Depending on your hooping style you may want different performance characteristics from the hoop. In general people seem to start with larger diameter hoops and gradually progress to smaller sizes.
I am currently making hoops from several different materials. The stiffer, smaller ones allows more speed and consistency of rotation, the more flexible ones have a more organic feel. Size usually affects flexibility. A tubing that is quite stiff at a small size can be more and more flexible as the size increases. The hardness of the plastic itself also has a part to play in this. The thickness of the tubing wall is also a determining factor. Its difficult to describe all the characteristics of each type of plastic at different sizes and with different wall thicknesses, but I will try to do so here.
I can make any size hoop, from 14" to 52" diameter (outside to outside). 14"- 24" hoops are juggling/ Poi Style hoops or wrist hoops. 48 - 52" hoops are for partner hooping - 2 people inside one hoop. 32-43" is the normal range for an adult hoop. The larger and heavier a hoop, the more momentum it has and the easier it is to spin as a beginner. However, the smaller and lighter the hoop, the faster it is and the easier it is to do off body moves, isolations, etc….so the size is a function of your style and experience. I suggest getting the smallest and lightest hoop that you will be comfortable with. Each hoop is custom made by hand (that would be me)....I can make a hoop that weighs around 1 pound................. or 1 pound 4 ounces ..................or 1 pound 9 ounces.
The 1 pound hoop is made from thin PP tubing, its 3/4" outside diameter, (what irrigation people and hardware stores call 1/2" cos that is its internal diameter). This tubing works best up to around 38" diameter or it gets a bit too flexible. It is the easiest to transport because the ends slide apart and then all the way around till they join again with the hoop at half its size, easy to put in an overhead compartment etc. A note on this tubing – in Jan 08 I have had a report of a couple of hoops cracking that were made from this thin tubing…it was on the east coast in the cold, and it was around the places where the batteries are…the AA batteries only just fit in this tubing, and when its cold the tubing shrinks and if the hoop is used when cold then the pressure from the batteries cracks the tube. The solution is to either get AAA batteries in this size of tubing, or to make sure that the hoop is warm before use, or to get the HDPE tubing if you are going to hoop in the cold…As I make and use these hoops in southern California, I have not come across this problem before…its also possible that it was due to a batch of defective tubing, but I don't know that at present. In general this thin tubing has been the most durable of all the tubings, but as I say, that has been in the warm weather.
The 1 pound 4 ounce hoop is made from 7/8" HDPE tubing, from a harder plastic. It is not quite as durable as the 3/4" material, but will withstand pretty much any kind of hooping moves except very hard and fast changes of direction made by hitting the hoop on the back over the shoulder, or onto any bony or sharp edged part, where two people have managed to kink the tubing. But I have used these hoops for a year at jams where anyone gets to play with them and they have never kinked. Fast hooping around ankles and knees and wrists etc is totally fine, and rapid reversals/changes of direction made off softer body parts like the palm of the hand etc are fine.
The next size up is the 1" tubing ( like the cloth taped hoops that are handmade for adults in the USA) and I can do that in the thin walled HDPE tubing like the 7/8 and it will weigh around 1 pound 5 ounces or I make it from the thicker walled and more durable but heavier PP tubing at 1 pound 9 ounces. This last tubing, the 1" PP tubing, is the most durable and also the heaviest and good from around 36 to 43" diameter. It is probably the best material for the beginning hoopster. I use this tubing for the larger, heavier hoops that are good for beginners or for extreme styles. (Moves that involve sudden and violent changes in direction at high speeds, bouncing off hard parts of the body like the shoulder blades.)"
If you are into a more mellow vibe with your hoop, and do longer periods of more laid back hooping, consider the thin PP tubing. If you are mainly dancing with your hoop, amongst crowds of other people and not up on stage, then you might consider this softer, lighter, more flexible material. It doesnt hurt so much when it makes impact!
Kids might do better with the more flexible material because it will be more comfortable for them and perhaps safer for each other. But kids seem to be able to use all sizes of hoops. I took my hoops to a boogie jam last night and a 5 year old was having an amazing time hooping with the large sized (43" diameter) hoop. She could have used a smaller one for sure, but she seemed more than happy to spin the extra weight.
I enjoy all these types of tubing and will continue to offer them all. They each have their strong points. Its a question of style, purpose and personal taste.
watch the tubing test video