A Giant Step for Mankind

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Strap your feet to a pair of spring-loaded stilts, find yourself a big open space, and you, too, can do a superhero imitation like the man in Slovakia above. The activity is called "bocking," a corruption of the last name of German inventor Alexander Boeck, and the stilts purportedly help users leap up to six feet, run as fast as 20 mph and take nine-foot strides.

The stilts (called powerskips, powerisers, fly jumpers or power stilts, depending on manufacturer and model) are popular in Europe, says Dane Finch, in charge of U.S. distribution for Export Hub, which sells them for $300 to $500.

It's just like walking with longer legs, Finch says. "You've got to get used to . . . taking longer strides" -- something he says takes about 10 minutes.

Some companies market the stilts strictly as diversions, others as fitness devices. (In message board postings, stilt wearers say you have to keep moving; it's too hard to balance standing still.) Some YouTube videos, where the gizmos have turned up, suggest ample protection -- helmets, elbow pads, knee and wrist guards -- would be a smart idea.

-- Kathleen Hom

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