BOUNCE BACK IN TIME – THE HISTORY OF TRAMPOLINES
Updated: Aug 16
It is hard to imagine a time when the fun, air-catching feeling of bouncing on a trampoline did not exist. When were trampolines first introduced and how?
Trampolines and people have a long and beneficial history together, with the first known trampolines being meant for tools rather than recreation. In fact, the first evidence of trampoline-use has been traced back to centuries ago, where ancient depictions of rebounding-trampoline like devices were discovered in countries including China, Egypt and Iran. Archaeological experts, based off years’ worth of research and studies, have come to believe that trampoline-like devices were common to use centuries ago for celebrations, religious ceremonies, and more. Although little is known about the true purpose of the trampoline back then, the depictions and drawings found by archaeologists suggest that trampolines did play a significant role in ancient times.
Later in time, trampolines found their way to Alaska, where trampoline-rebounding devices were used by the Inuit people as not only a survival tool, but a sports activity. However, these trampolines were not how we know them to be in today’s day and age of advanced technology.
Back in this time, the Inuit people composed the trampoline-rebounding devices using walrus skins and were used to toss people into the air. As one person sat in the middle of the skin, others would tightly hold the edges and with a sweeping motion, the person in the middle would launch into the air. This early form of trampoline use was also used as a method to spot animals far in the distance to help with survival and hunting tactics.
Though the earlier trampoline-like devices were used centuries ago, the modern-day trampoline was discovered in the 20th century by two men, George Nissen and Larry Griswold. Griswold was a legendary gymnast from his youth and went on to become the gymnastics coach at the University of Iowa, where he met Nissen for the first time, as he was an extraordinary tumbler on the University’s gymnastics team.
Their invention is not without credit thanks to circus trapeze artists, who commonly used safety nets to rebound and perform flying-based acts and additional stunts. Nissen observed trapeze artists doing such, and taking note of this, the two athletes and now inventors had a revelation that it would be beneficial to have an easier device to rebound gymnasts and tumblers in their feats and competitions. In the basement of the local YMCA, the first development of their trampoline was composed of angle iron, a canvas bed, and rubber springs. With some helping hands from trapeze artists, Nissen and Griswold spent countless hours in a painstaking task, by threading the long cords of the nets using only large javelin-head needs.
The development was initially created by Nissen and Griswold to aid in the Iowa gymnastics training program but found its way to become a crowd pleaser. Taking their invention to the local YMCA, where it was also originally built, it soon caught the attention of kids at the camp, when they begged to play on it for fun. It was then that the two men realized just how much potential their creative build could have.
Their invention, as we know it today as the modern trampoline, took the world by storm and has since been used as recreation and entertainment. From a once tool based device, to sport, to now thrill-seeking fun and play, the trampoline continues to wow the minds of people who try it!
Did you know trampolines have been used by NASA to prepare astronauts for space travel?
Scientists discovered that trampoline-rebounding was 68 percent more effective as using oxygen and strengthening muscles than running on a treadmill. Astronauts used trampolines for training, as it increased their physical fitness and prepared them for their flight!