Background Check: Dalton Smith

Dalton Smith is often looked at as one of the most creative and innovative pogoers in the world, and his 5 consecutive Pogopalooza Gold Medals prove it. Dalton is known mainly for his incredibly technical Big Air style and huge street riding, and is constantly learning and creating new tricks to propel the sport forward.

I remember when Dalton first started pogoing, he learned tricks so fast and was extremely committed to the sport. I specifically remember thinking “this kid is going to go far in this sport” and I couldn’t have been more right. We had the pleasure of interviewing Dalton, and heres what he had to say!

Dalton Smith during the filming of “Rise.”

AllPogo: How did you begin pogoing? Tell us a little bit about life before pogoing and how you found the sport, and what it was that drew you into it.

Dalton: Before I started pogoing I was just another spastic little boy running around and getting into trouble because of my large imagination and insatiable curiosity. Fifth grade, I was part of a school club ~Destination Imagination~ which was this strange after school team of ADHD kids who had assembled to take part in challenges of the imagination. We were given outside of the box problems that would require us to think creatively and scientifically. As fate would have it, one of the challenges called for a pogostick and I was the only spaz for the job. After learning all types of small tricks and believing that I had invented the new sport of extreme pogosticking, I went searching for others to join me. I recruited my neighbor who took to it immediately. He had access to a computer, and more importantly YouTube so we were soon feverishly consuming and absorbing every video into the whole of my being. Mainly Ryan O’Malley and the Hyper Pogo crew, Fred Grzybowski, and all of the Pogopalooza compilation videos. I watched these videos and immersed myself in this new world, dreaming and dreaming about the fun and possibilities of jumping with others who loved the sport as much as myself. I jumped obsessively and dreamed restlessly until finding myself at Pogopalooza 7… and after that experience, I had no other motives or dreams than to experience the scope of life through my giant pogostick. 

AllPogo: How did you feel the first time traveling to Pogopalooza?

Dalton: I was extremely nervous, only 13 at the time. I had not had many experiences in general and Pogopalooza was shaping up to be the event that my life was building up to. Not only was I nervous about fitting in with a group of dudes much much older than me, but I was building the nerves to compete with the top riders in a competition that I was ill prepared for. I was the tiny kid with a tiny stick trying big tricks with big dudes and I wanted to be a part of it all without making a mockery of myself. 

Dalton’s bail at Pogopalooza 7.

AllPogo: You had a terrible bail at that same Pogopalooza. Tell us about the bail and recovery process, and it if had any lasting effects on your body or life.

Dalton: At Pogopalooza 7 I knew I had to do something that would make an impact on all of the jumpers or I would just be the annoying little suburban kid trying to hang – which is exactly what I was. Leading up to the competition, I was training at a local gymnastics studio that allowed me access to their foam pit and a coach. With those aids I was able to practice and perform a double backflip dismount. I did the dismount 10-20 times, but always into a mat, and always with the help of a trained coach. By the time palooza rolled up, I was confident that the double dismount would be my ticket into the community. On the plane ride to Salt Lake City, my dad and I discussed my plans for the competition and he asked me to not attempt the double dismount in my run. He thought that I was too antsy and the dismount too risky for me to throw it on concrete in competition. I agreed with him verbally, but my mind was visualizing every movement that would make the dismount possible. I knew that I would have to try it… and I did! On concrete, in competition, in front of a crowd, my dad, and all of the people that were my heroes at the time. I take a break in my run, I am psyching myself up, the crowd is silent, I start jumping, and I jump and jump for so long, hoping to gain the courage… and then I remember just going for it. I threw my head back, I tucked, I felt the world woooshing rapidly around me, I open up expecting my feet to hit that sweet solid ground, but instead I hit knee caps first baby, SMACK, both caps my feet and then my face all smash into the concrete. I sit up dazed and confused, try to stand, nope, sit back down until help arrives and shuffles me out of the comp area. A lot happens after that, I go to a bunch of hospitals and ortho guys before they come to the conclusion that all of my toes on each foot are broken, my nose is fuuuuucked up, and both my kneecaps are cracked into pieces. My right cap was a peace sign and my left was now two halves of a whole. They gave me two years recovery time before I would be jumping again and that shattered me. Luckily, the recovery, because of the intense physical therapy, only took six months, but that was four months in a wheelchair with my legs completely straight and then two months of gaining the strength in my legs back. Once I was healed though, I was healed! No surgery and no post recovery pain. I tried my hardest to take care of myself while recovering and it paid off… also being 13 at the time made me immortal. I’ve been bending my knees like a madman ever since…

