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What is a Trampoline?

Recreational trampolines can be found in children's playgrounds.
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  • Written By: Wanda Albano
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2014
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A trampoline is a device which consists of a steel frame and a taut piece of fabric stretched over the frame, and connected to the frame usually by coiled springs. The trampoline is used for jumping and, if large enough, tumbling. It can be used recreationally and competitively.

A recreational trampoline is often made of waterproof canvas and can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Unless the trampoline is small to begin with, it is not likely to be portable. Recreational trampolines can be found in children's playgrounds, adult health clubs, school gyms, and private homes.

A competitive trampoline is much sturdier and is made with specially developed fabric. It is portable and easy to transport, which is essential to athletes competing in various locations all over the world, and comes in a standardized shape and size. The competitive trampoline also uses more coiled springs, which allows for higher bounces and more complicated stunts.

There are many stories about the ancient origins of the trampoline. Some say that the Eskimos were the first to develop a prototypical trampoline. Essentially, this was a thick walrus skin which acted as a springboard. Others claim that the English were the first purveyors of the device. They reportedly used sturdy blankets to toss people up into the air. There is scientific evidence to back up both claims.

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On the other hand, circus legend has it that the trampoline was first developed by a trapeze artist called Du Trampolin, who was inspired by the potential of the trapeze safety net. He opined that the device could be used not only as a security measure, but also as an act of its own. Through experimentation, the trapeze safety net was later reduced to a more practical size and thus became the trampoline that we know today. Although the accuracy of this story has not yet been determined, there is indeed evidence that a form of trampoline was seen in use during the early 20th century. Stage acts during that time made use of a small type of trampoline disguised as a bed in which acrobats performed their routines.

George Nissen and Larry Griswold are the men usually credited with the invention of the first truly modern trampoline. Both men were involved in gymnastics and had good relationships with the local circus people. Inspired by the trapeze nets of their friends, which they had helped mend and make on numerous occasions, they developed the first trampoline device in 1935 by bolting a large piece of canvas to an iron frame.

The term "Trampoline" was registered as a trademark by Nissen, after hearing his device described as "El Trampolin" during a performance tour in Mexico. "El Trampolin" means diving board in Spanish.

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