“Look how tall this thing is. “

“How the hell do they do that?” ”

“I would end up impaling myself in a bustling heap – without even leaving the ground.” “

These and other sightings are often heard at the annual Key West Pole Vaulting Heaven Expo. (Yes, that last comment came from me during the 2020 event.)

The demo is free and showcases the speed, strength, agility and coordination of approximately 80 elite pole vaulters, ages 15-67, from 10 states, Mexico and Canada, while collecting Fund for Key West High School Track and Field Programs.

Key West resident and pole vaulter Steve Hanes started Pole Vault in Paradise over three years ago as a Key West Track and Field Club flagship event, with crucial help from Key West High School’s Dave Perkins .

The event offers spectators a free and up-close preview of the athleticism of elite competitors, all vying to break their own personal bests – and the island of Key West’s record for cash prizes. Everyone is welcome to bring beach chairs and blankets while spending a day at the beach and watching some truly awesome sporting achievements.

Pole Vault in Paradise enabled the Key West Track & Field Club to donate $ 24,000 and over $ 10,000 in equipment to the Key West High School track team during its first two years, a Hanes told Keys Weekly.

The event includes two official runways and landing pits for a high-flying demonstration.

Elite athlete Garrett Starkey clears the pole during training in October. MANDY MILES / Keys Weekly

“Athletes are always trying to beat their own personal bests or a national or world record, which makes it a big spectator event that draws hundreds of people every year,” Hanes said. “And this year we attracted even more elite athletes with the opportunity to win cash prizes. “

The slopes are open all day Friday, January 7 for athletes to practice and spectators to watch. The main event begins with a pancake breakfast at 8 a.m. on Saturday, January 8 at Higgs Beach, between Ed Knight Pier and West Martello Tower. The first flights are launched around 9 a.m. and will continue throughout the morning and afternoon as records are broken and personal bests are updated, Hanes said. Ten of the male vaulters have achieved personal bests of over 18 feet tall.

Food and drinks will be sold throughout the day, while a DJ will provide the soundtrack.

“Participant Anicka Newell, who lives in Texas and competes in Canada, competed in the Olympic Games in Rio and Tokyo and jumped 15 feet 5 inches,” said Hanes. “And Billy Olson is a new resident of the Florida Keys who should be attending. He set the world record in 1986 as the first outfielder to cross 19 feet indoors.

All proceeds from the sale of merchandise, food and drink, as well as athlete registrations, go to KWHS athletic programs.

For more information or to donate, visit