Gazing upon a warehouse completely packed with connected trampolines is, in itself, quite a rush. Looking out over 3,000 square feet of springs and taut polypropylene, expect to feel the same giddy thrill you felt the first time you stepped foot inside a truly gigantic toy shop -- a sense of boundless possibility, and intense urgency.
Ten minutes later, my CNET colleague Andrew Hoyle and I have remembered that we are, in fact, adults. Our bones hurt and our lungs are on fire, trying desperately to re-oxygenate bodies that haven't experienced so much vertical motion in at least a decade. A trip to Acton's Oxygen Freejumping, London's first trampoline park, is a sobering reminder of the effects of age. But it's also a great deal of fun.
Touring the park, which comprises 150 connected trampolines and officially opens on Monday 20 July, it's clear that a lot of work has gone into exploiting the potential of the humble trampoline. There's a trampoline dodgeball court, basketball nets at the ends of trampolines for extravagant dunking, a room-sized airbag to dive into, and the coup de grâce -- an encircling ring of angled trampolines for literally bouncing off the walls.
Some of these bounce-centric treats will be familiar to North American readers. While there are only a smattering of trampoline parks to be found elsewhere in the UK, the trend is more established in the US. Oxygen Freejumping CEO David Stalker tells CNET that he saw the success of parks in the states and thought, "Here's a great opportunity."
"It's entirely focused on having fun. Fitness is a by-product of having fun," Stalker said. "It's very hard to jump on a trampoline and not smile."
Setting up the park was a pricey business, Stalker says. "There isn't much change off about a million and a half [pounds, which equates to roughly $2.34 million]," the CEO noted. "We had to build a big mezzanine floor, that was very expensive." Tickets to get inside the park cost £12.50 for an hour's session, and Stalker says there are plans in the works to build plenty of locations across the UK.
Before you're allowed to bounce, there's a safety briefing, wavers to sign, plus some special socks that you must wear both for hygiene and grip purposes. All of this might seem like overkill, but if you could feel what I'm feeling today in my back, and in one squashed toe, you'd appreciate that the trampolines must be approached with humility -- the kind of awed respect that the sailors of old held for the sea. As the park's online FAQs say, "Jump within your ability and don't attempt advanced moves that are beyond you. This is not the place to show off and or try to impress someone."