Hey everybody! So, I attended my first ever World Yo Yo Contest this past weekend, and I thought I’d write a review of the entire experience. First off, a little about me. I’m 33 years old, and I’ve been yoyoing since 1992 or 1993. I’m from Louisville, Kentucky originally, but I moved to Melbourne, Florida about 3 months ago. I’m almost completely self taught when it comes to the yo yo, because there was never really any yo yo community in Louisville. I have a few friends that I would yo yo with, but because of the lack of community support, I tended to get bored and stagnant with my progression, and would go for long periods without practicing. But, regardless of those lulls, I never stopped collecting and loving yo yo’s (I have several hundred). Since moving to Florida, I’ve had a lot more free time, and I’ve become really interested in the whole process again. I practice daily, and I’ve even convinced my girlfriend to start throwing, and she’s become pretty good already. Since I live an hour from Orlando, there was no way I was going to miss the contest this year. My friend Alex flew down from Kentucky to stay with me, and the 3 of us made our way to the contest.
The Rosen Plaza hotel was a huge, beautiful hotel, and a great venue for the contest. We registered about mid-afternoon, and registration was quick, painless, and the staff was super friendly. I even found out that one of the registration staff was from my town, so I made some contacts close to home. I had pre-ordered the YoYoFactory event yo yo, and we opened it as soon as it hit our hands. I had seen a picture of it already, but was still surprised. It was super tiny! It was quite a bit smaller than even my DV888, and relatively heavy. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I threw it, but was pleasantly surprised. It’s very smooth, long spinning, with no vibe whatsoever. It took some getting used-to, being so small and so heavy, but after a while, I really enjoyed playing with it.
First off, we walked into the ballroom, and I got my first look at the madness that is the World Yo Yo Contest. It was amazing! Dealer booths lined 2 walls and part of a 3rd, people swarmed everywhere throwing yo yo’s, tops, diabolo’s, and juggling clubs/rings, and the preliminaries were in process on the main stage. If you’ve never been to the contest, it’s definitely something you need to experience to understand. The energy is incredible, everywhere you turn you see something amazing, and, the people are (for the most part) really nice and friendly. Another amazing thing is that everybody knows how to walk around without running through your tricks or bumping your arm while you throw. It never fails that when I yo yo in public, somebody, no matter how much space I keep around me, will bump me or run into my string or yo yo. I hate that. But not here! People were respectful of space, aware of their own throws, and had the patience to wait for people to finish before sliding by. It was great. We watched pre-lims for a few minutes, walked around and checked the dealer booths out, and then decided to walk upstairs with Alex to check out the mod room and the top room.
They seemed to be wrapping up a modding workshop, so we went over to the top room. I wish I’d have spent more time with the modders, as it’s something I’m very interested in learning, but time just got away from us. Alex is really into tops, so we spent a decent amount of time up there watching and learning. Top throwing is pretty interesting and fun, and I learned how to throw a top, finally. I’m pretty terrible, but with some practice I think I could get it down. I met some interesting people like Takeshi and Mark Hayward and Jorge and Rev Mike, and we had a blast watching the Corkscrew Challenge. After the Challenge, it was off to Lucky’s BBQ!
Lucky’s BBQ was awesome! The food was great, and Lucky’s house is incredible. The house itself is large, beautiful, and classy. There are at least 4 cool, friendly dogs running around everywhere, and there are 2 nice indoor pools and a beautiful lake to swim in. But, overshadowing everything, at least for me, was Lucky’s yo yo collection. I was nearly speechless for an hour, just walking around and around, trying to take it all in. Beautiful display cases cover every wall of a circular balcony area overlooking his office, and thousands of yo yo’s of every shape and size and type fill each case. One case is nothing but packs of strings from every company and year imaginable, and another is full of display boxes (some full!) ranging from Duncan to Flores to Cheerio to Royal. The giant yo yo man statue, made up of hundreds of yo yo’s, dominates one side of the balcony, and standing near it is a sweet Higby gumball machine full of counter weights. The walls are covered in yo yo memorabilia, ranging from newspaper articles and flyers, to posters and patches and awards and photographs. There’s even a hand painted, one of a kind tile from the 1600’s depicting 2 children yoyoing. I can’t stress enough how spectacular this place is, and on top of it all, Lucky is one of the nicest, most interesting people I’ve ever met. If you make it to the World Yo Yo Contest, you MUST go to Lucky’s BBQ. I promise you, it’s a mistake to miss it.
