Background Check: Dan Mahoney

We recently had a chat with the legendary Daniel Mahoney, pro pogoer and tea expert. Check out the article below to learn more about Dan’s history in the sport, his life as a tea connoisseur, and more.

Dan Mahoney vaulting over a rail.

AllPogo: Hey Dan, thanks for doing this interview. What year did you start pogoing, and how old were you?

Dan: I often say I started in 2006 when I was 12, but that’s not exactly true. When I was 8 or 9, my sister got a pogo stick for her birthday. They were sold out of the “moon shoes” she had asked for, and I guess a pogo made sense as “the next best thing.” The Tony Hawk video games were big at the time, so obviously we wanted to up the game once just jumping up and down got too easy. I followed my older brother’s example as he tried all kinds of weird stuff. Really, I just wanted to be included and so I jumped a lot with my brother for a couple weeks until he got bored. For some reason, I seemed to really like it and I didn’t lose interest as fast. I remember staying pretty into it for about a year or so, not knowing anything about anyone else out there messing around on a pogostick. Eventually that little Jumping jax Jr. fell apart, and I slowly stopped thinking about jumping. At least for a short while…

AllPogo: How did you discover the sport?

Dan: In early 2006, my older brother called me into the computer room and showed me a video that changed my life. A blurry recording of the world’s first backflip on a pogo stick, and I think maybe an old school Mark Aldridge video on a tech stick. Damn.  I remember running out to the garage and digging up the skeleton of that old pogo stick my sister got for her birthday, and doing what I could to recreate the moves from some of those videos. Now remember… that pogo stick actually broke years ago, and in fact, the piston had even snapped clean off! Imagine trying all kinds of new tricks on a tramp-pogo, but while jumping on cement… Somehow, even without a working pogo I kept going out day after day, until my parents felt bad and decided I deserved a real pogo stick. In early summer of 2006, I got a Super Pogo shipped from the USA, and I was hooked for life.

AllPogo: Who were some of your influences when you started, as well as some of your favorite videos that inspired you?

Dan: When I started riding seriously and obsessively in 2006, The riders I looked up to and who inspired my style most were generally all of the ones featured in the early Pogopalooza videos. I loved watching all of the early teams too, especially the original El Pogo Loco squad, Pogo cult, and all kinds of other early innovative riders. I was drawn to Fred Grzybowksi’s big air style especially, and when I started jumping, my goal was to be able to go as hard as him. Nick McClintock however, has always been one of the most insanely innovative and creative riders since before I even showed up, and an outrageously nice guy. I’ve always looked to him for inspiration, and he has always been my favorite jumper, hands down.

AllPogo: You started pogoing when Big Air was just starting to really take off. Talk a bit on what the Big Air game and just the sport in general looked like when you first started.

Dan: When I first connected with the “larger” community, the Flybar 1200 had been out for I believe 2 years, and Fred was tearing it up on the 800 prototype. I believe the Flybar 800 came out around the same year I started, with Vurtego V1s being around but not as popular earlier on. I got a Flybar 800 for Christmas and once I started jumping on that thing, all I could think about was big air. 

Honestly, I feel that in a lot of ways for most people, big air was all anyone could think about. It was brand new and super promising. Pogo was all about up and down? Right? At least it mostly was back then. So if we can jump higher… Imagine what we could come up with. With the introduction of lighter weighted pogo sticks, the limits for what was possible exploded, and I wanted to be a big part of that. 

I know I always loved tech riding and jumping on a spring stick. There were a lot of people who kept progressing that aspect of the sport throughout the “takeover” of big air riding, and who continue to do so even today, but something about big air was just so perfect for me.

AllPogo: I remember being jealous of you because you were the new guy on the forums and you were learning new tricks and progressing like crazy. What was your training regimen like? How much time on average during your younger years did you spend pogoing a day, and what drove you to get so good and start inventing new tricks right away?

Dan: In truth, I wasn’t exactly very good at much else when I was young. For some reason I was really drawn to pogo sticking, and if I’m being honest, the feedback, praise, and community I felt at the original page was enough for me to risk a little more than I might have in my own condition. I also think that like many of the early riders who embraced pogo at a time where it was honestly pretty laughable and goofy, were themselves quite weird and “out there.” I wasn’t any different! I was a misfit, and an ADHD kid with too much energy for his own good. I needed to burn it off, and anyone who’s jumped on a big air pogo stick knows that it’s f&%$ing exhausting.

Dan’s first video on YouTube.

