A hula hoop is a toy hoop that is twirled around the waist, limbs or neck. The modern hula hoop was invented in 1958 by Arthur K. "Spud" Melin and Richard Knerr, but children and adults around the world have played with hoops, twirling, rolling and throwing them throughout history. Hula hoops for children generally measure approximately 71 centimetres (28 in) in diameter, and those for adults around 1.02 metres (40 in). Traditional materials for hoops include willow, rattan (a flexible and strong vine), grapevines and stiff grasses. Today, they are usually made of plastic tubing.
Native American Hoop Dance is a form of storytelling dance incorporating anywhere from one to thirty hoops as props. These props are used to create both static and dynamic shapes, which represent various animals, symbols, and storytelling elements. The dance is generally performed by a solo dancer with multiple hoops.
Before it was known and recognized as the common colorful plastic toy (sometimes with water inside the actual hoop), the traditional "hula hoop" used to be made of dried up willow, rattan, grapevines, or stiff grasses. Even though they have existed for thousands of years, they are often misunderstood as having been invented in the 1950s.
According to author Charles Panati, there was a "craze" of using wooden and metal hoops in 14th-century England. He reports that doctors treated patients suffering from pain and dislocated backs due to hooping − and heart failure was even attributed to it. Panati also says that the name "hula" came from the Hawaiian dance in the 18th century, due to the similar hip movements.
The hula hoop gained international popularity in the late 1950s, when a plastic version was successfully marketed by California's Wham-O toy company. In 1957, Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin, starting with the idea of Australian bamboo "exercise hoops", manufactured 1.06-metre (42 in) hoops with Marlex plastic. With giveaways and national marketing and retailing, a fad was started in July 1958; twenty-five million plastic hoops were sold in less than four months, and in two years, sales reached more than 100 million units. Carlon Products Corporation was one of the first manufacturers of the hula hoop. During the 1950s, when the hula hoop craze swept the country, Carlon was producing more than 50,000 hula hoops per day. The hoop was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York, in 1999.
The hula hoop craze swept the world, dying out again in the 1980s, but not in China and Russia, where hula hooping and hoop manipulation were adopted by traditional circuses and rhythmic gymnasts.
Recently, there has been a re-emergence of hula hooping, generally referred to as either "hoopdance" or simply "hooping" to distinguish it from the children's playform. The jam band The String Cheese Incident is widely credited with fostering a renewed interest in hooping. Band members started throwing larger adult-sized hoops into their audiences in the mid-1990s, encouraging their fans to hoop and dance, spreading the word and the fun. It wasn't until 2003 with the launch of Hooping.org that these small bands of hoopers began to find each other online and a real community and movement began to grow. Bay Area Hoopers began in San Francisco at that time holding regular "hoop jams" with music to hoop to and the hooping group began being replicated in cities around the world. In 2006 Hoopin' Annie had the idea to create a hooping holiday and the first World Hoop Day was held in 2007. Modern hula hooping is seen at numerous festivals and fairs in the USA, UK, Australia and Europe.
Many modern hoopers make their own hoops out of polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, or polypropylene tubing. The polyethylene hoops, and especially the polyvinyl chloride hoops, are much larger and heavier than hoops of the 1950s. The size and the weight of the hoop affect the style of the hooper. Heavier, larger hoops are more often used for slow hooping and body tricks, while lighter, thinner tubing is used for quick hand tricks. These hoops may be covered in a fabric or plastic tape to ease the amount of work in keeping a hoop twirling around the dancer, and can be very colorful. Some use glow-in-the dark, patterned, or sparkling tape, and others are produced with clear tubing and filled with plastic balls, glitter, or even water to produce visual or audio effects when used. LED technology has also been introduced in the past few years, allowing hoops to light up at the flick of a switch. Programmable 'Smart Hoops' are available which provide a range of special effects.
Modern hooping has created a wide range of tricks. Hooping now includes many 'on body' moves and many 'off body' moves. A few examples include breaks, isolations, leg hooping, and double hooping.
Hooping has now become popular fitness activity, with classes taking place in many towns and cities across the world.
Some companies produce collapsible hula hoops for easy transport and versatility.
Most hula hoops twirled at once
The record for most hula hoops twirled at the same time is 160, by Marawa the amazing 
Records for running while twirling a hula hoop around the waist are:
- 100 m: 13.84 seconds, by Roman Schedler of Austria on 16 July 1994
- 1 mile: 6:40, by Kris Slomin of United States on 20 October 2008
- 10 km, men: 1:06:35, by Paul "Dizzy Hips" Blair, date unknown
- 10 km, women: 1:27:25, by Boo Crystal Chan of Australia, 12 March 2009
Hula hoop dancing
On 19 February 2013, 4,483 people swung hula hoops to dance music for seven minutes. They did this without interruption at Thammasat University stadium in Thailand, setting a world record for the most people dancing with hula hoops simultaneously in one place. Guinness World Records was there to confirm the record.
In popular culture
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- On September 6, 1958, singer Georgia Gibbs appeared on US TV's The Ed Sullivan Show to sing "The Hula Hoop Song". Her last (US top-40) hit, it competed with four other songs created in the wake of the huge fad.
- Hula hoops are referred to in the 1958 Alvin and the Chipmunks song, "Christmas Don't Be Late". Wayout Toys, under license to Emson, introduced the Alvin Hula Hoop Doll, which dances with his hula hoop and sings the song based on wanting his hula hoop.
- Joel and Ethan Coen's 1994 comedy film The Hudsucker Proxy tells a fictional story of the hula hoop's invention by a mail room clerk (Tim Robbins) who is installed as president of a manufacturing company as part of an intended business scheme.
- Around the time when the Pixar Animation Studios film WALL-E was in production, Disney.com released a clip of Wall-E's first encounter with a hula hoop, swinging it across its neck.
- Artist Keller Williams released a song "Hula Hoop to the Loop", dedicated to the toy.
- "Background, history, raw materials, design, and the manufacturing process of hula hoops". Madehow.com. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- "Hula Hoop History". The Great Idea Finder. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
- Panati, Charles (1989). The Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things. William Morrow Paperbacks / HarperCollins. ISBN 0062277081.
- Brymer, Chuck (2008). The nature of marketing: marketing to the swarm as well as the herd. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 22.
- Olson, James Stuart (2000). Historical dictionary of the 1950s. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 136.
- Guinness World Records. "Longest marathon hula hooping". guinnessworldrecords.com. Retrieved 2013-03-02.
- "Watch woman attempt world record for hula-hoops spun simultaneously". Today.com. 10 September 2015.
- Ralf Laue. "Hula Hoop World Records". Recordholders.org. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- "Largest Hula Hoop Spun". www.guinnessworldrecords.com. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- "Hooping for Hope". Hooping for Hope. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
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- Guinness World Records. "Largest Hula Hoop Workout".
- Schoemer, Karen (2006). Great Pretenders: My Strange Love Affair with '50s Pop Music. Simon and Schuster. pp. 93–95.
- Caughey, T. K. (February 1960), "Hula-Hoop: An Example of Heteroparametric Excitation", American Journal of Physics 28 (2): 104–109, doi:10.1119/1.1935069
- Seyranian, Alexander P.; Belyakov, Anton O. (July 2011), "How to twirl a hula hoop", American Journal of Physics 79 (7): 712–715, arXiv:1101.0072, doi:10.1119/1.3576177
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