After the BBQ, we went back to the hotel to hang out and see what would happen with the Midnight YoYoFactory release. But first, we got to witness the Wheel of Penalty. It’s basically a bunch of teams spinning a wheel to determine what kind of crazy or ridiculous stunts they have to perform. It’s a very adult oriented event, and a lot of fun. The stunts ranged from chicken fights (two people yoyoing while sitting on someone’s shoulders) to tag team pantsless offstring routines. I won’t go into more detail due to the age of many of the readers here, but I highly recommend it to anyone old enough to appreciate it. At Midnight, Ben from YoYoFactory brought the entire YYF Contest Team up on stage, and made quite the presentation. The entire team was dressed in white shirts, and they all lined up to demonstrate while Ben talked. He’s definitely a salesman, and he had the crowd convinced pretty quickly, even though most of the YYF team looked extremely bored and unenthusiastic about demonstrating on stage at 12AM. As I’m sure everyone knows by now, the new yo yo is called the Replay, and it’s basically YYF’s attempt at an affordable contest-level playing yo yo. I won’t bore you with the physical details of it, as it’s already been plastered all over the internet, but I’ll give you my thoughts on it. It’s definitely worth the 10 bucks, especially if you’re new to unresponsive play and/or you’re on a budget. It’s light, widely gapped, has a decently long spin time. It would be great for beginner 3A play, and it was pretty decent for 5A as well, though I only threw it with a counter-weight for a few minutes. My main problems are that it’s not an attractive looking yo yo, and it’s VERY loud. To be fair, it is a prototype, so I’m sure a lot of that stuff will be dealt with. But, for 10 bucks, why not? I did have a bigger issue though, and I’ll tell you about it.
My issue was YoYoFactory’s customer service. They sent their players out into the crowd to let people try it out, but they were quickly mobbed and I couldn’t get a good look at one. I waited until the line completely died down, and with nobody in line, I went to the table and asked Ben if he’d show me one of the Replays. He got pretty rude with me, and told me “man, there are a million of them out there, ask someone to show you one.” I have a BIG problem with this. I didn’t ask him to let me throw one, I asked him to show it to me. I just wanted to see what it looked like. He was standing behind the box full of them, and his hand was even inside the box. All he had to do was lift one out and hold it up so I could see it. I even told him I didn’t want to throw it, I just wanted to see what it looked like. So, in a crappy, annoyed tone of voice, he asked somebody behind him to show me one. That person was nice and handed me one, and I thanked him and went ahead and bought one. But, I almost didn’t. Customer service is important to me, and the quickest way to lose my business is to treat me like crap. I’m not rude to people, and I don’t expect them to be rude to me. It’s very easy to be nice to people, and if you want to remain in business, it’s also very important. I wasn’t happy, but I wrote it off to maybe him just being busy and tired and ready to get some sleep. Now, before people accuse me of being a YYF hater, I’m not, at all. Between my girlfriend and myself, we now own a Tactic, a DV888, a 44, the Replay, an 888 and the World’s special release, and I think they’re all really well made yo yo’s and I love to throw them. But, I also know that a company isn’t doing ME a favor by selling me their product, I’m doing THEM a favor by choosing their company. Sure, the B-grades we picked up over the weekend were super cheap and nice throws, but there are hundreds of great yo yo’s out there from other companies, at good prices, with good customer service. It’s something they should remember. Also, this wasn’t my last bad experience with them over the weekend, but I’ll get to that later.
After all of that, we made the hour drive home, and passed out fairly quickly. We decided to not get a room at the hotel to save some money, since we live so close, but after a weekend of staying late and coming back early, those hour drives added up, and next year we are definitely getting a room.
The next day, we rolled in about mid afternoon, and went right to it. It was Alex’s birthday, so we were determined to have the best day possible. The day was so great that it was kind of a blur. We did a lot of shopping and exploring and yoyoing, and we met a ton of people. We threw tops, made lots of new friends and tried out what seemed like dozens of yo yo’s. People were so friendly, and would let you throw pretty much anything that had on them. I finally got to throw some Caribou Lodge yo yo’s, and I’m starting to see what the hype is all about. We spent a lot of time at the dealer booths, getting to know the people from the companies and deciding what we were going to buy. The YoYoJam people were very nice and their new product was very impressive. Takeshi Matsuura’s new AI is a sweet yo yo, and the new Hitman Pro was really smooth and nicely designed. I love my Hybrid Hitman, and the Pro is a nice improvement all across the board. I wanted to get one, but we were saving our money for the best deals we could find at the contest, and we knew we’d be able to get the higher profile stuff online pretty much anytime. We did buy a Hitman shirt, and a 2010 Worlds Edition ProJam though, because I wanted to get something from them contest-specific. They will definitely get more of my money very soon. We briefly stopped by the YoYoJoker booth next, but they were a bit out of my price range, so we didn’t linger long. They were nice guys though. We stopped at the HSpin booth a few times over the weekend, and they were very friendly and helpful. My Pyro is one of my favorite throws, and finally being able to try the rest of their product was pretty great. It’s a fine company, and I think they should get more credit than they get for making solid yo yo’s. We made our way back to the YYF booth, and they had boxes of b-grades for sale, mostly inthe $40-$50 range. We deliberated for a bit, and my girlfriend finally picked one out. She wasn’t sure which model it was, since most of the b-grades aren’t marked with the product name, just the YYF logo and the