It’s hard to say how many hours I’d jump daily, but in truth I was thinking of pogo all day. School was thinking of new tricks, doodling little pogo sticks, and bothering everyone else with my obsession over extreme pogo. I’d head home and immediately hop on the forums to see what everyone else had landed, and I’d go outside to land as much as I could myself to keep up. I’d almost always be out until it got too dark to see where I was jumping, and then head back onto the forums to report! Bedtime was when I would visualize all the movements and skills I thought might be possible before falling into a pogo dream. I’d wake up the next day,  and do it all again.

 I think that what I’ve always loved about pogo sticking is that it was so new and unexplored. So much potential for new tricks and creativity, and I was drawn to that. One practice I still live by today whenever I ride is also one of the biggest pieces of advice I could offer to anyone aspiring to achieve big things in any discipline. I made a rule for myself early on; Each and every time I go out, I commit myself to learning, landing, or at the very least trying one new trick before I finish up the session. 

The tricks could be simple and easy, or mind bogglingly insane. it’s all the same really, because a little progress every time we step on the stick is an investment, and it’s a habit and lifestyle that sticks forever and extends far beyond the confines of pogo sticking. No point wasting time, strive for excellence and if you’re prepared, it WILL meet it there.

AllPogo: You landed the very first pogo frontflip ever. Tell us how it was learning and landing this incredibly important trick.

Dan: I suppose in a big way the whole “world’s first frontflip on a pogo” thing is my actual claim to fame (at least in my mind). It’s kind of a funny story actually. For some reason I just felt like someone had to just land it already. I had seen a few videos of people trying and getting reasonably close, and I was feeling a little risky that first day. I didn’t have any mats at the time, and as per my style back in the day, I chucked myself from plywood to the somewhat soft grass in my backyard.

I uploaded my closest attempt, and a few people started saying they were gonna start trying themselves. I panicked! I wanted this trick so bad. Honestly, at this point I already had it in my head that I wanted to be the best. Pogo was my life, and I needed this. I felt it was going to be the thing that would finally make me a “big shot” in the pogo world. Back then, a “world” which was no more than a little community of very few regularly active members. I needed it, and I wasn’t going to let anyone else land it before me. 

I went out after school the next day, filmed for hours straight. I actually landed the world’s first about an hour before filming the clip people know today as the world’s first frontflip on a pogo. My memory card had filled up and actually shut off before recording it! I was crushed, but I couldn’t let that stop me. I kept going and it paid off. Landing that trick is still to this day, honestly one of my entire life’s proudest accomplishments, even beyond its contribution to pogo sticking. I’ll never forget that feeling.

The first ever recorded frontflip on a pogo stick.

AllPogo: What are some of your favorite video shoot memories?

Dan: Honestly, when things first started picking up and my early relationship with Vurtego solidified, some of my all time most nostalgic memories were the pogo tours and events based around the Kangaroo shoes events we ended up doing. This was all around some of my earliest trips outside of Canada, and even outside of the Maritimes (The Atlantic Canadian coastal provinces). We travelled to Cali a lot, Vegas, and even made it to Mexico city. There was something really amazing about those experiences, because they were really the first serious validation that the insane hours I was putting into this sport were truly paying off.

There are honestly way too many other memories filming videos with so many amazing people, that it’s far too difficult to single only one out. Filming video parts has always been my favorite part of riding, and I’ve been blessed tremendously through dozens of trips, all around the world, with some of the coolest and baddest mother F^%^ers out there.  

AllPogo: You’re well known for your unique tech-air style. What drove you to learn and create all the super technical Big Air tricks you’ve done throughout the years?

Dan: As a community in the earlier days, pogo people always put a big emphasis on the releases of their solo videos. I loved watching everyone’s edits as a kid, and my favorites were always those where people were out there trying and landing new things. I’ve always loved the creative aspect of the sport, and how we can all build upon each other’s achievements and work together to continually innovate the sport, and new tricks. 

I always wanted to be one the best, and that has always meant pushing the envelope and innovating. I got a reputation fairly quickly regarding my videos, and while they weren’t very well made, they rarely ever would include tricks that others could do or had already landed. Back then, this was also the only way to get out there and build a reputation, because there wasn’t anyone else making videos for us in the beginning. Filming for these video parts was always a big motivator to push myself to land new and innovative tricks, and as my reputation grew, so did my ambitions to blow minds when a new video dropped.

Dan Mahoney with a perfect hand plant in Dubai.

AllPogo: You have had a fair amount of injuries and surgeries because of pogoing. What are some of the more serious injuries you’ve had? What kind of chronic pain do you deal with now?

