Hawaii Academy Gymnastics

Get your bounce on at Hawaii Academy.

What do you do when your daughter’s favorite  gymnastics center decides to close its doors? Some parents might start eyeballing soccer or ballet. In 1999, Dr. Max Vercruyssen decided, instead, to take the gym over and make some changes. Today, Hawaii Academy—located in a bright, cavernous warehouse near Iwilei—is a wall-to-wall landscape of trampolines, recessed into the floor for safety. Add a full-size gymnastics floor, a kids’ climbing wall, other gymnastics equipment and harnesses for tricky tramp moves, and you’ve got a setup for what Vercruyssen calls “lifetime fitness.”

One of the first things Vercruyssen did was to move away from gymnastics equipment that requires technical skill and physical prowess—like bars, high beam and vault—toward equipment everyone could enjoy.

Hawaii Academy member William Harris, 80, can still pull off triple twisting triple somersaults on the trampoline.

Photo: David Croxford

“Trampoline is very forgiving” on the body, explains Vercruyssen: “We wanted activities that 3-year-olds to 93-year-olds could do.” In fact, Hawaii Academy’s youngest student is a 1-year-old, its oldest, 98.

On any given day, you might find toddlers tumbling and bouncing; students training for cheerleading and parkour (a sport where the city becomes your obstacle course); classes in zumba, Pilates and safe falling; and kupuna doing cigar rolls down a cushioned incline—or even executing trampoline back flips in harnesses.

Vercruyssen emphasizes that these are ordinary seniors who have reversed many of aging’s symptoms—like loss of balance, strength and mobility—through careful practice. “We have many 90-year-olds who start jumping and have a great time,” says Vercruyssen.

Vercruyssen’s commitment to fitness has worked out well for his family, too. His daughter, Nani, was named trampoline sportswoman of the year by USA Gymnastics and is in training for the 2012 Olympics.