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Day 20: The Turbo Bumble Bee GT

Back in the days when I still had the yo-yo store in St. Louis, we all loved the Bumble Bee GT. It was a favorite of all the staff, and one of our top sellers.

I remember one day I was working the store when I noticed a young boy walking towards the booth carrying one of our product bags in his left hand. He was sheepishly approaching the store with his mom right behind him, she was nudging him on.

“Hey buddy, what’s going on?” I asked.

“Uh, I need to make a return.” He whispered.

“No problem man.” I responded “What’s the problem?”

He reached into his bag and said “This yo-yo melts to easy.” He pulled out a Bumble Bee GT that was still in it’s package, but one side had been totally melted. Strings of melted plastic mixed together like oil paints on an artist’s pallet.

“What happened to it?”

“A lamp feel on it last night, when I found it this morning it was all melted.”

“Wow. You know what? There is no way I’m going to give you a refund for that… but I will buy it from you for ten dollars.”

He took me up on the offer, so I emptied up one of our glass display cases and I placed the melted Bee GT inside. Thus the “Broken ProYo Museum” was born. Throughout the next few weeks people would bring in their old broken Playmaxx yo-yos and we added them to the case. ProYo IIs, Vid-E-Yos, Bumble Bees, and even a Cold Fusion all made their way into the case.

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Day 19: The Sunset Trajectory NXG

My week of writing about looping yo-yos is at it’s end, but there are plenty of other looping yo-yos I may still squeeze in later.

I haven’t been writing about many yo-yos that are still currently available, but I couldn’t talk about looping without bringing up the Sunset Trajectory NXG.

With a simple modification, the Trajectory NXG is absolutely my favorite yo-yo for two handed tricks.

I know that the Raider will still be the Double A standard for a long time, but I just can’t get into a looping yo-yo that isn’t gap adjustable. Of all the adjustable looping yo-yos, I think the Trajectory has the best feel to it. To modify it, I simply added flowable silicone. If you aren’t familiar with how this is done, please check out “How to mod a Doc Pop Bolt“.

The gap for the silicone is much smaller than most YoYoJams, so it takes a little more work, but the end result is totally worth it. It seems somewhat contradictory that adding a flush layer of silicone would work for a looping yo-yo, but I like it so much I’m-a probably grab another pair.

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Day 18: Jason Tracy’s Cosmic Otter

In 1999, I moved to O’Fallon, IL (just a few miles from St. Louis) to open a yo-yo store in a local mall. What followed was one of the worst years of my life. Not to be overly dramatic, but it really just sucked. I lived out of my car, a Chevy Cavalier, for the first month and a half, and spent every day working my kiosk from 9am till 9 pm (except on Sundays 10am-6pm). I regretted moving from Chattanooga (my favorite little city in nation), especially when St. Louis’s long hot summer kicked in.

The humidity was so hot, that when I opened the door of my house to leave for work every morning, it felt like I was opening the door to an oven. The heat would press against me and I’d brace myself for another long day standing at a mall kiosk.

At least there was a Krispy Kreme across the street from my house.

One day I heard about the upcoming Van’s Warped Tour. I found out that many yo-yo companies would have pros there and there would be a performance stage set up and everything, so I bought a ticket… I think it was $60 bucks (or something crazy expensive), but I was able to find someone to work for me that day so I decided to splurge and attend.

It was another hot day, but I was really excited about seeing the pros, it was looking like it would the best thing to happen all year. When I pulled up to the event though, I was shocked to find out that there was only one parking lot and it was $25 to park. I had never been to an outdoor arena before, so I didn’t know this was really common. I literally had no money that day. Not in my bank account, not in my wallet, nothing. I had even spent the last of the change I could find on gas. So I had to pull away and find a parking spot at some apartments about a mile or two away and walked to the arena.

It turns out the land all around the arena (except for the parking lot) was swampland. I had no idea that they had swamp land in the Midwest, but soon I was knee deep in it. Finally I made it to the front gate and saw one of the kids from my yo-yo club sadly sitting against the wall by the ticket booth. They wouldn’t let him in with his yo-yo bag… a problem I soon came up against too.

“I’m sorry, those could be weapons. You’ll have to leave them in your car.” The door person said. I replied, “But Tommy was dropped off by his mom an hour ago and my car is parked a few miles away.” He gave me a look like I was full of bull, so I pointed to my muddy shoes as proof of my journey. “Look that’s not my problem, leave ’em outside then.” he said. We asked to see his boss, so he had us wait in an in between holding area for her. She ended up saying the same thing he did, and would not let us in with our bags full of yo-yos. She too suggested that we just leave them outside. I told her we were special performers and she could find someone from the yo-yo stage to verify that, so she left supposedly to look for the yo-yoers inside the event.

After sitting in that space for about an hour, I spotted a gap were there were no guards, so Tommy and I made a dash into the arena. Three hours after I had left my car we were finally in the Vans Warped Tour and on our way to see the pros. I was thinking about the expression “nothing good comes easily” and was starting to get pumped up again about being there.

