The History of Hacky Sack

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Hacky Sack, also known as Footbag, is a modern, non-competitive American sport that involves kicking a bean bag and keeping it off the ground for as long as possible. It was invented in 1972 by John Stalberger and Mike Marshall of Oregon as a fun, challenging way to exercise.

Inventing the Hacky Sack

The story of Hacky Sack began in the summer of 1972 in Oregon. Mike Marshall introduced visiting Texan John Stalberger to a game that involved kicking a bean bag repeatedly to keep it off the ground for as long as possible -- using all parts of your body, except your hands and arms -- and then eventually passing it to another player.

The game was not unlike passing and dribbling drills frequently played by soccer players who “juggle” or “freestyle” with a ball before kicking it in the air to a teammate. And historians have identified similar games played throughout ancient Asia, dating back as far as 2597 B.C.

Stalberger, who was recovering from a knee injury, began playing the game—which they described as going to “hack a sack” -- as a way to rehabilitate his leg. Six months later, with Stalberger’s knee healed and newly acquired mastery of their game, they decided to go into manufacturing.

They experimented with different versions of the sack. Their 1972 initial sack was square shaped. By ’73, they had made a disc-shaped sack out of cowhide leather.

The first bags using the Hacky Sack name appeared in 1974. When Marshall died of a heart attack in 1975, Stalberger decided to soldier on, developing a more durable bag and working to promote the game he and his late friend had created.

The Hacky Sack Game Catches On

Hacky Sack became extremely popular with high school and college students, especially with counterculture groups who would stand in circles, taking turns working to keep the footbags aloft. Groups of Deadheads playing the game became a familiar sight outside concert venues whenever the Grateful Dead performed.

In 1979 the U.S. Patent office granted a license to the Hacky Sack brand footbag. By then Hacky Sack Company was a solid business, and Wham-O, the company that manufactures the Frisbee, acquired it from Stalberger.