There was no yo-yo boom in my childhood. In fact it seems that yo-yoing skipped the 80’s completely. As a result I never really picked one up until I after my 21st birthday.
I was still living in Tennessee at the time, but I decided to fly out to Seattle for my 21st birthday. I had made contact with some label reps at K Records and Kill Rock Stars in Olympia, WA, so I booked a two week flight and headed out west.
As a long time fan of World’s Fair expo sites, my first stop in Seattle was of course the Space Needle. The Space Needle was built for the 1962 Worlds Fair. This was my first trip to the Space Needle and I needed a trinket for my World’s Fair collection.
I had narrowed down the choices to either getting a Snow Dome or a yo-yo. I decided on the yo-yo because it was $.50 cheaper… I often wonder about how different my life would have been had sprung for the snow dome instead.
Throughout the next few weeks I played with my new yo-yo while walking around Seattle and Olympia. I wouldn’t say that I had gotten good with it by the time I returned to Tennessee, but I had two weeks more practice than most of my friends. After arriving back in Nashville I stopped by a local mall to get a bite from the food court. It was early in the morning and most of the shops were just opening. On my way to get a taco I saw a guy opening up a new kiosk called Yo Momma’s. His store was full of yo-yos, so I pulled out my green wooden souvenir and show him some of the tricks I was working on during my excursion to the Northwest.
He hired me on the spot and I started working the very next day. A month later I became manager of that kiosk and we opened 3 more in the city. Pretty soon we had opened 8 locations and I was a regional manager. Of course the whole time I was training employees and watching the stores, I got to play a whole bunch.
So, for the first weeks of my yo-yoing life, this souvenir from Seattle was the only piece in my collection. Then I moved up to Bumblebees and Vipers and Bumblebee GTs and Renegades and Hitmen etc….
The Bolt yo-yo is a fun yo-yo to mod. Whether it’s a basicsilicone mod or work on the lathe, Bolts are a cheap base for mods.
In the picture above I have three of my favorite mods.
On the left is Dave Poyzer’s modified Bolt. It’s made with weight rings from a Yomega Hyper Warp Wing. The pogs are clear with printing on them and a second layer underneath the clear pogs with more printing. This yo-yo placed third at the modding contest at the World Yo-Yo Contest.
In the middle is another of Poyzer’s fine creations. This Bolt has been lathed to fit weight rings chopped off of the Zombie by Small Minds. Both of Poyzer’s mods feature IRS (interchangable response) rings, which is like a starburst insert for o-ring yo-yos.
The Bolt on the right is similar to the Doctor’d Bolts I sell on my site, but my buddy Nick tweaked it a little more on the inside with shmoove rings. This Bolt is one of my two top yo-yos in my arsenal. Check out the pictures on the bottom for close ups.
The Twin Twirler, made by Kusan in the 50’s and 60’s, was a yo-yo top combo. From what I’ve heard, the Twin Twirler was only sold in Chattanooga, TN (with the exception of the Kusan World Yo-Yo Contest in NYC)… Of course I found that out about a month after moving from Chattanooga to ST. Louis. I wish I would have known that I should have looked for Twin Twirlers while I was living there.
In this picture of a pack of Twin Twirler string (via Dave’s Yo-Yo Museum) you can see the two ways the Twin Twirler was intended to be played; as a top or a yo-yo.
Bob Baab was a Kusan demonstrator in the 60’s. During a phone conversation with Bob in November of 2000, he described how he and fellow Kusan demonstrator Dale Oliver used to demonstrate the Twin Twirler. Bob said that they would wind up their yo-yo using the same offstring winding technique we use now, then they would throw their yo-yos sideways (parallel to the ground) and they would spin freely on the ground like a top.
Bob went on to describe a method of getting the yo-yo back on the string and wound back up to the hand by sliding the yo-yo string into the gap, wrapping it around axle, and pulling. Baab was pretty much describing the beginnings of offstring yo-yoing. Throughout the years, Dale continued this offstring winding technique, but he started throwing the yo-yo from a forward pass and catching it on the string. It would take about 30 years though before Jon Gates would find a method of making an offstring yo-yo return to the hand.
The Screw Ball Mini was made by Tomy in 1998. It was one of the first transaxle miniature yo-yos and was only available in Japan. The Screw Ball didn’t have ball bearings, but the plastic sleeve worked great. In fact, I believe the Screw Ball played better than most of the ball bearing minis that came out 3 years later.
