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Bradenton native bounces into top ranks of pogo

This year, Ryan O’Malley will bounce into 24.

The Bradenton native and extreme pogo athlete will be in Swissvale, Pa., on July 8 — his birthday — for Pogopalooza 2016, an Xpogo world championship series.

O’Malley has been jumping for 10 years and started after seeing a video on Myspace. He said he would make videos and sometimes jump until sunset, after homework, of course.

Extreme pogo is a bit like motocross when it comes to tricks, like a can-can or knack-knack, O’Malley said.

And when his parents’ yard in West Bradenton was good and ruined, he would use his neighbor’s yard to practice jumps.

“I still go out in front of his house sometimes and jump in his yard,” O’Malley said. “He doesn’t mind it, he actually likes it.”

He’s a celebrity in his neighborhood, just known for jumping on a pogo stick 10 feet in the air.

One of those videos, filmed in front of his neighbor’s house, got him a ticket to California in December 2009 to be on the premiere of the MTV video clip show “Ridiculousness” and then on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

“It was pretty crazy,” he said.

O’Malley is one of 10 members of the Xpogo pro team — a Canadian, Brit, Russian, and 7 Americans. He said Xpogo started as a online chatroom forum of him and his friends talking about pogo. Eventually, it evolved into the sport’s hub where they posted their viral videos and felt the rush of people interested in the sport.

Xpogo tours all over the world. His most favorite events for Pogopalooza was in Helsingborg, Sweden in 2014.

“It was set up like it was going to be amazing,” he said. “We were at like a big sports festival.”

Unfortunately, it rained the entire time and no one could compete. But on the bright side, he said it was a free trip, which he’s grateful to travel while he’s young.

O’Malley said he probably makes around $25,000 a year, which he doesn’t consider much, but he can travel for free.

“At first, (my parents) were a little skeptical if I would ever make money doing it,” he said. “So now they’re happy. They’re proud.”

While he’s been jumping professionally for five years, O’Malley hopes he can continue for a few more years. He also handles media and filming for Xpogo.

“I feel like I’m always going to be in the company aspect of it,” he said. “If I’m not jumping, I’m doing something else for the company.”

O’Malley said he isn’t sure if he’ll judge or compete in the upcoming Pogopalooza — which has categories like freestyle, high jump (the current record is 10 feet, 6 inches) and best trick — but he knows for sure that he’ll wait to celebrate his birthday on July 9.

“If we celebrate on the 8th, we will not wake up in a good mood on the 9th,” he laughed.

Hannah Morse: 941-745-7055, @mannahhorse

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