Dear fellow stilt walkers,

Know your equipment!

Loosened stilt-skate screws may well have led to
George Sommerdorf’s  death.

George Sommerdorf, Jr., died last Friday while skating on Donner Lake in Northern California

George’s daughter,  Brooke Sommerdorf wrote me:

“My dad was a very enthusiastic skater and took it to a new level when he added stilts to his ice skates. He died in 2007 when his fall on his stilts on Donner lake broke the ice underneath him and he drowned.

He was very good on his stilt skates, you should see the video and the other video (which is the best one )
as you can tell he’d been doing this for a long time.        



Slipping or tripping.

On any surface.  With any kind of stilt.  In my experience the Bigfoot soling material sticks the best and is very hard wearing.  I do jumping jacks and dance with mine, as well as miles at a time.  But there WAS that one inch long piece of rotten banana on my 1999 marathon stilt walk that nearly taught me the splits!  I added an extra foot to my stride
with that banana!

Another since retired circus performer broke his pelvis doing the splits the hard way. I’m told it was excruciating.  And that was just the sound! He was on VERY tall stilts.

Pushing the limits.  If you set out to do flips, cross Niagara Falls on stilts on a high wire,
(yes, it has been done, see my history page,  a flight of stairs, a grassy bank, an escalator, or ? be prepared to fail a few times before succeeding.

Diminished capacity.  Fatigue, hunger, alcohol, medical.  be aware, be careful.  That ceiling fan could ruin your whole evening!

Out of the ordinary. Slips Happen

One slip and four circus stilt performers tumble from on high.  Ouch!

3-4-5 kids act together to distract the wrangler and deliberately trip the stilt walking clown.  Results in a broken knee cap.

At a stadium event the crowd gets very unruly and starts climbing the barriers to rush the stilt performers
and his partner.  Partner holds them back with his bull whip.

Transmission oil leak during the spec left a wonderful clown with a permanently frozen wrist.

Master Clown Frosty Little writes of his days with the RBBB circus and their tall stilt performers.  Peg stilts five to
14 feet tall. Needless to say, broken arms, wrists, shoulders and hips result from  seemingly minor incidents.  Someone
feeds a horse a carrot. A small piece dribbles unseen, becoming a launch pad for the unwary stilt performer.

I’m remembering the time I was an “Ostrich jockey”.  The costume was made with real ostrich feathers that had been washed, but not dyed.  As I was walking to my car from an outdoor festival I was “mugged”!  By four, that’s right four, belgium sheep dogs.  A woman was walking her beautiful and well behaved dogs, two to a leash, when they, (the dogs, not the woman) got a whiff of the feathers.  They dragged her over to me, and proceeded to sniff the “ostrich”.
They gave me a real going over, gently jumping up, putting both front paws on my legs and stilts to get get a better sniff!

Stretch as an ostrich jockey - ride on costume at the Ostrich Festival in Castle Rock, CO

Stretch as an ostrich jockey - ride on costume at the Ostrich Festival in Castle Rock, CO

Stretch the Ostrich Jockey

Stretch the Ostrich Jockey

Eventually the curious canines were satisfied, and went their way.  Do they still sell smelling salts?  I could have used some !

Walking back from the ball drop one New Year’s eve, two teens some distance in BACK of me start chasing each other.  I happened to be in the way!  Nothing malicious, but one second I was upright, a split second later I was sitting on the ground.  Six months later I felt fine again!

Three  drunks decide to run between my legs . . . from behind!   Was on my tall stilts, (43 inches) fighting a strong gusting wind.  Scared me half to death, but no damage done.

And  at a Habitat for Humanity out door screening of the Wizard of OZ, a dog, off leash casually, with NO warning, sauntered over and hiked his leg and PEED on me!!!!

Nice thing about suplex nylon, it pretty much rolled right off.  I went ahead and laundered that night anyway!

Conditioning, mental and physical.

The more experience and practice the better is all I can say.  Even if you have
to get up and start circling the park at 5 am as I have, you’ll be the better for it.  How else are you going to learn that
you can bluff a pit bull?