Saturday, February 14, 2009

yo-yo #25: beefcaked custom mag

i bought this yo-yo from one of the yo-yo "mall carts" that were ubiquitous at the end of the great boom of the 90's. i'm not sure if the cart was actually called "yo momma", but i like to remember it that way. this was my first metal yo-yo.

actually that's not accurate.

my first metal yo-yo predated this one by about 16 hours.

the year was 1999. the great pendulum of the yo-yo craze had almost completed its momentous swing, and was preparing to recede into oblivion. i was a ymca camp director, and preparing to enter my first year as a 6th grade teacher. yo-yoing definitely possessed a childlike energy that i felt i could harness and manipulate to gain the trust or interest of my future students. however, it would take me years to learn how to do that effectively.

around this time, i remember rediscovering the punk bands to which my friend hilary had exposed me during college. i was living alone in a gutter of an apartment called "the arbors", where i courted my fiancée (living with her parents), and my most constant companion was a psycho-kitty named emiko. my parents had just moved to baltimore, where my dad would occupy a prestigious-but-frustrating position at johns hopkins, leaving me alone in winston-salem (the city of my birth). i was in my final (and most serious) year of studying korean tae kwon do, and on the many days that i was too injured to go to class, i'd frequent hanes mall for an orange julius or to blow the money i didn't have at the food court, being at the time a thoroughly worthless cook. directly adjacent to the food court was the ever-lively yo-yo cart.

on one particular late summer day, the denizens of the mall-cart scene seemed more than ever to sense that the boom was waning, and though the little mall courtyard was abuzz as ever with yo-yo players debating the mount for hydrogen bomb, there was a palpable air of anxious energy. a number of the more popular players in town had already abdicated their thrones for other up-and-coming trends (like soap shoes... wow). the owners had already started to slash prices, in part because everyone who frequented the cart had already acquired product that was more than capable of the highest standard of play, and sales had begun to taper. as such, the cold fusions and silver bullets that normally cost over $100 were now available for [a still ridiculous $75]. (a month later, sb2's would be available at "hobby lobby" for $27. it was not entirely unlike the present economic downturn.)

at the time, paying so much for a yo-yo just seemed ludicrous. how perspectives change. the one metal yo-yo brand that seemed at once reasonably priced without sacrificing much in the way of quality was the custom line. custom yo-yo was a brand from mesa, arizona. their most popular model was the undersized "reactor". although this had previously been a rare aluminum/wood axle yo-yo (a la the silver bullet 1), it had recently been upgraded with a ball bearing axle, making it competitive with the other popular "throws du jour". later, they would become embroiled in a well-known lawsuit with playmaxx for patent infringement (due to their use of "performance rings" friction stickers. this would come to effectively bankrupt custom, which fully ceased their yoyo production.

at the suggestion of the lanky clerk i most trusted, i bought the reactor.

i drove back to the mall later that evening because i HATED the feeling of the white plastic "performance rings". talking to another guy who worked the cart, he brought my attention to another of custom's flagships; the mag series. these yo-yo's were carefully machined to resemble fancy car-wheels, and they had all sorts of styles. although some of them were, imo, totally overdone and gaudy, my eyes fell upon one incredible model that i still feel comes off as one of the best looking yo-yo's ever made: the custom mag predator.

the predator had 4 rotationally symmetric cuts into it giving it a deep, swirling motif. so much of the aluminum was removed that it felt amazingly light, and as it spun, the cuts moved so much air that a graceful "whoosh" was produced. the thing looked fast just sitting on the shelf in the box, and best of all, it had no "performance rings", whatsoever. rather, the response was simply a tapered gap, allowing the friction of the string on the wall of the yo-yo halves to cause the yo-yo to bind and return. back then, tug-response was still ideal, so i was thrilled to have a hassle-free option that wouldn't degenerate over time. this would be my pocket yo-yo... for the next 3 years.

sometime after buying the mag and starting work... i effectively gave up learning tricks. i had learned a lot of the stuff on ken's world (the only online trick website i knew of at the time), and that was more than enough to impress everyone i knew. i thought i was pretty progressive, but with the scene basically drying up (and i guess, my own passion for it doing so, as well), it never occurred to me to learn otherwise. i became complacent, and the degree to which this stunted my growth as a player represents my biggest - my ONLY - regret in yo-yoing.

a couple years later, i would discover the superyo renegade, and my passion would be momentarily rekindled, but i'm still plagued by the question of what my yo-yoing would be like now if i had not given up the ghost in y2k. it's easy enough to take respite in the knowlege that during this interim, i got married, took up aikido, learned to surf, immersed myself in ditch and hill skating, and was blessed with my first-born. it's not as though those were wasted years.

nowadays, the mag resides in my metal collection. needless to say, i'll never trade it. sometime around 2004, i beefcaked it to make it unresponsive. it sports a dif pad and a carbon fiber sticker to accomodate the ridiculous gap. i satined out the rims which were riddled with jagged dings. though it's a "modified" shape, and can't compete with its modern wide-butterfly counterparts in terms of ease-of-use... there's no 1a trick i know that i can't hit on it. amazingly, it's still among the smoothest yo-yo's i've ever played.

the "whoosh" sound it makes is only ever satisfying, and instantly transports me to a time when yo-yoing (and my adult life) still felt new, unknowably vast, and thoroughly exciting.


Strung Out said...

"this would come to effectively bankrupt custom, which fully ceased their yoyo production."

Actually, Custom is still making yo-yos today.

kinopah said...

i should have said they ceased developing new yo-yo's.

i had been under the impression they were just selling off old stock, but i gather they're still making new (old model) yo-yo's and selling them in very limited quantities?

thanks for the catch.

Strung Out said...

Yeah, I was shocked when I was at II a couple of years ago and saw Custom yo-yos in new packaging. I thought they were long gone also.

This is Nathan signed in on my contest account BTW.