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.

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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.

Aerial Rigging: Carabiners/Quick Links/Shackles? 

Early in my aerial training one of my instructors asked me to “check a carabiner.” Sure, no problem. Look at it. Check! Make sure it’s locked. Check! Easy peasy! Now I try to make a habit of checking biners whenever I go up on equipment. Yes, I have found a few carabiners that were not locked, carabiners that were cross loaded, carabiners that are overloaded and carabiners that are stuck closed/open or damaged. As an aerial student it’s important to ask questions and learn about the equipment you are using.

As I was writing this blog, I found these videos from Vertical Art Dance. Please take a few minutes to watch them. I learned I was currently making rigging mistakes. I’m heading back to make some new purchases and update my hardware. I need to stop relying so much on carabiners and think about using Quick Links and shackles more often.

Aerial Rigging The Carabiner Talk Part 1

Aerial Rigging The Carabiner Talk Part 2, Overloaded Carabiners
*I have been overloading my spansets for my lyra into carabiners.

Aerial Rigging: The Carabiner Talk Part 3, 3 Way Loading
*I have been 3-way loading my lyra spansets onto one carabiner. I knew it wasn’t ideal but I didn’t know it was a bad mistake.

Why is this important? Remember the Ringling Hair Chandelier accident? It was due to an improperly loaded connector. Review the article and some of the comments. Then look around at what is being used at your studio or your own set up and ask questions. Is it safe? Is there a better way to rig it? Why did they/you decide to rig that way?

Here are some tips about connectors for aerial rigging:

CARABINERS

  • Before use, carabiners (and all connectors) should be inspected. Damaged or worn carabiners/connectors should NOT be used. Visually check for any stress. Look for bending, corrosion, excessive wear, or cracking. The locking mechanisms should have smooth operation. If it doesn’t take it out of service and don’t use it.
  • Carabiners need to be oiled (& cleaned) regularly. Sometimes locking biners stop working just because they haven’t been oiled.
  • Screw down, so you don’t screw up! It may not be a huge deal in aerial, especially if you are using auto lock biners, but it can help keep screw gate carabiners locked if there is anything that might rub on the screw gate and unlock it. Examples: a hand grabbing the biner, a knee locking around it, a rope/spanset rubbing against it, or even vibrations loosening the the screw. This video explains in a bit better. Not much of an issue with auto lock biners but its not a bad habit to get into for all biners just in case. *If you don’t know the difference between a screw gate and an auto lock carabiner please watch the above videos again and read the Simply Circus link below.

Carabiners are designed to take a load only along the major axis:

  • Do not cross-load a carabiner. Loads should only be placed lengthwise along the major axis. If a carabiner is loaded widthwise it could fail especially with a drop or abrupt change in motion. They are a lot less strong widthwise (up to 70% less).
  • Do not overload a carabiner. Review Video Part 2 again. Spansets can easily overload a carabiner. Rigging a silk directly to a carabiner will also overload it.https://rescueresponse.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/RoundSlingBinerBreak.jpg
  • Do not 3-way load a carabiner. Review Video Part 3 again. I’ve seen this a lot in rigging. So much that I thought it was normal. But its not. It is a mistake in rigging. See above pictures of rigging a double-point Lyra. Have you rigged this way? Which way is the best?
    Riggers have been lucky only because they use a large safety ratings (2000-5000 lbs). It is a better idea to use hardware that is designed for 3-way loads (an anchor shackel or a Quick Link).
    This is an interesting video that shows testing tri-loading carabiners. Its focus is on slacklining, not aerial, but its still good info.
  • The D-shaped carabiners are usually stronger than the oval carabiners…but only if the load is verticle down the long end of the carabiner. *I’m re-thinking how to rig the pulley on my outdoor rig I was going to use a 50kN steel D-shaped biner at the top but now I might look for a Quick Link or shackle so its not overloaded.

Please read this reference on carabiners from Simply Circus: Carabiners.

There are tons of places to buy carabiners. I’ve purchase mine from Aerial Essentials and Fusion Climbing. I like the sleek black coatings that they offer. They are more expensive than the regular stainless steel biners.

*I’ve been buying steel (vs aluminum) carabiners because I believe they will last longer than aluminum. I am planning to write a blog about that debate.

SHACKLES

I have heard/read that many professional riggers are recommending using shackles instead of carabiners. Especially if it is a permanent connection. Carabiners are designed for quick/temporary connection.