This was the year following the big yo-yo boom, so all the companies had crazy money to spend on promotions. When a chance to exhibit and travel with the Warped tour came along, Duncan, Yomega, BC Yo-Yos, Henrys, ProYo and Fiend Magazine all jumped on it, making the Fiend North America Tour of 1999 the largest multi sponsored event in yo-yo history. The pros on hand were Steve Brown, Chris Neff, Mark McBride, Jason Tracy, Julius Szakolczai, Nick VanDerSchie, and Lester the duck.

When we found the yo-yo pros though, we soon realized that we weren’t the only ones effected by the heat and humidity. The energy at the yo-yo stage was low. At this point on the tour, I believe that folks were starting to wear on each others nerves, people were getting tired of travelling, string burns and aches were starting to develop, etc. So there was very little actual yo-yoing going on or near the yo-yo stage. Instead, the pros just seemed to grab the mic and find different ways to get girls to lift up their shirts in exchange for stickers. Julius, who is always a pro, was the only guy I can remember getting on stage and yo-yoing the whole time we were there. We did get to meet all of the pros though, and I recall Mark showing us how he made his extra long string, but most of the folks didn’t seem all that talkative. So after all of the crap we went through, Tommy and I just ended up yo-yoing with each other instead of with any of the pros.

Plenty of stickers were given out, and at some point Jason Tracy came over to us and gave us some of his beautiful Cosmic Otter yo-yos. The Cosmic Otters came in a few colors, my favorite is the “dreamsicle” one pictured above and below.

After an hour or two, Tommy said it was time for his mom to pick him up, so we said goodbye to some of the pros and I walked out with him. Unfortunately, after all the troubles of getting to the pros, the whole thing ended up being a total bust, I couldn’t have felt any sadder. While walking out the front gate I bumped into one of the pros that we didn’t see inside the event. His name was “The Lao”. The Lao worked for Infinite Illusions in Florida. He did yo-yo a little, but throwing tops was really his thing. The Lao and I totally hit it off, immediately feeding off each other and making up new tricks or variations of both yo-yo and top tricks. We hung out for at least an hour, it was great. The best part of the whole Warped Tour for me, happened outside the same gate that wouldn’t let us in with our yo-yos earlier. Man, if I would have known that I could have saved $60 bucks and had enough money to eat.

As I look now at my orange and white Cosmic Otter, it always brings back memories of one of the lowest points in my life. The crappy day, living in a city I hated, being flat broke with all of my money tied up in my store, eventually losing all that money because the store couldn’t even break even the year after the boom, etc. It’s weird to look at a yo-yo and be filled with this feeling of regret. It’s as if when I look at it, I’m looking into a crystal ball and seeing myself saying “Sure I’ll move to St. Louis, it sounds like a fun opportunity.”

Joe Mitchell has some awesome photos from the Philly stop here.

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Day 17: The Pink Duncan ProYo

Shortly after Duncan’s acquisition of the Playmaxx line in late 2001, new versions of old Playmaxx yo-yos were hitting store shelves nation wide.

This wasn’t the first time that Playmaxx made it into stores like Walgreens, Target, and Walmart. During the big boom, these stores had racks full of ProYos, Playmaxx’s wooden axled beginner yo-yo, but now the ProYo was back in stores.

It looked weird to see the ProYo in the Duncan section of my nearest convenience store. Seeing the Duncan pogs and same vacuum sealed packaging that is used for the Duncan Imperial, I couldn’t help but the two men most associated with the two companies… Steve Brown and Tom Van Dan Elzen. An odder couple could not be found.

Earlier today I saw a post on about modding a Duncan ProYo. While reading it, I suddenly remembered that when Duncan released their first batch of ProYos in 2002, a mistake was made. All the pink ProYos were actually pink Bumble Bees (Playmaxx’s higher end ball bearing yo-yo). So for just $2, you were actually getting a $15 ball bearing yo-yo.

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Day 16: The Super Tournament Repro

If you walk around town and yo-yo, you’ve probably been stopped by someone and told about “the good old days” of yo-yoing. We all hear the same old stories about how the “Yo-Yo Man” would come to town and do a show in front of the corner store. Afterwards the demonstrator would carve his name onto yo-yos for the kids in attendance, often adding images like a palm tree on an island to supposedly represent the Philippines (most of the early demonstrators were Filipino).

So it’s no surprise that when Duncan released their wooden yo-yo reproductions 9 years ago, Steve Brown and Chris Neff re-instituted the tradition of yo-yo carving Duncan pros.

Neff gave me a carved Duncan Super Tournament during his first tour for Duncan. At the time, he basically lived out of a camper van for months at a time. It’s funny that while the early demonstrators were carving images of far away oceanic scenes, Chris was carving his camper van.

The blue “Doc Pop” Super Tournament was a gift from the awesome Tom Cunningham (aka oldyoyoguy). Awe inspiring, isn’t it?