Dan: I often wish I hadn’t been such a dumbass about it all. But then again, maybe I never would have been capable of achieving what I did without sacrificing it all every time I jumped on the stick. 

I have fallen a lot, and can claim a fairly serious collection of big injuries I could bring up. I think in the grander scheme of things, I was fairly lucky overall since I could count the most serious falls on one hand, maybe…

When I was 15 I slipped out on a no handed backflip and smashed my face into a hardwood floor. I lost or broke a good number of my teeth, and ended up breaking my jaw in half, on the right hand side of my chin. I had a surgery that night and still to this day have two titanium plates in there. (The airport metal detectors don’t ever go off, don’t worry.)

General wear and tear over a decade and a half have resulted in serious problems with all of my joints, but especially my knees and ankles. After just barely turning 21 I could hardly walk, and struggled every night with pain going to sleep. It was in this condition that I ended up competing at Pogopalooza in France back in (2014?), where a big slip up shot a fully compressed Vurtego up into my chin like a massive uppercut. I smashed up some teeth, was knocked out, and had a minor seizure. I woke up in the hospital sometime in the next 24 hours, though my whole memory of that month is pretty vague.

I took a year off between that fall before I started jumping again, and during that time I had an x-ray on my left ankle showing immense scar tissue, and a ton of bone chips. I had a surgery in early September, where I had the scar tissue and 10 bone chips removed. That surgery changed my life, and how I could walk afterwards was night and day. I’m currently awaiting my surgery date for the same operation, on my right ankle.

There have been a few other significant ones through the years… I’ve torn my ACL and patellar ligaments in both knees, and pretty much have no meniscus or cushioning tissue in any of my joints below my hips. I’m lucky though, because I live a pretty healthy and intentionally gentle lifestyle on my body these days, and somehow I can still go for big hikes and engage in most of my passions. Although, when it comes to pogo, I can hardly jump at all anymore without significant fallout and long recovery times. This is the honest reason for why no one sees much content from me anymore. I just go too damn hard for my own good.

One of Dan’s gnarliest bails.

AllPogo: You’re also well known for being able to throw down hard on Tech. During the time that you started pogoing, it was the norm to practice both Tech and Big Air. Why did you continue to pursue Tech alongside Big Air, and why do you think perfecting both crafts has seemed to die off with the newer generation?

Dan: When I first started jumping seriously, my first stick was a Super Pogo. Because of that, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for tech riding. As I mentioned before however, It’s always mostly been about progressing and creating new tricks for me. That’s a lot harder on a tech stick considering it’s been around a lot longer, and it’s immensely less scary. Despite that, there was and still exists so much potential for what’s possible.

It’s somewhat funny to me that I have a reputation for being good at tech, because I don’t own a working tech stick, haven’t in over a decade, and I only ride it for fun when I’m with other riders. I prefer it in some ways because it’s less painful and damaging over the long-term, though Earl Pote might argue that, and is far less scary or risky than Big air. More than anything though, I think tech is a challenging art which is heavily underrepresented.

 I also feel that to really excel at big air you need to be good at riding tech. It trains so much technical skill, balance, and handling abilities which are directly transferable to big air riding. If you can do a scissorkick at 9 feet in the air, is that more impressive than one at 3 feet?  Hardly. You have almost 2 – 3 seconds of airtime, doing one at 3 feet is far more intense, and significantly more challenging. If you train tricks at lower altitude, even simple ones, you can execute them faster when jumping big air, combining multiples in the same bounce.

If I’m being completely honest, I much prefer riding big air. It’s just what I’m good at, and I’m far better at it than I am at riding tech. That being said, I’ll always look back to those days I spent growing on a tech stick as being some of the purest and greatest memories of my childhood.

AllPogo: Who are some of your current favorite riders, as well as some of your current favorite videos?

Dan: Like I mentioned before, I always have and always will admire Nick McClintock’s creative riding style more than anyone else out there. Currently, Tone Staubs is completely rewiring the whole damn mainframe, so I couldn’t leave him out. It wouldn’t surprise me if in 10 years more people ride the way Tone does than any other style of jumping. I used to think that maybe I was the rider who had innovated and created the largest number of tricks overall, a bit of an egotistical thought, but that idea has since been stamped out after watching Tone pretty much completely define an entire new genre of jumping.

There are too many people out there jumping that I admire to answer this question deeply without leaving someone super deserving out, because I’m blown away by so many riders, new and old. That being said though, the only thing that really interests me when seeing people jump is innovation, so if you can think of a few people who have invented a lot of tricks, you probably already know my favorites.

