Hey, everyone. Thought I’d whip up some prose (more like a stream of consciousness, actually) for you all, describing my experience at Illinois States.
I’ve only been to three yoyo contests (IL states last year and Triple Crown were the two others), and this weekend’s is probably one of the biggest (or at least, the one where I’ve met the most people in the community). I’m a regular at the Chicago yoyo club, and I thought I’d kick the weekend off by going to our brick and mortar yoyo store for Ben Conde’s Yoyo University. I threw for a bit with a few club members and even met Ann Connolly. I haven’t really learned a new trick in a bit since I got stuck on the last step of Superman this summer and wanted to learn something new. Ben taught me a new bind. He said he doesn’t know what it’s called. For those curious, it goes from a breakaway, to an undermount (at least I think it’s an undermount. It’s the reverse trapeze, opposite 1.5-ey thing you do when you’re about to do a regular bind from side-style), suicide it, palm grind onto your NTH, tug and catch. Maybe you can tell me if it has a name. I’m calling it “Ben’s Bind” for now. I also told Ben that I thought Tessa Piccillo deserved her signature yoyo, and he concurred.
I went home afterwards and took a two hour nap at 11pm. My sleeping schedule is pretty finicky. So when I woke up, I felt energized and couldn’t go back to bed. I then played Minecraft and explored an abandoned mine shaft for awhile. (For those who are familiar with Minecraft, you know what I’m talkin’ about! Pretty addictive!)
Come 10am, I left my place and took the bus over to Navy Pier to see the contest. I’m not really one to compete, but I like taking a peek and seeing what’s what, meeting people, and learning some tricks.
I ran into my former physics student, mxyoyo, which was awesome because I haven’t seen him since June. I was very happy to see he’s still throwing. I also ran into the usual Chicago yoyo club peeps.
I threw for a LONG time at the contest, just people-watching and taking in a few freestyles. Ann taught me a Jason Lee trick called Sling, and I also stalked my buddy Eric Tranton (from Werrd and this year’s State Champ) as he showed someone named Ty (1st in 1A) this kinky type of suicide that I’ll try to learn. (Again, for those interested, from a trapeze you kind of throw the loop – underneath the yoyo and forward – in a plane perpendicular to the plane of throwing and catch it when it comes around. Kind of a 3D-ish suicide – pretty neat!).
Connor Seals from Team Yoyojam and our yoyo club was there, and I made a point of telling him I’m a fan. I wished him luck. He asked me why i wasn’t competing and I told him that I thought I was too old (I’m 28) and that I wasn’t anywhere near competition-caliber. He then told me that age doesn’t matter and that you practice counts for a lot, encouraging me to compete sometime. My fondness of Team YYJ was affirmed here. It’s not often that you meet a kid who was brimming with so much positivity that they tell someone twice his age, “hey, man. you can do it!” I shook his hand and walked around. Team YYJ rules.
I picked up some Loop 808s and met thrower from Florida, Danomano. Extremely chill dude. He let me try his Playmaxx Bumble Bee and taught me shoot the moon. I ended up landing it, which is huge, since I’d like to get really good at 2A at some point. As a side note, I prefer Unleasheds/Sunsets, but the Loop 808s are great for the price.
2pm: I drop my FG Mischief Chief doing a 1.5 mount hop as the counterweight hit someone’s backpack. Anodization burn smell fills our noses. haha
I heard my buddy from the yoyo club David Addis refer to the announcer as Takeshi.
“Wait a second. Takeshi? As in the Exit 8 Takeshi???” I asked.
It was! He introduced me to him. Takeshi was an incredibly nice guy. He drove me and Danomano to the after-party. During the car ride we tailed the rest of the Duncan Crew down Lakeshore Drive (unbeknownst to them), and he told us how he went from being a civil engineer major to throwing yoyos for a living. We traded stories about telling our families that what we wanted to do didn’t match up what with what they wanted us to do (I walked into college as a pre-med student and ended up being a high school physics teacher). Turns out we both have pretty demanding, but understanding fathers. Great conversation.
At the after-party, I sat down with Danomano and had a drink as we discussed [Monday night television shows that I won’t discuss here because it’s embarassing] and yoyoing. It was a pretty interesting conversation as he’s been throwing since the late 90s, but has just got into unresponsive play about a year ago. I walked around and rubbed elbows with people and I found myself at Eric Tranton’s table, where he was sitting with Alex Berengel (from CLYW) and Derek Britson (Team Square Wheels). We talked about college, going to college, and yoyo culture/teams. I ended up trading one of my Chiefs for a Cascade and other stuff (I know! ME trade one of my Chiefs? Crazy. Right?), which I was very happy with. It’s a nice grinder and an “addictive” shape, which makes learning Ben’s Bind much easier.
At this point, my ritalin was wearing off (Yup, I’m a teacher, diagnosed with ADHD) and I was extremely sleepy. The Chicago Yoyo Club always does a longest sleeper throw contest at the end of every meet-up, so we all did a huge one. Seeing a CLYW dude like Alex participating in a sleeper contest was pretty neat! We packed it up, paid our bills, and parted ways.
All in all, I think the weekend was a great success. The IL state yoyo contest had A LOT of people watching and buying yoyos; I saw a lot of new, young players walking around with YYJ Classics (Hey vendors! Take a hint!). It was great meeting new people in the community and other sponsored players. It reminded me that when I’m watching people on youtube bust out 3-minute freestyles at contests that there are human beings behind that performance, with their own stories – everyone is represented, from kids half my age learning the ins and outs of sponsorships to college graduates with careers who are taking a weekend out of their life to throw for a few minutes on a stage.
The real world – school, work, lack of work, what have you – is kind of drab and harsh sometimes. But don’t forget that we’re a community filled with good-hearted people and unique stories. And there’s always someone to talk to. It’s kind of funny that we all gravitating towards a “silly toy,” but whatever.
I highly recommend going to a contest if you get a chance!
(steps off soap box)
EDIT: Big ups to the sponsors and everyone who was involved in organizing the contest. I’m buddies with the people who worked behind the scenes to make it work, and they worked HARD. Chi yoyo club leader, James Buffington, had his first meal of the day at 8pm!