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Day 15: The AXLerator

The AXLerator isn’t exactly the first narrow body aluminum yo-yo, but it’s probably the first one designed specifically for looping. Up until it’s release, aluminum yo-yos were designed as “sleeping” yo-yos, but Custom didn’t see any reason that aluminum yo-yos couldn’t be used for two handed looping tricks so they gave it a shot.

The AXLerator is a narrow body “Imperial” type design. Like the Roadster by Playmaxx, the sides are concaved, but since the body is hollow, this doesn’t exactly remove middle weight.

The yo-yo didn’t catch on, the two handed yo-yo market was dominated by the Yomega Raider (which is still a standard) and the AXLerator didn’t really offer any improved looping action. I think the biggest flaw in Custom’s design is it’s lack of gap adjustment. Even with brand new “tub tread response” (Custom’s friction sticker) the yo-yos would loop upward. This would only get worse as the stickers got worn in, thus increasing the gap.

The AXLerator appears to be heavy for a looping yo-yo but it’s only 1 gram heavier than the Raider.

Gap issues aside, the yo-yos are very pleasant to use and loop surprisingly well. Actually, if Custom could just narrow the gap I’d quite enjoy this yo-yo.

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Day 14: The Roadster

Most wooden yo-yos on the market are made from multiple pieces of wood. It’s the most cost effective way to make a wooden yo-yo, but working with multiple pieces of wood can cause performance issues since it’s very difficult to ensure that both pieces are the same weight.

According to Tom Van Dan Elzen, the only way to make a well balanced wooden yo-yo is by making it out of a solid piece of wood. That’s why Tom’s company, Playmaxx, released the Roadster Yo-Yo.

The Roadster was larger in diameter than most looping yo-yos. Aside from being a solid piece yo-yo, the Roadster was also given a higher rim weight ratio by concaving the sides (removing some of the yo-yos middle weight).

Around the time of the yo-yos release, Tom acquired the rights to Flores Yo-Yos. The Roadsters that were sold through Dave’s Skilltoys were emblazoned with individual numbers and called Flores Yo-Yos.

So the company that started off as Duncraft, and later became ProYo, but preferred being called Playmaxx, made wooden yo-yos called Flores. I think Tom even mentioned to me his plans of releasing other wooden yo-yos under the Flores name, but these were never made.

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blistered fingers et all

This time of year is a busy season for yo-yo shows and I’ve been very fortunate to really take advantage of it this year.

In fact, I’ve been performing so much lately that I’ve reblistered both of my middle fingers. This is the first time in 5 years I’ve gotten blisters on my well calloused fingers.

With my recent performances, I’ve decided to amp up my two handed yo-yo skills. I started with some modified Raiders, but got bored and decided to dig up all my old Double A yos to practice with.

In honor of this recent loop-mania, I’ve decided to focus on looping yo-yos throughout the week.


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Day 13: YoYoJam’s Ben Jammin

The Ben Jammin was based on a novel idea; why couldn’t two handed players have a decent soft rubber yo-yo like everybody else did?

Based (presumably) on their Gator Jam yo-yo, YoYoJam made their own looping yo-yo with a rubber outer surface. The Ben Jammin, named in honor of Team YYJ player Ben Conde, was their only attempt at this.

I guess the idea wassn’t that far fetched. The Coral Snake, Moonstar, and the Mondial were all supposed to be looping yo-yos with rubber exteriors to cushion the impact on a player’s hand, but all of these yo-yos were also aluminum.

Prior to the Ben Jammin, YYJ’s only experience with rubber was the large o-rings on the outer diameter of their popular Spinfaktor line. So they had very little experience with molding rubber. Dale started off with a soft rubber (see the pictured black rubber yo-yo), but molding this material was tricky and inconsistent.

For the final product, YYJ plasticized the rubber to make it more predictable. In the end though, the final Ben Jammin (with the white rubber) is so dense it basically feels like a hard plastic.

With both models, getting a consistent mold just never seemed possible. If you look at the pictures, you can see the irregular shapes of the rubber components.

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Day 12: The Rubber Bee GT

File Under: Coolest Yo-Yo That never got made.

While searching through some of my old yo-yo photos this morning, I came across these pics of a Bumble Bee GT molded out of a soft white rubber material. I’m not sure who took the photos, but I believe it was Tom Van Dan Elzen that emailed them to me (so presumably he took them).

The concept is awesome, a rubber yo-yo with no plastic or metal hubs. Just a simple one piece design with room for a brake pad and spacers.

Of course the yo-yo had a major flaw though… when spinning it would just go crazy. The centrifugal force would pull the rubber shells in crazy directions making the yo-yo wobble at first, then it would just totally lose control and go unstable.

To this day, I don’t think anyone has successfully built a yo-yo with a rubber hub. The closest thing would be Yomega’s Crossfire yo-yo (video of squishy hubs here). But of course the Rubber Bumble Bee GT was a very simple design and the Crossfire was equipped with like 16 pieces.