Hironori Mii (offstring world champion and founder of Team Off-String) once told me that in order to achieve the highest level of Team Off-String, a player had to do all of the team’s offstring trick list on a Screw Ball. That is hardcore, but of course the guys from T.O.S. were freakin’ hardcore as well.
As early as 2000, I was working on designs for a yo-yo/top combo, but it wasn’t until 2004 that I was actually able to get one of my favorite designs made. I asked my friend, and expert top and yo-yo crafter, Alan Gray to make a yo-yo with a yo-yo with a whole for for a shaft to run through. This is the yo-yo he made.
The yo-yo is built from a BC wooden yo-yo, with a ball bearing added. Through the hub of the yo-yo, Alan made a hole that runs through the axle. Through the hole, there is a shaft with elongated top tips. On either side of the hole, there are ball bearings that the shaft sits on.
So, there is a ball bearing in the center of the yo-yo, and two bearings on either side of the hub for the top tips to sit on. The yo-yo plays decent, it has a little wobble, but it’s not bad for a wooden yo-yo.
After the release of Duncan’s popular Freehand yo-yo, YoYoJam felt they needed a wide bodied yo-yo in the $15 range. They used their Dragon Jam as the basis, but pulled the edges out further to give it that wide/smooth design. I begged Dale to make the yo-yo with friction stickers, but Dale just wouldn’t go for it.
The design of the yo-yo began in October of 2001 and the yo-yo was released in September. I don’t recall ever hearing this new wide bodied YYJ referred to as anything other than a modified Dragonjam, so I assume that calling it “The Patriot” was a reference to the terrorist attacks earlier than month.
Around this time, everyone had little flags on their car and there was a certain universal patriotism in the air, so it wasn’t really a surprise to find out that YoYoJam had decided to call their new yo-yo The Patriot… but I was a little surprised when I first got mine and saw that the pog art was of Uncle Sam riding what appeared to be a missile (but it could be a firecracker) with an American flag. The whole thing seemed a bit too over the top. It looked like a bad biker tattoo, minus the bald eagle carrying lightning bolts with it’s wings wide spread and symmetrical.
Luckily, I wasn’t the only person who thought the pogs looked horrible, so the next batch of Patriots came with engraving on the inside of the pogs of an American Flag. This lasted for a month and then they started making a simpler foil pog with a much simpler Patriot logo and no imagery.
The Patriot later became the basis for the Bolt and the Kickside. Why they changed the name to the Kickside is beyond me, it’s just a Patriot with o-rings.
In the bottom pic you can see my Midwest Regional special edition Patriot with a logo designed by TitiFreak. Just a reminder, this year’s MWR is this weekend at the Mall of America. Wish I could be there!
This yo-yo was given to me by Al (Jun Aramaki) at the 2005 California State Yo-Yo Contest. This YoYoJam Spinfaktor HG, is made of enyo plastic and was made exclusively for the Japan National Yo-Yo Contest.
It’s a hybrid yo-yo (starbursts and an o-ring), but with some shims and a cleaned bearing it plays as well as it looks.
During California States, Al did one of his awesome triple a freestyles which we unfortunately had to end early due to explicit language. He was using some Beastie Boys song that I had not previously heard… and had more cussing than any other Beastie Boys song I had ever heard. As a matter of fact, sometimes the music would even cut out write at when the swearing would get heavy.
The funny thing was that Al had no idea… unless he was just trying to see how much he could get away with by pretending he didn’t speak enough English to know that the song was inappropriate. For the rest of his stay we referred to him as Jun “F Word” Aramaki.
Ever since Whip (Brazilian artist and member of the Duncan Crew) brought his first Mongus to the World Yo-Yo Contest, I’ve been Mongu-lomaniac. I bought the last available Mongu doll that weekend and coincidentally got my first tattoo which was based on art by Whip’s brother TitiFreak.
A year later, Duncan released the Mongu Freehand Zero. Even though I’m deathly allergic to friction stickers, I bought one and kept it in the package next to my doll. Every time I saw it, I yearned to be able to feel it’s smooth brown plastic pressed against my palm, but knowing that the sonically welded packaging was the only thing protecting me from those evil friction stickers.
Finally, I got the idea to send my Mongu Freehand Zero to my friend Nick (Feral Parrot) for some quick modifications. A week later, he brought me my Modded Mongu, complete with recessed silicone and shmoove rings (like those found in The End yo-yo). The mod is great, definitely the favorite Duncan in my collection.
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.
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.