Getti Kehayova of Las Vegas is keeping a family tradition alive: breaking Guinness World Records.
Kehayova, 42, was part of setting a record with her family in 1986 for a seven-man teeterboard — a board that resembles a seesaw. And her late sister, Dessi Espana, broke a world record by twirling 75 hula hoops simultaneously.
Kehayova — a rigger for Cirque du Soleil’s “Ka” show and a hula hoop fitness instructor — broke one of the Guinness World Records last year for the largest hula hoop spun. She’s featured in the “Guinness World Records 2020” book, released this month.
Kehayova set the record Nov. 2, 2018, using a hula hoop that’s 17 feet and one-quarter inch in diameter, which she spun outside her house. For comparison, Kehayova is 5 feet, 6 inches tall, while a midsize car is 14 to 15 feet long.
Under Guinness rules, Kehayova was required to have the hula hoop make three full revolutions around her body consecutively without holding it and without it touching the ground.
“It takes a while for just one revolution,” she said Sept. 19. “It’s almost like two-and-a-half seconds.”
Kehayova wore protective gear and had about 50 witnesses — including neighbors, co-workers, friends and people from her gym — watch her set the record. A surveyor took official measurements of the hula hoop and presented her with a certificate verifying its diameter.
She’s the first woman to break the record for largest hula hoop spun. As a result, there will now be two titleholders in the category: one woman and one man.
Kehayova — who has two sons, ages 17 and 9 — grew up in Bulgaria and performed with her family across Europe in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. She spent nearly 25 years performing, including with hula hoops.
Kehayova retired from performing five years ago and moved with her family to Las Vegas. She has lived in the U.S. since the 1990s and was previously based in Dallas but spent the vast majority of her time touring.
“It’s kind of nice to be out of the spotlight,” she said, adding it’s great to not travel and she enjoys having a “regular town job.”
But Kehayova began to miss hula hooping. She started teaching hula hoop fitness classes, held Saturday mornings at Bodysport Fitness Center, and private classes.
“It worked out great for me,” she said. “I felt like that was my closure.”
Las Vegas resident Olivia Bawarski frequently takes Kehayova’s hula hooping classes and watched her set the world record.
When she arrived at Kehayova’s house on world record day, “it was actually really nerve-wracking,” she said. “I was feeling really nervous for her.” But she said she was so proud of Kehayova while watching her accomplish her goal.
Bawarski started taking Kehayova’s hula hooping class about three years ago.
It’s a fun and out-of-the-ordinary workout with good music and can be customized for different ability levels, she said, adding, “It takes you back in time to when you were a kid.”
Kehayova has positive energy and is fun to be around, Bawarski said, adding, “She is probably one of the best people I know. She’s just good-hearted and very genuine.”
Training to break a world record
A co-worker told Kehayova about a video she’d seen of a man setting a world record for spinning a giant hula hoop and how she thought Kehayova could do better.
Kehayova said she laughed, but “it stayed with me.” She wanted to set her own world record and continue her family’s legacy.
When Kehayova started training, she thought it would be easy. She’s already a professional in hula hooping, teaches fitness classes and spent more than two decades as a performer.
She ordered a custom hula hoop that breaks down into five sections. She stores it in her garage.
The first time Kehayova tried spinning the 17-foot hoop, “it was like the worst day of my life,” she said, adding she didn’t think it would be possible.
Kehayova realized she’d lost strength since her performing days. Her oblique muscles and quadriceps burned when she tried to spin the giant hula hoop.
She worked for six months on developing those muscles by going to the gym and boot camp classes. And at nighttime — when there weren’t as many people out in her neighborhood — she worked on spinning the hoop in the street in front of her house.
While Kehayova practiced, her 9-year-old son would watch and yell out to her if he saw a car coming. Kehayova would have to pull the hula hoop out of the street and inevitably, the driver would stop to ask questions about what she was doing.
But the strength training and practice started to pay off.
“Little by little, I started feeling like, ‘OK, I got it going,’” she said.
Following in her sister’s footsteps
Kehayova started hula hooping when she was 9. Her sister Espana, who was seven years older, had just begun to perform with hula hoops in her teenage years as part of the family’s teeterboard act.
“When she began to perform, I realized I wanted the same thing,” Kehayova said.
Her sister began teaching her tricks and they performed together in one ring in the early 1990s.
After Kehayova got married, she began to perform her own act and continued traveling with the circus. In 2004, Espana died at age 32 during a show in St. Paul, Minnesota, while performing an aerial act, due to a rigging malfunction.
“It was very tragic, of course. To this day, it is,” Kehayova said.
Kehayova continued performing with hula hoops, carrying on her sister’s legacy.
“I felt like she was with me all the time when I did that act,” she said.
After retiring from performing, Kehayova took classes to become a rigger. Now, she handles the ropes and cables performers are attached to.
During the show, she assists performers with making sure their connections are set correctly and their harnesses are in good shape, she said, adding, “We are the ones that ensure the safety of all of the performers in the show.”
After years of performing in the circus and after her sister’s death, the work “kind of hits home for me,” she said.
Hula hoop fitness classes
Getti Kehayova’s hula hoop fitness classes are 10 a.m. Saturday at Bodysport Fitness Center, 1922 Rock Springs Drive in Las Vegas. Sign up at meetup.com.