October 15, 2019
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Unique sport Knockerball bounces to Bangor region

Community Author: Molly Mayo
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Photo by Dennis Whitney | BDN Maine Weekly
Photo by Dennis Whitney | BDN Maine Weekly
Article author Molly Mayo in a fully-inflated knockerball apparatus. The body-contact activity recently came to the Bangor region with the opening of a Knockerball franchise last fall.

Knockerball, for those not in the know, is a unique contact sport involving sane people jumping into giant inflatable balls simply to run into each other.

Now, people in the Bangor region have the opportunity to experience it for themselves.

Knockerball has been sweeping the nation since 2011. Until recently, the nearest venue for curious Mainers to experience it has been in New Hampshire. Last fall, however, knockerball became more available to those in the Bangor region with the opening of a Knockerball franchise here.

Although the fall season may seem like an odd time to start a Knockerball business due to the colder climate, franchise owner Ian Wilbur (who started the business with his brother, Brent) says you can play it throughout the year. At this stage, the franchise is a “mobile business” whose unofficial motto is “We bring the party to you.”

“There is nothing like it around,” said Wilbur. “With limited activities to do in our area, it gives people another option that they can do year-round.”

I recently had the opportunity to try it for myself. The presentation I went to was at the Old Town/Orono YMCA gym, and it proved to be an excellent space to work in. In general, Wilbur said that as long as the surface area is not concrete or gravel, it can be used to play knockerball. Some knockerball enthusiasts have even gone so far as to play it on sand or ice.

It takes about 15 minutes to go from inflated balls to a field of amped-up bubble people. In his presentation, Wilbur described the preparation as “just like going to school. We are going to put on a backpack” (albeit a comfortable-yet-strange backpack). The ball is laid on its side, providing easy access. What comes next is what Wilbur refers to as “Superman for the men, and Wonder Woman for the ladies”: you jump into the ball chamber, arms in front, while making a heroic stance. Once inside, you strap the “backpack” on, pop back up, and hope that the odds are in your favor.

After strapping on my personal bubble backpack, I stood across from my opponent, Forrest Spang, and remembered Wilbur’s helpful advice: “Pretend you are running for a brick wall.” So, entrusting my life to my personal space bubble, I charged for my opponent. With a force greater than I would have expected, I rebounded backwards, deftly landing on my feet.

Encouraged by my success, I ran full speed for Spang. With his new experience, my opponent hit back harder. I found myself on the floor in a matter of seconds. Fortunately, the support system of red ropes and clamps inside the ball encased me in a bubble of comfort, allowing me to bounce back onto my feet. My adrenaline racing, I ran full-speed for my opponent. To my delight, he fell victim to the floor. As I caught my breath and he scrambled back up for another round, a soccer ball was thrown in.

Soccer, in and of itself, is not the easiest sport. You have to be coordinated, fast, and quick on your feet. With bubble soccer, you have to add in the fact that at any moment you will have someone hurtling towards you with the mindset that you are a brick wall ready to crumble. Thankfully, neither my opponent nor I are very good at bubble soccer, which made the game very enjoyable. It’s not often that you get the opportunity to bumble around in a bubble ball, and the results of our match were hilarious. We stopped our shenanigans red-faced, out of breath, and wildly exhilarated.

I found that the only thing hurt was my pride for being out of breath in so short a time. The knockerball slid right off my back, and I couldn’t stop smiling. Wilbur continued to describe the various things you can do with the knockerballs, from backflips to “Earth Ball” (a game in which a team tries to get a giant ball with a person inside to a certain point). The possibilities seemed endless.

For more information about local knockerball events or to rent knockerball services, visit knockerballpinetree207.com or contact knockerballpinetree207@gmail.com or 207-478-7167.