Dalton was wheelchair bound for four months following his terrible bail at PP7.

AllPogo: You have now won Pogopalooza 5 times. Any advice for future riders when it comes to  competing and riding in general?

Dalton: Practice practice practice. Literally the only thing that has given me any of my skill and any of my confidence and any of my luck is obsession and practice. From 13-18 years old I was jumping 7 days a week, rain or shine, for hours and hours, usually till sundown or hailstorms, whatever hit first. I was absolutely obsessed and compelled to jump everyday and to land new tricks. every. day. I couldn’t stop myself. This is the secret ingredient for greatness in anything, hard work and practice, genuine love and interest, and a whole lot of heart. I WANTED AND NEEDED to land those tricks to win those competitions to jump those cars, I wanted those things more than I wanted to live and eventually I got all of those things and it’s only because I exerted my entire will and being into those exploits. That’s how I live. 

AllPogo: How did you feel your first time winning Pogopalooza? Any memories that stick out throughout your five wins?

Dalton: It’s actually hard for me to remember my first wins because I was so deep into it. During those Pogopaloozas I was a ball of stress, a rubber band about to snap, quiet and always plotting my runs, I was barely there. So I basically would black out right before big air started and then I would come to after holding my trophy. I wanted to win palooza so bad, my body mind and spirit were all geared towards that single task. I had no room for feeling anything. After the competitions I felt satisfied and ecstatic, reaffirmed in my skills, but I also knew it was all bulls**t. Competition, especially one as loose as palooza, is never really about who is the best but rather who can show up and perform for this sliver of time with immense amount of pressure behind them. I am good under pressure, but I am by no means the best or gnarliest pogoer and I never have been. Palooza is about getting together and sharing our culture, experiencing each other and bring the sport further and further into the world. After competition I always felt empty because I knew that that trophy didn’t solve a damn thing going on in my heart, I still wanted to jump, I still had to prove myself, I still wanted to progress. Winning has taught me that winning is about competing against doubt and fear and defeating them. I continue to try to win and push myself because I have a desire to abolish fear and doubt in the deepest parts of my heart. There are soooooo many moments that stand out to me so I’ll just list a few that became legendary to me: Garts (Jake Gartland) front flipping the plank for the first time at Pogopalooza 8, the first flip of faith from Jake Fagliarone at Pogopalooza 8, the insanity of Biff Hutchison at Pogopalooza 10, Henry Cabelus’ grizzly flip at Pogopalooza Braddock, Biff almost dying trying to backflip up the box at Pogopalooza philly, all of our high jump competitions every year, the list goes on and I haven’t even included the monsters that are Russ Kaus or Dan Mahoney, literally everything they did during Pogopalooza was legendary and they continue to write their legend every year. 

Dalton celebrating first place at the 2014 Pogopalooza Finals.

AllPogo: Many times your winning runs were your first run. This year it took you until the 3rd run to pull it off. That’s a lot of pressure, how did you manage to snag first? Did it motivate you more knowing it was your final chance?

