The Pioneering Of Footbag Manufacturing

Posted Jim Fitzgerald Featured Products, Flying Clipper, Footbag

“Where did all these great footbags on the market today come from?”

“Who are the people to thank for such a great pastime?”

The truth is many people were and are still involved in the evolution of footbag and footbag design, as we know it today. Foot orientated games have been in most cultures as far back as 4,000 years ago in China, but footbag as we know it can trace its roots to Oregon City Oregon in 1972. Co-founders (the late) Mike Marshall and Mr. Hacky Sack himself, John Stalberger invented what we now call footbag. Everyone called it Hacky sack back then because the Hacky Sack® was the original footbag. Hacky Sacks were internally hand sewn using two-dog bone shaped pieces of leather and filled with plastic pellets. Needless to say that two-pieces of leather sewn together do not constitute a round object and because of this fact Hacky Sacks were egg shaped. It did not take long before kickers realized that other designs might work better. Multi-panel footbag design was born from the desire of early kickers wanting a rounder footbag. The running joke back then was that “Hack Sack is proof positive that the egg came first.”

Multi-panel footbag design can trace most of its roots to Oregon as well, about 100 miles south of Oregon City to Eugene Oregon where Reed Gray, Rick Stienmetz and Jack Schoolcraft, among others, were all considering ways to improve upon the Hacky Sack. Reed Gray already becoming a master footbag designer designed his first footbag, a two panel called the “Star Sack”. Rick Stienmetz brought a rough sewn twelve-panel footbag to the weekly kick one Saturday.

Reed Gray took one look and said, “Hum”. It was not long before Rick and Reed had perfected the roundest footbag anyone had ever seen and multi panel footbag design was born. The pioneering days of both the game of footbag and footbag design was well under way in the very early 1980’s. It was only the beginning however. Reed Gray kept on inventing and with the help of his new partner Jim Fitzgerald they invented a fourteen-panel footbag called the Tangent footbag (so named for the town in which Fitzgerald resided, Tangent, OR), which revolutionized footbag design.

By truncating hexagons (never before done) and adding other shapes including pentagons, squares and triangles, gave way to an eight panel and eventually into a twenty-six panel, thirty-two panel, forty-two panel, fifty panel and sixty-two panel. Now math theory indicates that you can add more panels to a footbag by expanding on the dodecahedron (12 panel) and using truncated hexagons with other shapes to create a sphere but there is a limit on how many panels a footbag has verses practicality and ease of manufacturing. That being said, footbags have been hand sewn using more than 300 individual pieces.

The technique of using truncated hexagons in footbag manufacturing is now the benchmark of footbag design and the original designs of the eight panel, fourteen panel, twenty six panel, thirty two panel, forty two panel, fifty panel and sixty two panel are the designs most copied around the world. If you go to Wikipedia and search the term “footbag” you see a thirty two-panel footbag, which is the most popular design among the earliest footbags designed coming out of the 1980’s.

Jim Fitzgerald
Jim Fitzgerald

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