Played on a trampoline 'court' surrounded by a strong safety net, the game is an airborne mix of volleyball, basketball and a children's bouncy castle. Originally from California, Aeroball is starting to take off in Britain where there are now some 10 courts, mainly in university sports centres. However, nearly all fund-hungry campus managers will offer the public a chance to play, for a small fee.
Turning up at the University of Surrey, I was led to a disused squash court containing a towering blue cylindrical net. The walls, which rose to about 18ft, encased a circular trampoline. The mesh was so thick it was clear this was no spectator sport. The only entry was on your knees through a side flap. David Aplin, 25-year-old manager of the centre and Aeroball enthusiast, took us through the ground rules.
Within the circular tower, the trampoline is divided into quarters by two intersecting nets. There are two players per team, each occupying their own segment, with the partners facing each other across the net. With opponents to left and right, the idea is to bounce high enough to shoot a goal into the holes in the walls behind them.
'The trouble comes when the team has uneven weight,' Aplin warned. 'If you're only eight stone, it's not advisable to have an eighteen-stone rugby player bouncing with you.' Eskimo-style, four of us crawled inside the blue tower and separated into the 'cubicles'. Stuck at the bottom of the cylinder, and barely able to see each other's shapes through the thick mesh, it was strangely isolating.
'Okay, let's start a little bouncing,' said Aplin. Unsteadily, we performed pathetic little hops. Within seconds the weight of each other's bounces had sent everyone canonballing into the air. One by one, our heads popped over the high net with whoops of joy, excitement and fear. Just how high you flew back up was randomly determined by everyone else's bouncing. This uncontrollable factor made defence and attack the real fun of the game. David peered over the top rim of the cylinder wall and shouted down, 'Try stopping.' I tried. Taking the weight of the bounce with my knees, I narrowly missed five thousand pounds worth of new dental treatment.
'Okay, start bouncing again. I'm dropping in the ball.' It plopped into my triangle but as I came down, it went up, only to return and shoot elusively around my ankles like a renegade ball-bearing in a pinball machine. I fell over. With everyone laughing hysterically, I finally retrieved the ball.
'Throw it]' David yelled. 'The rules are that you can't hold the ball for more than three bounces.' I lobbed it to my left. 'No, you should aim it towards the goal.' What goal? At this speed all I could see was a blur. 'Okay, forget it. Just get used to bouncing around. No Lyndsay, with your legs, not your bottom.' Play at your peril.
Aeroball: University of Surrey (0483 509298), Essex (0279 685100), Keele (0783 821111), Manchester (061-224 0404), Leeds (0532 824110), Lancaster (0524 65201), Preston (0772 796788), Durham (0207 230311), Paisley (0505 329461)
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