The Story of Rebounding
Ann Fitzgerald meets with Rebounder Godfather, Joachim Heymans.
In 1938 the first small trampoline (rebounder) was created by Ed Russell. I first started using them 20 years ago and created the JUMPGA program using the Trimilin rebounder. Today there are no rebounders that can match the quality of the Trimilin made JUMPGA rebounder.
Joachim Heymans, who revolutionized mini rebounders, was first introduced to them in 1979. By a friend who brought the Vitalizer mini rebounder to the UK from America. Heyman was in the UK from Germany, trying to work out what he wanted to do with his life. At first, he thought the rebounder was for kids, and his friend said he should incorporate it into his fitness routine as he was already into fitness. Heyman said, ‘It was love at first sight. It had an immediate impact on my internal system’. He was convinced by his friend to buy not only a Vitalizer mini rebounder but also set up a company to sell them.
The wholesale costs were not cheap back then, and he used half of my savings (£300 in today’s money) to buy one. When he got back to Germany on the train, his then-new wife was unhappy that he spent half of their savings on a rebounder. But he was undeterred; he was the family’s black sheep because his parents wanted him to aim for corporate life, but he knew that the rebounder was his future.
He began buying the Vitalizer rebounders from America after taking pre-orders from friends because I believed in them. He ordered 20-30 rebounders at a time, and in his first year, he sold 280 units. Unfortunately, he kept getting negative feedback about the quality of the frame and springs. When he relayed the complaints to the manufacturer, they were not interested.
In 1983 he decided to do his research – which was not easy because there was no internet and no fax; just paper catalogues – if you were lucky! He travelled to Taiwan, which was then an under-developed country, and, to add to the pressure, he didn’t speak a single word of Taiwanese.
He purchased a few components for 2 to 3 years, to begin with, then entire units. Unfortunately, he could not work with them long term because their end products always had issues. Also, even when he supplied them with the American mats, they used poor quality stitching because they were always trying to cut costs.
He moved production away from Taiwan to Germany, using the original American mats – made from a material originally used for road surfacing. The springs came from Australia – principally the same ones as Trimilin use today – and had a machine made to test the spring quality, durability, and tension. The new German-made rebounder used special threads manufactured in Germany. All this was a costly move, but it had to be done if he would stay in business.
The breakthrough moment
By 1988 he was producing his rebounders, made in Germany, but he still had the difficult task of selling the health concept to health professional retailers and traders. At that time, rebounding was unheard of as a tool for exercise or as part of a rehabilitation programme. His breakthrough happened when an elderly client – with several physical ailments – presented his rebounder on a TV show broadcast across Germany. The following day he sold out, and the rest is history, as they say. Physiotherapists and sports therapists began using Trimilin rebounders for recovering patients and sports athletes. Now nearly every top German football team uses our Trimilin rebounders, and many therapists, physicians, athletes and private users own them too.
How did the rebounder evolve?
In 1987 he incorporated bungee cords, and in 1991 I created rebounders with folding legs. I asked him whether he copyrighted the idea. He said, ‘Unfortunately, I wish I had copyrighted more because every folding leg rebounder uses my original design. But I copyrighted the bungee cord tension system used in the JUMPGA rebounder.
I was an avid user and face of Bellicon, believing that they were the originators of the bungee cord rebounder. I asked Heymans if there was a connection? He said, ‘Bellicon was formed 20-25 years ago by a former customer of mine. He tried to purchase my company under terms that I could not agree to. So, they went to China and tried to copy my rebounders, but they were unsuccessful because they could not match the quality and production. They later disbanded the idea of copying my spring rebounder, choosing instead to copy my bungee cord rebounder. But it didn’t matter to me, as we were many steps ahead of them, with all of our experience, knowledge and a top-quality product.
Why is the JUMPGA is a superior rebounder
One of the stand-out features that made me switch allegiance is the quality of the bungee cord. Heymans said, ‘Without exception, all our bungee cord rebounders use a cord coated with multiple layers of highly elastic synthetic acetate fibres for unparalleled longevity. Our competitor’s bungee cords have a thin textile coating that wears through very quickly, but ours are much more durable. I asked what about the suspension system? He said, Unlike the Bellicon or the American brand JumpSport our suspension – our ‘Vario system’ uses 12 individual cords – allowing the user to set the tension of the elastic mat to tighter or softer bounce depending on their weight and usage. All without having to swap or replace the cords.
Lastly – and most importantly – we have the only explicitly developed machine in the world that tests the tension of the cords. We have tried our competitors’ cords and know that our cords last up to ten times longer.
Why don’t you advertise more?
I told Heyman that Bellicon and JumpSport are widely advertised but not his Trimilin rebounder. Why is this?, No need – with over 35 years of experience in research and design, we are known in Germany as the most experienced and reputable manufacturer in Europe. At first, trade buyers decided to go to the Far East to buy the cheaper rebounders but soon learned that it was a false economy when they kept breaking. When these buyers returned to Trimilin, they said, “Never again – we only want to buy your rebounders”! Because I am not a large company, I don’t need to advertise like Bellicon and JumpSport to make huge turnovers, so I do not have to compromise the quality to make more money. When people find us, they never leave us.