As for videos, that’s not a fair question to ask! There are too many amazing videos out there…

AllPogo: What is your ideal vision for the trajectory of our sport? What kind of evolution would you like to see long-term?

Dan: I’m not sure I believe pogo sticking will ever really take off in a comparable way to other mainstream action sports, and that’s okay with me. I do hope however, in time the sport might take on a bit more popularity and have a more consistent number of participants coming into the sport on a regular basis. We are a small group, and something that often worries me is just how quickly this entire sport could conceivable burn out should the VERY few businesses selling decent pogo sticks drop out. Although, I doubt this could ever really happen. Pogo is just way too explosive and way too cool not to continually attract attention. I’m hopeful that one day, pogo might see a rise in popularity, but either way I feel so proud and and infinitely grateful to have been a part of such an incredible community, and such a fascinating story.

It honestly doesn’t matter to me too much where we end up as a sport, as long as the community and the passion are still here. I never wanted to get famous or anything, and I don’t really care all too much if the rest of the world, and even all of today’s riders forget about me and what I contributed to the sport. I think pogo is a pretty incredible place for people to share in one of the most authentic forms of community out there, and if we can keep that alone alive, that’s more than enough for me.

AllPogo: How did you get into tea?

Dan: During my break from pogo after my serious fall in France and subsequently my first ankle surgery, I had to find something else to stimulate some interest and passion in life. 

That whole year was a very transformative and developmental year for me. I went to Rehab and kicked alcoholism and an intravenous drug addiction, I quit smoking cigarettes, became a vegetarian, and started more deeply exploring my philosophies for how to live my best and fullest life. Sobriety brought a lot of clarity for me, and honestly Tea was a tool that I used to focus my obsessive personality when life’s challenges pushed me to the edge of backtracking towards my destructive lifestyle.

The passion grew tremendously as I studied and I’ve found great peace through the grounding and meditative qualities of tea, and also how it has enriched my perception of the world around me. Tea has made me savor every drop of life, and has gifted me an appreciation for the finer things, and each perfect quiet moment spent truly immersed in the present. It’s cooky, I know. But I love it, and am more grateful for its impact in my life than almost anything else. 

That being said however, the full story on how I came into tea and my journey from tea enthusiast, to tea lover, and even onto running my own small scale business operation is a long one I could probably answer in as long of a write up I’ve done for pogo. If you really want to know more about Dan and his tea, just send me a message. <3

AllPogo: How do you see yourself involved with pogo in 5 – 10 years? 

Dan: In five to ten years I doubt I’ll have much gas left, or adequate lubrication in my joints to continue jumping anywhere similar to how I have in the past. In fact, when Dollie and I filmed our collaborative video during our trip to Florida in 2019, I was already saying it would likely be one of my final progressive video parts.

I’d like to stay involved, participating and helping out in what I can to encourage young riders to keep progressing. I’m unsure how that might look, but I know that I’ve always wanted to be a judge at Pogopalooza! 

More than anything else, I really just want to stay connected with this incredible community for as long as I can manage. You guys are what it’s all about, and what it has always been all about.

Dan walking the Tea farms in China.

AllPogo: What are you currently doing in life? 

Dan: I’m currently living in the same town I grew up in, studying Plant Science Technologies at Dalhousie Universities Agricultural Campus. Those who know me know that I’m obsessed with plants and the natural world, and when Covid-19 broke out I wasn’t going to waste my time sitting around and waiting for everything to clear up. Progress is always my goal, and since I already knew I needed to find a new path in life, Plant Science made sense since I’ve been reading books and studying the topic obsessively in my private life for over 5 years. It’s been a perfect fit, despite the stress and anxiety associated with returning to school for the first time in almost 10 years, during a global pandemic where everything has shifted online. I love it, and I’m pleased to be headed down this path.

It’s an ambitious goal, and perhaps not one which is easily accomplished considering the climate conditions where I want to live (Nova Scotia, Best place on earth TBH), but I have a goal in mind of establishing one of the first tea plantations in Canada, growing and producing artisanal tea for a living. If that means staying in university for a while, doing a masters or  even a doctorate in Plant Science to research and develop cultivars which can withstand the harsh conditions here, so be it. A dream is a dream, and so far, I’ve done a decent job of making mine come true. 

I’ll probably need some willing and capable hands on my farm in the future, anyone game?

-Dan Mahoney

Thanks again for a great interview, Dan! Want to know even more about Dan’s pogoing history? Check out “Inside Pogo” below!