What’s a radial tire swing?

On Friday I was invited by one Mark F to play on the tire swing at Senior House. We walked over there from the lab, through the house and out onto the back courtyard. There, hanging from a large tree, was a tire swing. Except… the rope was so long that the tire was sitting on the ground. “But Mark, the rope’s too long.” “Yep,” he said, with no sign of any concern. I was kicking around some leaves right next to it, while I thought Mark was adjusting the rope, when suddenly he just said, “This tire swing is different, because it swings radially!” And he took off running with the tire swing in tow.

Turns out that this tire swing works just like tetherball, where you are the ball, and the tree is the pole. You run around the tree, with the rope taught, and run and run until at some point your feet must leave the ground (jumping intentionally at this point is recommended). Then you fly through the air, the rope wrapping around the tree, and you’re pulled higher and higher, closer and closer, until you are running around the tree itself. Mark has this skill perfected, and he runs around and up the tree, and then he jumps out, and into the unwrapping spin. He wraps and unwraps, over and over, never slowing down. It really was insane.

I tried it three times. The first time I ended up skidding backwards on the concrete, on my head and upper back. The second time, I skinned my shoulder on the tree (turns out it’s pretty important to keep facing the tree; otherwise you end up wrapping yourself very quickly into it. The third time, I managed to actually step along the tree at the tightest part of the swing cycle, push out gently, and unwrap, eventually coming to rest and damn proud of it.

May 15, 2007. MIT. No Comments.

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