virgins, Listen Up

  1. It’s a shame these retreats cost so much. Not one costs less than $200 dollars. We’re supposed to “spread the hoop love” and I love the big names in hooping, like Hoop Girl, Hoopalicious, and Baxter, but they’re profiting on something that should be free. The more I think about it, the more it disgusts me. Burning Man, too. The Rainbow Gathering and Moon Tribe have been around longer than any other festivals, and they are completely free, and way better. I learned way more at those, than I would ever learn at any other. All the other festivals, retreats, and camp-outs, are all a part of a sick consumerist trend. And how much of this money goes to charity? I was super excited about Return to Roots, because it’s so close to me, until I realized it’s nearly $300! I mean, really? Someone thinks pretty highly of themselves. I understand Hoop Girl and Hoopalicious, because they were forerunners of this revolution, but almost everyone beneath them, is just full of shit. Hooping isn’t that hard. I am just as good as any of the teachers at those retreats, and I know TONS of hoopers that are even BETTER, that are totally unknown. The only thing that it really takes to make you a super hooper, is some gymnastics or dance background. And even then, I have trained myself to be more flexible in my own living room. I have taught almost everyone I know that hoops, for free. Or whatever they felt like donating, because some people insist. But it’s really ridiculous. It’s all over youtube. You don’t need to go to these silly retreats. Stop feeding the money monster. As a society, we should be sharing everything and profiting from nothing but our love for eachother. Why not organize hoop retreats that are free? Or that raise money for charity? Money really is the root of all evil. And pretty soon, it won’t be around anymore. A new era is dawning on this Earth, are you ready?

    1. hey Shawnee!! Florida Flow Fest is $100 for 3 days… the ticket price doesn’t include accommodations, but we are working together to create homestay and camping options, off-site!

      I will be honest, though: I share your sentiment (somewhat) and your enthusiasm (FULLY) for pulling the plug on rampant consumerism and profiteering. The venues cost money… but even so, I really feel like a ‘donate what you can’ philosophy for a flow/hoop festival is the best way to go, if you can keep your overhead really low. Maybe the next flow fest (after Florida Flow Fest) I organize will be free, and in my own giant backyard! FOR A WEEK! Why not?????

      Having said all of that… There is literally NOTHING LIKE going to immerse yourself in the communal experience of living and working together in this movement discipline. The FEELING alone is worth the investment- and it truly can be seen as an INVESTMENT in … well, whatever you want to consider it: in COMMUNITY, in YOUR SKILL SET, in YOUR PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH (truly), in PHYSICAL HEALTH (TRULY), in the pockets of the PIONEERS and LEADING EDGE of the movement, in OUR OWN COLLECTIVE HAPPINESS…

      choose your own adventure… and THANK YOU for being so vocal about how you have chosen yours!!! We need your voice here!!!

    2. Shawnee, I think you have no idea what it costs to put on an event such as this, and your statement that “Not one of these events costs less than $200” is simply not true. Flow Camp, the camp Shannon writes so excellently about here, was $80 for 3 days. The person who put on Flow Camp is a close friend and I know for a fact that she worked for months on it without pay, the camp was extremely well attended, and yet for all that she just *barely* broke even on the costs. And yet she’ll do it again next year, because she’s not doing it to make money. It’s a labor of love for her and the resulting camp is a very cool and wonderful thing.

      And Shannon, thanks for this great piece.

  2. So, I don’t agree with the everything should be free philosophy. Venues cost money. Teachers fly to these things and that costs money. Food costs money. Etc….I don’t work for free. Why should they?

    And in my experience, the classes are a heck of a lot different than learning things on the internet. One reason is that you can ask for feedback.People have spent the time putting together organized classes. It is awesome that you can learn without help. You’re luckier than a lot of us.

    Still, I’ve not been to any of the biggies that cost $300 or whatever because I didn’t think I was far enough along in my hooping journey to make it worth it. I have been to smaller ones that were under $150 and they were worth every penny.

  3. @ Shannon – Sorry about the junkie bruises from my class lol. Hope the breaks are progressing well.

    @Shawnee – While I agree with a lot of what you said, the sad fact is that spaces for these events cost money to obtain, as does the electricity to run music all night. I find it very irritating that some of these events cost up around $300, but they’re not all that way. Flow Camp was $80 (for 3 days), Kinetic Fire was the same, and Wildfire was $110 for 4 days including food. There are affordable retreats. Also, in most cases even when retreats cost, the instructors are getting paid little if anything, most of us volunteer our time. As for the internet, it’s a wonderful resource, this is true… but for many people it helps to have someone that can watch them and help troubleshoot.