Dalton: Pressure pressure pressure. That desire to win mixed with the fear of competition puts me into an intense mental state, within this state I have no personality and I am not human I am just an extension of my pogostick. Every run I take that isn’t perfect is because I was thinking about it during the run itself. My last run this year and any of my winning runs is a result of me letting go and becoming my pogostick. All of the information is encoded into my muscles, into my bone marrow and I have to let that information express itself. My brain keeps track of what tricks to do next, but the memory and ability to do those tricks is outside of the mind and in the body. So I let my body express itself in these high pressure moments and I never doubt my ability to do so. I know I can win palooza, I know I can break this or that record, I know I can do these tricks, no matter what it is I believe that I can do it and then my pogo mind kicks in. Nothing motivates like pressure and nothing prepares you more for pressure than practice and obsession. 

AllPogo: Who were some pogoers that you looked up to and influenced you when you first started pogoing, and why?

Dalton: Fred Grzybowski, Ryan O’Malley and Biff motherf*****g Hutchison. Those three riders are responsible for my life up to this point. Before I knew about the community, I was just trying little tricks on my master pogo and calling them random names. I called the stickflip the twister, the ULBS was a rodeo, and so on. Finally I stumbled onto YouTube and found Fred throwing his body around like a madman. FLIPS. Flips were the holy grail for me, so much bliss and so much fear involved in doing a flip, especially on a pogostick. Seeing Fred do it with ease gave me confidence and made me buy a large pogostick. After I got my first flybar, I was hooked on watching videos and obsessively found everything I could find from Ryan O’Malley and the THP crew along with Biff Hutchison. Both of them were amazing riders, the best and gnarliest, and they had the most creative video editing. I could see the expression of their spirit poking through and that excited me more than the tricks. From the creativity and love and passion injected into those videos, I built myself, I filled my brain with pogo knowledge, I filled my heart with a desire to be one of them. And guess what? I F*****G DID IT. 

AllPogo: What video(s) did you see when you first started pogoing that had the most impact on you?

Dalton: O’Malley’s solo videos, the pogo buffet videos, and the Pogopalooza compilation videos. Those were instrumental in pushing the sport and engaging my desire to push myself. Then Biff and McClintocks’s videos fed my creative side, my desire to express something stranger and more elusive than pogo itself – how does pogo feel, how does it shape your life, how does it shape your world? McClintock will always be the greatest pogo filmmaker because he has always reached for something higher than pogo itself. His videos distort the reality that was presented to him from birth and he remakes the world in his own image. He allows the community to see the greatness in themselves. He created the dream of being a pogoer and he did it through his creative expression. That man is a powerhouse of love and passion, a dynamic creative human who has done more for the sport through sheer will power than just about anyone. 

AllPogo: What are you most proud of during your pogo career so far?

Dalton: That’s hard to say, I am very proud of my pogopalooza wins but I don’t want to be remembered for that. I am proud of my world records but those are more for fluff than a personal challenge. What I am most proud of is my work in the realm of creative pogo expression. My videos on ZZZ and on MHP are culminations of what I love about pogoing: friends, adventures, strange videos, and gnarly pogoing. When my run in this great little sport is over, I hope my videos stay long after and inspire kids like I was inspired. 

Dannie & Dollie in the Jungle – Mile High Pogo 2019

AllPogo: Where do you see yourself in the future of this sport? (think short and long term)

Dalton: Short term I’ll be jumping around the world, business as usual, being a part of the xpogo stunt team and making a living wage doing so. Long term I want to continue to push entities like MHP and EPL, so that I may help to build the framework for the future of our sport. It is only through these groups of expression coming from individual athletes that will grow and sustain our sport. Competitions, tv shows, stunt team gigs, will always be the sugar and spice sprinkled on top of our sport but the beating heart of it is the creative expression that each rider contains and unleashes by themselves, in their backyard, without a soul in the world watching them. This community is sustained by pure love and that’s what I want to help grow. 

We want to thank Dalton for agreeing to take part in this and for answering our questions, and we hope you enjoyed learned more about his history and the story behind his legacy.