It started with a dream – a dream of breaking one of the biggest no-no’s in the world: No playing ball in the house.
Inventor Reynolds Guyer (creator of Twister) had the means to attain that dream, and that means was polyurethane. From that synthetic foam came the first Nerf ball, and from that first Nerf ball came a line of balls, bows, bats and more that continues to expand today.
Guyer’s first Nerf ball rolled out to the public in 1969. With the promise that “You can’t damage lamps or break windows. You can’t hurt babies or old people” (and no, that’s not a challenge!).
Nerf was safe enough for indoor play, but its squishy portability made it an ideal take-anywhere toy. By the end of its first year on the market, over four million Nerf balls had been sold, and a new toy superstar was born.
In the wake of the Space Race and moon madness, Nerf was nearly dubbed the “Moon Ball” by its inventor. In retrospect, the made-up word “Nerf” was a much better idea.
The original ball would likely have been a success either way, but Nerf had bigger and better things in store than a single, smallish “Moon Ball.”
Throughout the 1970s, the Nerf line expanded through nearly every sport involving a ball -soccer, golf, ping pong, baseball, basketball (the ever-popular “Nerfoop”) – and even a few with no ball relationship whatsoever (Frisbee, darts, etc.).
But the jewel in the Nerf crown was clearly the Nerf Football. Debuting in 1972, this oblong mass of foam soon came to dominate backyard tackle ball, street ball, kill the man with the ball, and intramural flag football games everywhere.
While the Nerf Football continued its reign, over 50 new kinds of Nerf products were introduced in the 80s, including; Nerf Soccerball (1980); Nerf PingPong (1982); Nerf Boomerang (1983); Nerf Indoor Golf set (1986); and Nerf Blast-A-Ball (1989).
The balls were designed to be used indoors (as it would be nigh on impossible to actually break anything with a Nerf ball) but they were more often than not played with outside where they would invariably get waterlogged, filthy and chewed by dogs.
In purple, orange or lime green, everything would stick to these balls – grime, fluff, cat hair, cats . . .
Starting with 1990’s Blast-a-Ball, Nerf unleashed an assortment of toys that fired soft, safe projectiles at unsuspecting friends or family members. The Nerf Bow and Arrow was an early favourite, and the line has grown to encompass everything from Crossbows to Gatling-style rotating guns to the motorised “Ballzooka.”
The Nerf Ball was used by astronauts on the space shuttle to demonstrate the effects of gravity and inertia.