Nissen went home and began to work on a new invention. He took a sheet of canvas and stretched it across a frame made of steel. At first he called the contraption “the bouncing rig.” But a few years later he came up with a far better name—trampoline, from the Spanish word for diving board.
Nissen worked hard to improve his creation. A gymnast himself, he performed demonstrations around the world. He started a company to produce and sell trampolines—and made millions of dollars.
Trampolines sprouted up all over America—in backyards, in public “bounce centers,” even at some gas stations, where road-weary kids could spring up and down while their parents filled their gas tanks. The U.S. military used them to train pilots and parachutists.
There was no denying the thrill of vaulting into the air. But there was—and still is—a major problem with trampolines: They are dangerous. Every year, thousands of bouncers are injured, some seriously.
But Nissen never lost his passion for his apparatus. In 2000, one of his dreams came true: Trampolining became an Olympic sport.
So the next time you leap on a trampoline, be careful. And thank George Nissen for the thrill of flying through the air.