b-grade logo, so she asked the person behind the counter. Again, the salesperson was rude to us. He acted annoyed that she was asking him a question, and basically spoke down to her and seemed to think she was stupid for not knowing that it was a 44. It was a different person this time, and she really wanted the 44 for $40, so she went ahead and bought it. Like I said before, maybe it was because they were tired or distracted or whatever, there’s still no excuse for rudeness. I decided that this was the last attitude I’d accept from YYF. We wanted to come back the next day for the $20 b-grade 888’s, but if they were rude one more time, I’d walk away and never buy from them again. Three strikes and you’re out, and I think that’s more than fair. Again, more on this later. My favorite dealers of the weekend were Infinite Illusions and Werrd. Infinite Illusions had some GREAT deals over the weekend, and every person behind the table was super helpful and pleasant. Over the course of the weekend, I picked up shims, Dif pads, angel hair string, rice stacks, vapor rings, 200 poly strings, and a KYO DNS. The prices were great, and you couldn’t beat 10 bucks for 100 poly strings, and I especially couldn’t turn down a b-grade DNS with a 10ball bearing for 40 bucks. The only flaw was a tiny scratch on one rim that’s barely noticeable, and it’s as smooth as butter and spins forever. I absolutely love it. They were also custom printing shirts, and I picked up a wicked Skull design that I’m wearing at this very moment. Those guys will definitely get more business from me. I didn’t get to buy anything from Werrd (the girlfriend was keeping me in check on my spending, and I wanted to see their new stuff before I spent that much, and unfortunately, their new product didn’t make it in time), but those guys were so much fun. Kahli, Skip and everybody else behind the table were a blast to hang out with. By late evening Friday, I was already several beers in, and the fun wasn’t stopping. We watched the 2A, 3A and 4A finals, and my mind was pretty much blown. Those styles are so fun to watch, and I can’t believe they’re not more popular. Afterwards, we all hung out and drank and threw yo yo’s some more, then it was the Pink Slip contest. This is a small contest where people go head to head with whatever trick/combo/silliness they want to do. After each person goes, the crowds response determines the winner, and the winner takes the losers yoyo. The most common yo yo used was the new $10 Replay, but I saw a few nicer metal yo yo’s in use, and Bergy from Werrd lost what looked to be a nice metal throw. It was a lot of fun to watch. After that, it was time to drive home and sleep for a few hours so we could be back in time for Alex to throw in the Top Sports Ladder the next day.
On Saturday, we tore ourselves out of bed reluctantly, and made it back just in time for Alex to participate in, and win, the Top Ladder. Congratulations Alex Ayers! We got there too late to see the top freestyles, but someone had recorded part of it, and I have to say, Takeshi’s top freestyle was spectacular. That guy can do it all, I tell you. It’s just not fair! Next was the 1964 Duncan Yo Yo Tournament Re-Do, and it was a LOT of fun. It was cool to see some of the old school players on stage, and I regretted not competing. I didn’t have time to put together a 60’s outfit, and I didn’t think I’d make it in without one, but it turns out I might have been able to. Fixed axle is one of my favorite things to throw, and I’m pretty confident I could have done well, but Dazzling Dave was just shy of perfect and would have been tough to beat. He was only TWO points away from a perfect score, and that’s damned impressive. The prize was super cool as well: 4 reproduction Duncan vintage yo yo’s, and a one of a kind Freehand MG in a special old school package. I’d really like to see them do something similar next year for the 20th modern world championship. It really was a blast to watch. We went to the YYF table next, even though we thought we’d missed the $20 b-grades, but there was a sign on the table saying they’d have more out at 4pm, so we went to eat and came back in time to pick up a nice b-grade 888 with hubstacks. I was pleasantly suprised that it came with hubstacks for 20 bucks, especially with the only flaws being paint. It throws beautifully, with no vibe and the stacks play smoothly as well, and the new ricestacks we’d purchased made it a heck of a yo yo all around. This time, everybody behind the table at YYF was nice and pleasant, and there were no problems whatsoever, so the 3rd strike was averted. They put out some $20 b-grade Bosses later, but they were snatched up too quickly for me to get my hands on one, unfortunately. We went ahead and grabbed some seats for the finals, and waited for it to all begin. I’ll skip the details on the 5A and 1A routines, since they’re mostly on YouTube already, but I have to say that I was blown away by Takeshi Matsuura and Sterling Quinn. Those guys are uncanny. We hung out for a couple of hours after the finals, to see the winners announced and hang out a bit more, and good times were had by all. We partied a bit with the Werrd crew and the Infinite Illusions guys, made some more friends, and stretched our weekend out as long as we could. We sadly made the drive home around 1AM, exhausted and happy. I know I’m leaving a lot of stuff out, and I probably got some of the stuff out of order and maybe some on the wrong day, partially because of being tired and having a crappy memory at the moment, and some because it wouldn’t be appropriate for the younger crowd, but I think this is more than long enough to get my experience across. I had one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time, and I know for sure that I won’t miss another World Yo Yo Contest under any circumstances. So, thank you to the vendors, thank you to the people attending, a special thank you to Kahli, Skip, Tyler and Monica for being awesome, and a HUGE thank you to the staff for doing such a great job and making the contest such a big success. You have my gratitude and respect for doing such a wonderful job. I apologize about the length of this rambling post, but I had such a great time, and I wanted everyone to know about it. Everyone should make the effort to attend next year. You won’t be sorry.