bamboo poles

Poles thick and thin

Historically, the pole world seemed split between 50mm poles and 38mm poles – 38mm spinning brass poles from Bobbi’s in Australia (which churns out super sexy yet athletic pole stars who seem to have been born with 6” platform heels welded to their feet, not to mention some of Chelle’s more outlandish footwear of late, including roller skates and manly boots), and 50mm chrome static/spin poles for ROW (Rest of World). And so the World Pole Dance competitions have traditionally had two poles in their competition, a 50mm static pole and a 38mm spinning, as a compromise, and to allow competitors to showcase their skills on both widths and modes. 

Then 45mm appeared and gained in popularity, such that now some competitions feature 45mm poles in both spin and static, e.g. Pole Art competition. Most recently, X-pole has released a 40mm pole, which adds another pole width to the mix, and this is probably the thinnest chrome pole on the mass market.

As previously mentioned, my main school has 50mm chrome poles and my spin school has 45mm chrome poles. So I’ve had the chance to try out both widths. The 45mm is noticeably easier on my wrists and is easier and feels more secure to grip, although that is somewhat offset by the fact that I tend to use the 45mm on spin-mode, and the 50mm on static mode. 50mm on spin however, is clearly no fun.

Although I had heard that leg grips and moves requiring leg grips are more challenging on thinner poles (hangback/layback and the like) I didn’t really notice the difference between 45mm and the 50mm poles. Overall, I was reasonably happy that I was regularly practicing on both types of poles (45 vs. 50, spin vs. static) – the 50mm would strengthen my grip, the 45mm would allow me to gain confidence in my tricks given the more secure grip before I transfer them to the 50mm – and the pros and cons on both poles were balanced out.

However, soon after X-pole released the 40mm poles, my spin school bought them and installed them in the studio, so now I have a third pole width added to the mix! Prior to my spin school, my only experience with sub-50mm poles was at Bobbi’s Malaysia, where they have Bobbi’s classic 38mm brass, which is an altogether different beast from a 40mm chrome, I can now tell you!

The brass poles at Bobbi’s are so lovely and grippy, they’re almost like Velcro! When I had tried them out back in November 2010, I had only been poling for 5 months, and my inverts were shaky at best, and so, trying to invert on my bad side, on a spinning SKINNY pole sounds like a recipe for disaster. But even though my inverts were really sloppy – I was struggling to get my legs to clamp the other way around from my usual side – I managed to stick to the pole with sloppily clamped legs.

The 40mm chrome, which I tried out for the first time in last week’s class, was a very different experience. In terms of hand grip, it doesn’t feel too dissimilar to a 45mm, but in terms of leg grip, that’s a different ballgame. The first time I did an invert on the 40mm, as my legs swung upwards to clamp around the pole, I immediately noticed the difference as my brain registered a slight panic: “where’s the pole? Wow, there is very little pole to clamp around!”, and my body reacted by having my legs clamp super tight around the pole. So, overall, the net impact wasn’t too bad… in the sense that leg grips were not necessarily more difficult, except that the thinner pole necessitates tighter gripping. As a result, after a full hour of poling on the 40mm chrome and over-enthusiastic leg-clamping, my lady bits felt quite bruised, and I did my best to keep my crotch off the pole as much as possible (whenever it was not necessary to clamp my legs) by clambering off the pole in an awkward and totally unglamourous fashion… hand splayed on the ground to walk myself away from the pole, one leg off the pole while the other was barely hooked on the pole. It was quite a sorry sight indeed.

I guess, over time, my legs will adjust to the smaller pole and they won’t clamp quite so hard, or my lady bits will get inured to the pain (probably not really a good thing in this case!). Overall, I guess I would prefer to stick to the 45mm because it’s closer to the 50mm at home and at my other pole school. But at least the 38mm would give me options to explore certain spinning moves when my grip strength is not sufficient on the 45mm… and it’ll build up strength in my legs too. And having the choice and option to use it is better than not. Vive la différence!