In 1983, John Stalberger licensed the Hacky Sack® brand to the toy company Wham-O,1 based in Carson, California. Dan Roddick, the head of Wham-O’s sports marketing department,2 was instrumental in widening the sport’s popularity. “Dan… quickly embraced their new Hacky Sack® product,” the World Footbag website explains, “and began promoting it alongside their Frisbee disc as the two items shared a similar audience. For more than ten years, Roddick’s annual budget funded hundreds of footbag promotions including regional, national and world competitions, school touring teams, physical education conventions and teacher in-service clinics, fairs and festivals and television commercials.”3
A patent was issued in 1979. (? source) It was around this time that the legal distinction came into play. A hand-sewn footbag could not be referred to as a Hacky Sack®, the brand name owned by Wham-O (in the same way tissues can’t legally be referred to as Kleenex®). Other brands of footbag developed alongside the Hacky Sack® including the Balywik, Flying Clipper, Dragonfly, the Hane Dane bags, and Twisted.
It was also in 1980 that many footbag clubs and groups began to form. Oregon City’s Footbag Pioneer Club was one of the first, and sponsored its own tournaments. Others popped up around the Pacific northwest and down through California. By the mid ’80s a “standing footbag circle” had developed at Stanford University4 (though its club wouldn’t form until 1992) and competitions were being held at UC Berkeley.
Champions delivering a consistently high level of performance were starting to emerge in the late ’70s and early ’80s. John Stalberger had been using footbag to improve his fitness and right/left (better word) coordination and had collected many first place trophies in the process. He often partnered with Craig Hufford in net doubles and the two were often unbeatable. Hufford won the first major tournament in 1979.5
Other champions included Jerry Cunningham…
When Kenny Shults became established on the scene, it was obvious that some of the net rules would need to be revised, simply to remove his advantage. (expand)
In 1983 the World Footbag Association (WFA) was established. Envisioned by Bruce Guettich and Greg Cortopassi, the WFA opened for business on May 12, 1983 in an effort to broaden the sport’s reach beyond its confines of what was largely Oregon and Washington state.6 The group’s headquarters later moved to Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
1. Zeitchik, Steven. “Wham-O looks to reinvent its toys for the digital age” Los Angeles Times, August 9, 2017 https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-wham-o-20170809-htmlstory.html
4. Stanford University Footbag Club http://www.footbag.org/clubs/show/sufc
5. Hufford HOF