Say goodbye to the image of the yo-yo you have in your head. Yo-yo champions around the world are elevating this toy of our childhoods into a sport and an art form! With wild tricks that seem to defy the laws of gravity, creative twists, and the freedom to make up your own style, the yo-yo is regaining is popularity! It’s even made it to the International Space Station!
Whether you were an enthusiast as a kid, or are looking to pick up a joyful hobby, the humble yo-yo is the artform you probably didn’t realize existed as a source of endless creative wonder and community building!
So, let’s take a look at what it takes to be a champion of this fascinating, twirling world of yo-yo.
Let’s start with some basics: How did the yo-yo come to be?
Well, it may surprise you that the yo-yo has been around for a few thousand years. The earliest known variation on the toy appeared in China in around 1,000 B.C. Archaeologists also unearthed terra cotta toys from Ancient Greece that are reminiscent of the yo-yos we know today, along with images on vases depicting figures playing with them! 1
From those seemingly humble beginnings, the yo-yo has continued to capture our attention. It was even one of the 11 toys selected for a 1985 mission on the Space Shuttle Discovery as a part of the NASA’s International Toys in Space program. Since then, it has continued to return to orbit with crew members as a part of student-driven experiments in space that are meant to help teach and test the laws of physics. 2
So let’s get into the sport of competitive yo-yo!
Competitive yo-yoing isn’t a recent invention. In fact, the World Yo-Yo Contest has a history dating back as far as 1932!
Now, though, it is the world’s largest gathering of yo-yo players, featuring over 1000 people from countries across the world. 3 Needless, to say, from the yo-yo’s seemingly humble origins it has turned into a worldwide phenomenon. One that has spurred on jaw-dropping, physics-defying innovations!
To give you a taste of what these elite yo-yo players are capable of and to see what makes them tick, we have this great video from WIRED to share with you. It features world yo-yo champion, Gentry Stein. He won championships in the USA in 2013, 2015, and 2016. And in 2014 became a world champion. Take a look…
To see more from WIRED check out their YouTube channel. You can also read their full piece about Gentry and how he got into the sport of yo-yo on their website.
Yo-yo is a great bridge between athletic and artistic pursuits.
It tests your hand-eye-coordination while allowing you to get creative with your tricks, the music you yo-yo to, and your own style!
Are you inspired to pick up a yo-yo of your own? Maybe give one to a kid in your life?
Luckily, there are a ton of great resources out there to get you or a loved one into yo-yo. Start by taking a simple spin around YouTube. There, you’ll find tricks and teachers of all kinds you can tap into to start to build up your knowledge and bank of skills! If you want a really great resource, try checking out YoTricks, they have a huge library of videos to check out, and a great how-to on getting started with your yo-yo.
The remarkable community around the yo-yo strikes me as one of its greatest assets. Like so many activities we choose to do as amateurs or professionals, the communities we build around the things we love are equally as exciting as the activities themselves.
There’s something precious about finding a positive niche community!
Is that what loneliness is all about: not having a group of people to celebrate some small wonder with?
If you want to check out a few more niche communities to appreciate—and possibly join—here are some we have written about here on Ever Widening Circles!
Who knows, your next pastime may just be waiting to be tapped into!
Stay beautiful & keep laughing!
Have a yo-yo story you want to share?
We want to hear it! Share it with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and use the #ItsStillAnAmazingWorld! In 1st grade, I pulled the name of my crush for secret Santa, and after spending weeks agonizing over what to get them I finally decided on a very fancy yo-yo. He was very unimpressed. Sorry, Ben!
- Winner, Tara. “Out of This World: A Brief History of the Yo-Yo.” The Strong, National Museum of Play, 8 May 2017, www.museumofplay.org/blog/play-stuff/2017/05/out-of-this-world-a-brief-history-of-the-yo-yo. Accessed 9 May 2019. ↩
- NASA Education. “International Toys in Space.” NASA, NASA, 17 June 2014, www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/microgravity/home/toys-in-space.html. Accessed 9 May 2019. ↩
- International Yo-Yo Federation. IYYF, iyyf.org/world-yo-yo-contest/. Accessed 10 May 2019. ↩
- WIRED. “How This Guy Became a World Yo-Yo Champion | WIRED.” YouTube, WIRED, 4 Apr. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wiNh4LLQzg. Accessed 10 May 2019. ↩