Featured Firehooper - Shredder

by Laura Blakeman September 22, 2010


Despite her gorgeous, featured, fully exposed photographic presence on the Synergy website, Shredder of Shredder Hoops from San Francisco California may surprise you when she speaks of her relationship to the fire element. Now 6 years from the moment of her first burn, Shredder's power packed performance blazes into ever more refined, jaw dropping and drool worthy reverie. Our featured firehooper this month, Shredder speaks to us of her history as a firefighter - long before the hoop, of silly near-groom misses involving flaming hoops at a wedding (eek!) and her current firehoop specs for the curious among us. She says:

Fire ignites my goddess instantaneously. It brings me present. It is a catalyst for a strong connection between my audience and I. There is an entirely new element now, and it suddenly becomes a threesome of fire, hoop dance, and me, fusing together to create an interpretation of my heart's passion. It gives me Courage to Shine.

Yeah Shredder! We love your Goddess and your presence. Read on to get the juicy details of her flickering fire flow.

How did you get into firehooping? When was your first time?

My first time fire hooping was with Kandace Korves of Holistic Hooping in October of 2004, just after Burning Man. We were in Garberville, CA, I was living up in Arcata at the time and had nobody to teach me, so I drove about 2 hours south to meet her. We must have started the lesson at 11pm or something crazy.  She was incredible and provided a ceremony before we lit up to clear out any fears or obstacles. I cried. Once I lit up it felt like home. The sound of the flame was the best part. Just weeks before that, at Burning Man, somebody asked me when I was going to light up my hoops. I laughed and felt like it would be a long time before I was ready. The next moment, I realized I was ready, and it took me just a couple of weeks to find Kandace to help me try it safely. 

What was your first tool like?

My first tool was huge and heavy. I think I used Kandace's hoop for the very first burn, and shortly after that I made my own. I still have my first fire hoops. They are made with 160 psi, poly-plastic tubing. The spokes are rigid, long bolts, and I wrapped wicking around the tips. In order to make them safe, they were quite heavy, but very durable.

How do you connect with the fire element?

My astrological signs are almost all fire, so I absolutely love fire. I fought fire for 6 years (during college and after post graduation). It was amazing to be on the nozzle in a fully involved structure fire, or on a huge mountain where the entire face was engulfed in flames. The sight, the color, the smell, is unbelievable. When I'd fight there were 10 to 15 foot flames surrounding me. It was hotter than comfort would allow. Even with all my personal protective equipment, my skin tensed up. Fire is wild. You have to listen to it and move fast and controlled, while leaning into the pressure-filled nozzle that will knock you back in a second if your footing isn't set. Talk about adrenaline! It's a huge surge of fear, courage, and determination balancing out to create amazing strength. When I'm fighting fire, there is no room to hesitate. You have to respect the unpredictable spirit of the flame or it'll bite. After fighting fire, I experienced a beautiful peace when I discovered I could dance with it. It's funny, the contrast and similarities between fighting it and dancing with it. The dance is somewhat controlled and confined to the wicks, but we use much less personal protective equipment. I've been burned more when dancing with it than I did when I fought, which is a blessing. 

Tell us a crazy firehooping story.

One time I was fire hooping at a wedding and the hoop got away and landed at the base of the groom's pants. That was a bit stressful. I think each time I light up my hoop it is unique. There are lots of funny little things that happen with fire hooping, but nothing beyond belief. It' s just funny to see the reaction of the fire marshals when they watch fire dancers. Most of them have been very nice. My least favorite are the drunks who walk right into the flame because they are hypnotized. It's funny when some people ask if the fire is real.

What are your current firehoop specs?

I currently have two different hoop specs from Shakti. One polypro firehoop and one HDPE. Both are 36.5 inches in diameter with 5 wicks each, but I've discovered that the HDPE hoop holds up my fast moving body hooping better than the polypro hoops.  I also prefer the larger, 2" wicks because they last longer with fast motion. 

What was your favorite firehooping moment?

An unforgettable fire hooping moment was at the first (post-)Hoop Camp fire jam in Santa Cruz. There was so much fire there and all our hooping friends came out. So many hoopers that I love and respect were out to play and all the elements came together to make a memorable set. 

And finally, what's the edge you're working with right now?

The "Shredder Hoops" edge. I'm constantly discovering new ideas and new ways for my hoops and I to move. I thrive on being unique. The best way to see what's next for Shredder Hoops is to come and see me live.

Laura Blakeman
Laura Blakeman


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