Aerial Equipment part 3: Mats! 

Mats are VERY important safety tools when doing aerial. Many of the aerial studios I’ve trained at have 1 1/2″-2″ panel mat beneath the aerial points. For new or difficult tricks (especially drops) I like to pull a 4-12″ crash mat under the point. I have heard many differences in opinion on what size, type, or the safety of mats that are needed for aerial. I would love to hear in the comments what types of mats you use for training!

My opinion is: I LOVE MATS and the more mats I have the more confident I feel.

Please check out this link to more info about aerial mats: Simply Circus website mats section.

This is a run down on the mats that I have and use at home, where I bought them, and how much they cost.

Round 1:

When I first started aerial I also did some pole dancing. I bought a pole and a small pink panel mat for home use. I bought the mat brand new about 4 years ago off eBay. It is a MatsMatsMats.com mat. It folds twice and is 4×6′. I use it to stretch and it is a great little mat.

mats5

I also use yoga mats and I have a gray foam fitness mat that rolls up. * I just ordered a new yoga mat from Amazon because my little chihuahua had an accident on mine and…well…I just decided it was time for a new mat.
Screenshot 2016-02-27 17.00.15

Round 2:

When I bought my Lyra I wanted a mat that was a bit more robust than a panel mat. My instructor told me that in a gym she trained at they used bouldering pads as mats. I went home and Googled.

Mats are freaking expensive! Wow! (If you don’t believe me do some googling…)

Bouldering/rock climbing crash pads come in all sizes and costs. I choose a Mad Rock Climbing 5″ thick Crash pad.
mats3

  • It is black and 72″x44″ (6 ft x 3 1/2 feet) when laid out.
  • It folds twice into a 24x44x15″ backpack.
  • I choose it because it had good reviews and I could use Amazon Prime.
    Total $250-260.


Pros:

  • Largest portable crash mat on the market
  • I like the 5″ thickness (seems better than a panel mat to me)
  • It’s portable and easy to carry
  • The folds have Velcro coverings so you don’t step into a crack
  • You can sleep on in as a portable mattress if you want 😴
  • (It works great under my slackline…)

Cons:

  • It still seems small to me. I feel like to be completely safe I want 2 of these mats put side by side.
  • It is very firm but over time I think it will relax.
  • I hated the orange logo so I took some fabric paint to it.


These are some other bouldering crash pads I considered:

  • Black Diamond
  • ClimbX-XXX
  • Metolius

Round 3:

Now that I’ve gotten my 24 foot Ludwig Aerial Rig, I really wanted a big crash pad so I can start trying some more advanced skills. And again…

Mats are freaking expensive!

A lot of the 8-12″ crash/landing mats that are used for gymnastics/acrobatics/trampoline/martial arts are rectangles. One problem that I’ve had with aerial is that I pull a mat under me there is a length that is too long and one that is too short. I need to direct my trajectory so I land in the right place. Not a huge issue but it’s been an annoyance for me.

*Anyone else have problems with this, or is it just me?

I thought if I’m going to spend $$$ on another mat…I want it to be a mat that works for me. These were my requirements:

  • 6 foot x 6 foot (a square not a rectangle)
  • 12″ thick
  • Light color (the mat will be outside & the sun heats vinyl up quick in Florida)
  • Portable & easy to store (needs to fold once and have handles)

Then I did a web search and sent out quotes for estimates to 7 different suppliers. (Side note a few replied right away with estimates via email, a few I needed to call to get a response & a few never did respond.) It is worth while to shop around. The prices vary greatly as do the quality. This is what I found:

  • AK Athletics $625 free shipping, no tax. WINNER!!!
  • Resilite $530 + shipping $181 + tax $49.77 = $760.77
  • CoverSports $626.27 + shipping $135.00 = $761.27
  • MatsMatsMats $714.99 + shipping $331.60 = $1046.59
  • GreatMats responded they could not build to my requirements. *I was looking through their website and saw some tiles made out of recycled rubber like they have in some playgrounds…the bouncy kind…I was considering that under my aerial rig because I’m pretty sure the grass is going to die pretty soon. What do you think, good idea/bad idea?
  • RossAthletic & The Mat Warehouse did not respond. 😦

I went with AK Athletics because:

  1. They were priced the best & had free shipping: $625
  2. They were the first to respond.
  3. I liked their customer service the best.
  4. 6’x6’x12″, Tan on top/Black on bottom, folds once, handles on the folded sides.
    Order was placed 1/18/16, shipped 2/1/16, received 2/4/16 (signature required)
    Screenshot 2016-02-27 17.10.12mats2

Pros:

  • This mat is super comfy. * I could easily fall asleep on it.
  • The vinyl is very soft to the touch.
  • It is thick and heavy. The perfect crash mat.
  • I had thought that I might choose something bigger like 8×8′ or 10×10′ but 6×6′ is perfect size for aerial use. *Although for hoop…the 5 inch Mad Rocks on top of my grass works just fine!

mats1

Cons:

  • This mat is LARGE! I cannot lift it by myself (I thought I’d be able to lift it with the handles…). It is easy to drag but not lift. My fiancé is already questioning where everything is going to go. Ugh! I have no where to store it.
  • The seam runs right under my aerial point. I’m afraid that it will come un-done over time. It already looking worn and the seam is pulling apart after just 4 uses. I believe I will use a yoga mat on top of it to try to reduce some to the wear that will happen to it. I will keep you updated.
    mats6
  • The vinyl got REALLY cold (too cold for bare feet when it was around 55 degrees out. I’m worried about how hot it will get during the hot summer days in Florida. Maybe my yoga mat will help. Or maybe I will need to get some type of rug for the top of it.