  • Shackles are a lot stronger than carabiners
  • 2 main types of shackles: Anchor/Bow shackle can connect 2 or more rigging pieces together while a Chain/”D” shackle is designed to connect components in a straight line. See the Simply Circus link below for more info and pictures.
  • Shackles will decrease the amount of height lost when using a carabiner (average shackle is 3″ vs 5″ carabiner).
  • For aerial you can use a screw pin shackle that can be moused/locked in place with a zip tie after they are screwed tight. (You could also use metal wire to mouse it.)
  • UPDATE: Load only in one direction on the pin of a shackle. Use the bell to collect the legs of a bridal. (In other words: when 3-way loading, put 2 loads on the bell and 1 load on the pin.)
  • My fiance calls them “bull nose” As in: “Amy, why are you using carabiners when you should just get a bull nose? They are safer for you.” (I had no idea what he was talking about. Until now)

Please read this reference on shackles from Simply Circus: Shackles. This link has a ton of information with pictures of different shackles, how to inspect & clean and even how to mouse a shackle.

You can buy shackles MANY places. This is an example of all the different types at Rigging Warehouse.

QUICK LINKS

I’m just learning about Quick Links (or screw links). I didn’t even know what they were up until about a month ago.

  • Quick Links come in several different shapes. Depending on your need, you may want to use a triangle/tri-link/delta/square Quick Link to attach spansets to a swivel for a double point lyra (instead of 2 carabiners into a swivel-see Part 3 video above)
  • To avoid overloading a carabiner with a spanset, consider using a Quick Link (again I refer back to the videos above). Review the Quick Link shapes to see which may be the best fit.
    Update: Delta and tri-link Quick Links are for vertical use only. They are wider to be used with webbing.
  • Link to Petzl Maillion Rapide technical info
  • Ratings are significantly lower when cross-loaded. (Ex. a Quick Link that is rated 25kN on major axis can be rated 10kN on minor axis)
  • When tightened with a wrench Quick Links can be considered a permanent connector.

I am attaching several links that have more Quick Link information:

Aspiring Safety Products:  This has Quick Link ratings and a description of why and what they use particular shapes.

You can buy Quick Links at MANY places. This is an example of all the different types at Rigging Warehouse. I’ve read that many people recommend Maillion Rapide Quick Links because they have very good reliability.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on connector use and aerial rigging?

*Interesting solutions to “fix” tri-loading carabiners and spansets (or Quick Links) from a slackline point of view. Remember to consider the ratings on the spansets when putting them into different shapes: basket, chocker, etc.  Triloading 101

Aerial Introduction

I was born to be upside-down. This blog will be about my path to follow my aerial/circus desires. It will be about my practice (aerial hoop, fabric/silks, trapeze), about my health, and anything else that grabs my attention (my dogs, flexibility, weight, handstands, hooping, etc.)

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Gymnastics was my outlet as a kid and through college. It was my passion. My love. I thought I wanted to coach or open my own gym. Then graduation and reality struck. I was hired by a great medical device company and I coached at night. As I moved up in my company I lost the time and energy to coach. I made new friends. They convinced me to try softball, volleyball, and finally kickball. I was the girl who would tumble on and off the field. I’d get bored. I wanted to be upside-down.

Amy Windorski © Tigz Rice Studios 2012

Amy © Tigz Rice Studios 2012

2009 I found hooping. It was fun. It was dance. There was a flow with the hula hoop. And it was tricky! For a few years I immersed myself with the hula hoop. I ended up at a Hooping retreat in the mountains of Colorado. One of the instructors, Spiral, was a circus trained artist. She showed me hooping in a new light. She could handstand like no other and she performed on a hoop in the air. I wanted to do that. I wanted to be upside-down.

I found an aerial studio about 45-50 minutes from my home. I took my first aerial class Sept 2011. I was 34-years old, about 30 lbs overweight and out of shape. It was challenging. I remember more than one class that I left discouraged and in tears. I kept at it because it combined all the things I love: learning new tricks, performing, hard-work, flexibility, and strength. Plus I just wanted to be upside-down.

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Lately, my situation changed with the studio I’d begun at and I’ve changed studios. I’m currently at crossroads with my training. I’ve gained weight again and have injuries. I’ve made some good (great actually) friends who are opening new studios in my area so I know I have places to train. However, my full-time job has hours that make it difficult for me to get to the studio for regular classes or open gym. I want to train when I can fit it into my schedule. I need to take what I do know and practice it and perfect it and make into routines. I do aerial recreationally but it is what keeps me sane.

My solution has been to start acquiring my own aerial equipment. This blog will be about me finding myself through aerial/circus.