Many of you have no doubt heard about bubbleballs, those inflatable, wearable bubble armor that allows you to hit and get hit in what amounts to full contact soccer without injury. If you have seen a video on them being used you probably thought to yourself, “That looks like a blast!” or maybe you just thought, “I would never do that, but I can watch people in bubble suits all day long, because it’s hilarious.”
Bubble Balls have been a source of conversation among camp professionals for a while now. Are they safe? Will my insurance cover it? Can I rent them or do I have to purchase them? What else can you do besides soccer?
I wanted answers to these questions as well. So I asked the folks at BubbleBall.co. Just so we’re clear, I am not an affiliate with this company in any way nor have I ever been in a bubbleball.
Here’s my online “interview” with the CEO of BubbleBall, Mahdad Taheri.
Moose: What is a Bubbleball?
Mahdad: Pure joy! Bubbleball is a piece of protective sports equipment allowing for all kinds of riff raff to take place between two or more human bumper cars. Somersault, bounce, kick a soccer ball. The possibilities are endless and largely unexplored – many are calling bubbleball the sport of the future. So every time you put on a bubbleball is also an opportunity to invent something entirely new in the world of sports. Or (if you can’t think of anything new) just participate in making its history! Pure joy, I tell you. Pure. Joy.
Moose: I’ve gotta say, the videos I’ve seen of people playing with these looks like pure joy. I know the people watching on the sidelines are enjoying it as well, Although, it seems most of the videos I’ve seen on YouTube are of adults playing soccer with these on. What other games and activities can you do with them?
Mahdad: There are quite a few actually and growing by the day! On the smallest scale we offer “Royal Rumble” where two players run at each other and try to knock each other over in a variation of Sumo Smash. On a larger scale, “Celebrity Rush” is probably the second most popular activity after bubble soccer. In it, “Bodyguard” bubbleballers (typically 4) try to get the “Celebrity” bubbleballer (1) across the court away from the “Paparazzi” bubbleball that starts at midfield (4-5). Paparazzi gets one point for knocking down the celebrity, bodyguards get one point for transporting their celebrity across the court. The number of players can be adjusted for group size. More games can be found on our FAQ at help.bubbleball.us
Moose: Celebrity Rush sounds awesome. Give me a couple of hours and I’m sure I can come up with a dozen or so games to play with these. It seems these would be perfect for summer camp. Are they safe for kids?
Mahdad: Absolutely! We recommend all players be above the age of 10 and above a height of 4′ 8″ but it really is a combination of height, weight, and the strength of the player that will determine who is comfortable playing in bubbleballs and who isn’t. As long as the player is wearing the correct size and the straps are adjusted correctly, there is no reason to fear for anything more than the typical scrapes and bruises that result from regular soccer / any other physical act.
Of course, we also provide all facilities purchasing our equipment with safety procedures which warn against certain types of more dangerous gameplay – for example, hits from behind to an unsuspecting bubbleballer is not advisable. However, these procedures are mostly common sense and, as such, we have not had any serious preventable injuries occur within our 2 years of operation. Our insurance premiums have only fallen as it has become apparent bubbleball is less of a liability than it initially seems. We are confident that as the market adjusts to our existence, more insurance companies will join us in this line of thinking..
Moose: You mention that players should wear the correct size. How many sizes are there?
Mahdad: There are three different sizes that are fitted depending on the height of the player. We recommend size small for those between 4? 8? – 5? 2?, medium for those between 5? 2? – 5? 10? and large for those between 5? 10? – 6? 3?.
Moose: You mention liability which is a major concern of camp directors. My guess is that camp directors might see the hard hits in some of the videos on YouTube and feel like there is a liability issue there. Bottom line, is this dangerous? Are these expensive to insure?
Mahdad: As previously mentioned, our insurance premiums have only fallen since we’ve started operations and we have some longstanding relationships with insurance agencies we refer our partners to. We do recommend using waivers for participants as this is a new technology, but we can safely say that, from where we’re standing, it is not expensive to insure, and we have not had any issues with liability.
Moose: That’s good to hear. I can imagine that it gets pretty hot in the bubbleballs. Is there a limit as to how long someone should be in one? How do you clean it out for the next person?
Mahdad: We recommend all players to remain properly hydrated throughout gameplay. While we have not instituted a limit on how long people should stay in the bubbleball – most find 5 minute intervals to be the most rewarding. It is a real workout carrying a 15-20lb ball around on your back while attempting to score a goal. People get tired easily. Between games, we wipe the balls clean with a cleaning agent to keep the balls hygienic.
Moose: The cost to purchase a set of these is higher than many camps can afford. Can these be rented?
Mahdad: Absolutely! We have rental operations around the continental US that can be found on our national directory. Some of these require traveling to facilities where the bubbleballs are housed, which is a great option for day camps. Otherwise, we are setting up leasing options which may help sleep-away camps with budgetary restrictions.
Moose: I see there are bubbleballs made from PVC and some are made from TPU. What is the difference?
Mahdad: The easiest way to think about it is in terms of airfare. TPU is to first class as PVC is to business. As a rule of thumb, we recommend the higher quality TPU bubbleballs for active groups playing once or more a week such as camps, youth groups, schools, parks and recreation, leagues and operators. We recommend our PVC bubbleballs for lighter use such as occasional personal or promotional use. What makes TPU “higher quality” is that it is more abrasion resistant, bouncier, recyclable, and lighter to carry. Additionally, PVC material might harden in low temperature, while TPU will remain soft. While TPU and PVC qualities provide varying levels of durability based on usage, we also provide extended coverage and warranties to cover groups that plan to be very active.
Moose: If a camp were to purchase a set, how long do they last?
Mahdad: It depends on how frequently the balls are used and how roughly. However, when maintained properly there is no reason a set of bubbleballs can’t last several years. We offer warranties if you are concerned that they will pop prematurely.
Moose: You’re not the only game in town. What makes you better than your competition?
Mahdad: We are the premium suppliers of the safest bubble equipment on the market. Because of our commitment to safety, we offer sizes many other suppliers don’t. We’ve been in this business longer than any other US supplier and we’ve extensively tested and continue to test our equipment and procedures to make sure we are offering the absolute best product on the market. What others spend on advertising and stunts, we channel into our quality promise. We’re BubbleBall: The Better Ball. It’s just that simple.
It’s no doubt Mahdad and the staff over at BubbleBall believe in their products. These really do look like a lot of fun and something that return campers and staff won’t tire of. It’s also something younger campers can look forward to as they get older.
If I had a set of these I would set up a soccer event with staff vs CITs or high school campers and gather the rest of camp to watch complete with music and refreshments. I would also use them as sumo suits for a carnival activity and figure out some kind of bubbleball human bowling game.
Renting seems to be a good option as well. They are available to rent in a lot of areas but not everywhere. You’ll need to check on their website to see if there is a rental location near you.
If you want more information on bubbleballs contact their sales executive, Maxim Chilenko, at (646) 329-5901.