So far I’m very happy with how my private aerial area is coming together. It has been a great (& expensive) learning experience. Please let me know if you have any questions. And I hope everyone is having a safe and happy aerial time!!

**I am NOT an aerial instructor. I am NOT a professional. My ideas for mats and safety may not be the same as yours or what a professional aerialist/rigger/instructor recommends. Please refer to a professional if you have questions. Facebook Safety in Aerial Arts Group is a great resource.

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Aerial Rigging: kN? 

What the heck does “kN” mean and what does it mean to me as an aerialist?

kN confused me as I was beginning my aerial hardware/equipment research. I had to look it up and refresh my physics memory. *If I ever learned what kN meant when I took physics I definitely don’t remember it.

kN = kilonewton

Newton (N) is the international system of units (SI) for FORCE. Named after Sir Isaac Newton. One N is very small. A N is so small (at Earth’s gravity 1 N = a small apple) it is common to see forces expressed in kilonewtons (kN). When we see kN stamped on our hardware, it gives a measurement of what kind of forces it can withstand, or how strong it is.

This chart has helped me when looking up ratings and applying them to aerials:

kN (kilonewton) to lbf (pounds-force)

1kN = ~225 lbf
5kN = ~1124 lbf
10kN = ~2248 lbf
20kN = ~4496 lbf
30kN = ~6744 lbf
40kN = ~8992 lbf
50kN = ~11,240 lbf

Here is a simple calculator to convert kilonewtons to force pounds.

How do I calculate how much force I create as an aerialist?

This is a video of how much force an aerialist can create from just a simple drop.

This link shows how to calculate your weight and shock loads as an aerialist. It’s an eye opening read.

What does this mean to me?

  1. According to the link above there are a wide range of safety factors. You will need to decide which works best for you and your practice (*you may want a smaller SF if you are doing static motions with no drops, larger SF if you have multiple aerialists doing large drops, or different SF depending on if its for permanent equipment used daily vs temp. equipment used rarely):
    • 2,000-5,000 lbs (same as a car) = 9-22kN
    • Cirque du Soliel 10:1 SF (est. 900 lbs for in a drop) = 40kN
    • American National Standards Institute 7:1 SF (est. 900 lbs for in a drop) = 31kN
    • Professional artists standard 3:1 to 5:1 SF(est. 900 lbs for in a drop) = 12-20kN
  2. I can convert the ratings of my equipment into something more familiar to me. *Example: a carabiner with a 25kN label is rated to roughly 5500lbs.
    • My carabiners are 23-50kN (5,170-11,240lbf)
    • My swivel is 36kN (8,093lbf)
    • My aluminum rescue 8 is 45kN (10,116lbf)
    • My rigging plate is 30kN (6,744lbf)
    • My fabric is the weakest part of my rig at breaking strength around 2,000lbs. (With fabric it is more likely to tear before it completely breaks. Simply Circus Fabric testing)
  3. Knowing how my equipment is rated will also help me keep an eye on when it needs to be inspected and retired.
    *Sometimes I will practice a lot of static moves with slow fluid transitions. Other times I get in a “drops” mood and all I want to do is drop after drop. The drops are going to generate more force and more wear on the equipment.
    I should be inspecting my equipment more often when I’m creating more force on them. Consider how you are using your equipment and the forces you are putting on them.

Use the information above (kN/forces/ratings/calculations) to help make smart decisions about your aerial equipment. If you are unsure or confused, please ask for help and do more research.

NOTE: All carabiners (and other aerial hardware) have a kN amount etched into the spine. If they do not have an etching amount do not use them for aerial.

Other definitions:

  • Load definitions link
  • WLL = Working Load Limit
    The force that a object can safely lift without breaking.
    WWL = MBL (minimum breaking load)/SF (safety factor)
  • SF = safety factor also referred to as DF = design factor
  • Force = mass x acceleration

What are other things that you’ve found in your aerial or circus research/experience that has caused confusion or raised questions? There are other aerialist out there (like me) who have also been wondering the same things.

***I am NOT an aerial instructor or rigger. I am NOT a professional. My ideas for saftey may not be the same as yours or what a professional aerialist/rigger/instructor recommends. Please refer to professionals if you have questions. Facebook Saftey in Aerial Arts Group and Simply Circus site are a great resources.***