  4. Thank you for the article, Shannon! Sleep, yes 🙂

    Shawnee, I think you may be the first to call other hard-working hoopers “full of shit.” I know for a fact that most of them lose money or break even on these events. I hope to hear about the free gathering you’ll be hosting soon!

  5. Vikki hit the nail on the head regarding cost. As a venue owner that hosts multi-day events and workshops, I’ve discovered that people highly undervalue the amount of time, energy, work, (and money!) that goes into creating an appropriate space for such things. Insurance alone to host an event where folks can come out and have a good time is at least $1000. Not to mention the cost of those hot showers you enjoy, the electricity you use, the trash and recycling that must be attended to after the event, the grass seed for your land to recover from multiple days of a large population camping, port-a-pots, toilet paper, lights, sound, food, etc. This obviously doesn’t even account for the talent (ie: musicians, workshop leaders, first aid support, etc).
    IF we happen to make profit off an event at our farm, every penny goes back into making improvements, repairs, or general maintenance of the facility for future use. My presonal philosophy is to view money as a bartering method: i give you goods or services, you give me pieces of fiber that i exchange for goods and services. If i could just get the electric company to take my hen eggs in exchange for powering your all night rave, then we’d be somewhere, but in the meantime, i’d like to remind folks to put your foot in my shoes once in awhile as well. 🙂

  6. @Shannon: Thanks for the advice. It’s really well thought-out, particularly with the more rustic conditions of many retreats. Even though I’m a local, my first retreat was Baxter’s Hoop Path 5 and I found it way more intimidating than I thought. I’d only been to a couple of the classes and though that people would expect me know know what was going on. I couldn’t have been more wrong. And as a professional bruiser and a skeptic, I can’t recommend Arnica enough!

    @Shawnee: I hear your frustration about pricing and sometimes I balk. However, I can tell you for at least two of the things you mentioned, Burning Man and Baxter’s workshops (at least the one in Carrboro), they’re not making a profit. From the outside, sometimes it’s hard to realize how expensive things can run. For example, our local gym charges $5 to drop in. However, if we have a hoop jam, even if 3 people show up, we’re charged $40 for that room. For the hooper’s ball at the Carrboro Arts Center, I was shocked at the price of using a venue that wasn’t all that great. After renting all the stuff, it was on the order of a couple thousand, and that was just for one 2 hour event!

    And as for Burning Man, you don’t even want to know the cost of just emptying the portapotties. Burning Man is staffed by 27 full time employees. 27! Think about all the work that goes into the month beforehand and then the two months afterward for cleaning up the event. There’s a reason why BMORG is switching over to a nonprofit next year; it has never been about the money.

    I can’t necessarily speak to the other events, but until you’ve tried hosting your own event, coordinating logistics, putting down deposits for facilities, and panicked as the ticket sales were slower than expected, I’d reserve a little judgment. There’s a reason the hooper community and burner communities have a reputation for being inclusive. And many times, if you have sticker shock from the price, you can contact the organizers about volunteering and getting a discount in return. I know for a fact that Return to Roots, Hoop Path 5, and even Hoop Convergence have had these options.

  7. What a great article Shannon! Wonderful reminders for even the seasoned hoop gatherer 🙂 Looking forward to more of your posts.

    @Shawnee Hoops: Can’t say it any better than Memory. The conversation about cost of gatherings is an old one. So many considerations beyond instruction: location/zoning/insurance/food/electrical/venue/sound system/DJ/lighting/tables/chairs/large tents in case of rain and extreme sun/toilets/cleaning supplies/trash removal/paper and ink for fliers/programs/schedules//volunteer coordination/catering/extra hoops/vendor set up/med kits/travel coordination/supplies for those flying in/parking/marketing/advertising/graphics/website design/and I’m not even done.

    To be able to barter/exchange all that (including my full time work on the above)? Well, bring on the dawning of a new era!

  8. Why shouldn’t hoopers make money? Yes it costs money to teach (share) any class – even a small one – or/and host an event and I feel they should definitely recoup their cost.

    I also value the experience of fellow hoopers that have been working many for several years if not at least a decade to perfect their craft and feel they should receive compensation for their time, hard work, dedication, talent and creativity.

    Bartering and giving is of course great and all hoopers do it but in the end we all have to put a roof over our heads, food on the table and clothes on our back and most of those needs can’t be met by bartering. Last I checked Bank of America won’t swap hoop lessons to cover a mortgage payment. The grocery store doesn’t swap youtube tutorials for bread. Even Goodwill won’t trade with you so you can get a shirt.

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