Not many of his classmates know that Steven Bennett, a sophomore computer science major, is also an extreme pogo-sticker. “I keep it pretty quiet,” he says with a grin. Between classes and after study breaks, you’ll find him doing backflips, spins and his signature Bennett Twister and Floppy Ball moves on a pneumatic pogo stick, shooting nearly 10 feet into the air.
Like the BMX, snowboard and skateboard communities, only smaller, extreme pogo-sticking has loyal followers on YouTube and is inspiring a new generation of adrenaline junkies. Bennett, 19, began experimenting on his first stick when he was 8, and became so adept that in 2013, at age 16, he was recruited by a national stunt team. A professional sponsorship supplies him with custom sticks and gigs at halftime shows (NBA games are popular) and at an annual competition called, naturally, Pogopalooza. He’s part time during the school year, full time during the summer, and is still amazed at how far he’s come, performing his first solo demo at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center in 2013 and in a show in Paris the following year—his first time in Europe. He says the best surface to practice on is turf (“It’s easier on the joints”), whether a backyard lawn or at Kunz Field, his favorite campus practice spot.
As he pursues his career goal of becoming a software engineer, Bennett may have the veteran athlete’s aches and occasional broken bones, but he hopes to keep bouncing around into his late 20s and help build the rapidly growing sport. “It’s crazy. The Spectrum did a story on me this spring, and since then I’ve already seen 40 to 50 new people doing extreme pogo on YouTube,” he says. For a sport with only a few dozen pros, that’s quite a lift.