Why you should care
Because they can be so much more than an innocuous pastime.
I find that sometimes you have to turn off a part of your brain to access another. That is what attracted me initially to the world of competitive yo-yoing. Regardless of the scene — a bustling downtown food court or scrappy dive bar in St. Petersburg swarming with parents, competitors and bar regulars — there is a unique instance of oblivion to anything outside of the primary focus: a spinning axle lodged in between two discs and the string keeping everything moving along.
I photographed the Pacific Northwest Regional Yo-Yo Championship in Seattle earlier this year on a whim and discovered a unique breed of competitor — one devoid of ego or pretense. Participants appear to willingly share techniques and tales.
Following my initiation into the yo-yo world, I spent time in St. Petersburg at the annual Florida State Yo-Yo Contest and an afternoon with the New York City Yo-Yo Club around Wall Street.
The 2018 Florida State Yo-Yo Contest took place in March at the Ringside Cafe in St. Petersburg. A gathering open to all ages, the dive-y city locale hosted a diverse cast of competitors. A panel of judges stood by as competitors took to the stage with their preselected musical tracks — electronic music with trap beats is particularly prevalent in this realm. In freestyle, contestants are given two minutes to perform a routine of their own creation. Scoring is based on three criteria: technical execution, technical evaluation and performance evaluation.
The New York Yo-Yo Club (NYYYC) meets weekly in a public atrium around Wall Street. It’s an opportunity for enthusiasts and competitors to socialize, talk shop and learn a trick or two. NYYYC invited me to document their meet-up while I was in town. President Brian Melford was more than happy to share techniques and gleanings from his years of competing. The camaraderie in this group was palpable, and the tricks were truly impressive.