i'd like to preface this by stating that i realize i don't deserve a signature yo-yo. maybe only a very few people do. that said, this is gonna be mine.
two years ago, i was an elementary school teacher in durham, nc. for the third time in four years, i had been graced with a student teacher. although it actually added up to more work for me than i initially expected, it came with two undeniably cool perks: the university paid me (usually right before xmas) AND i basically got 2 weeks off of teaching when the trainee took over full time. sometimes i'd wander the grounds playing haunting (annoying) melodies on my shakuhachi (no really, i'd do that). i'd watch surf movies in the lounge, enduring the inevitable witty comments of my overwraught peers. i'd play yo-yo. a lot... i even designed one.
in november of 06, i started drawing out "my dream yo-yo" on graph paper. this was right around the release of the peak, and the yo-yo i drew had a similar bearing seat, big c bearing, silicone response. i borrowed a single schmoove ring from "the end". when it came to the profile, i wanted something wicked. throw down was getting ready to release the luchador, and i was testing it. i wanted something comparably sharp and dangerous, and drew out a yo-yo that was wide, spikey, and brutal; something i'd be wary of catching, let alone throwing in a crowd. heavily rim weighted and pyro wide with a perfect square profile, i wanted it to spin forever and handle a bazillion string mutations.
i sat on that idea for months, and then on a lark, shot it off to nate weddle, who pretty much WAS throw down, asking about whether i could "borrow" his machinist to do a one-off. his response was "i like it. why not just make it your signature throw down yo-yo?" although it embarrasses me to admit it, i got really excited about that; attached to it. i thought it was really. really. cool... and i will not deny dreaming up bizarre colorways and cool little tweaks. whilst i kept dreaming, however, on and off over a year, i fell in love HARD with another yo-yo.
i had liked the tom kuhn no jive 3-in-1 for awhile... but when i approached it again 18 months ago, something was different. whereas before, i saw playing a wood yo-yo as a cool retro novelty (or something), now it just felt like yo-yoing, period. everything else was the novelty; unnecessary window-dressing. as has been documented in a metric ton of my videos, i became obsessed with throwing no jives; especially with hitting tricks on them that i had previously assumed to be impossible (ex. 1, 2, 3, 4). over the course of a year, playing ball-bearing yo-yo's only sparingly... my style evolved toward a completely different ideal. like chemosynthetic plants living deep in the ocean, i no longer required the "light" of bearings or low-response to do what i wanted to do. yo-yoing became more spiritual, more meaningful, and much less dependent upon equipment. i'm not trying to say that i became a "better yo-yoer" than anyone else; just that it "felt better" to me.
i still looked at the ronin and thought of how nice it would be to have my own special yo-yo, but since it no longer suited the direction my style had taken, it was really just empty ego thinking that.
then this winter, steve buffel of saturn precision yo-yo's released a pet project he called the "pistolero". when i saw the finished project, i was completely astounded. steve actually captured the engravings of an 1873 colt peacemaker pistol, and had used them to adorn the outer circumference of the yo-yo's rims. he had also surgically drilled 6 holes into the hub, giving the feel of a revolver's cylinder. unfortunately, a problem with the anodizing left him unhappy with the final result. although the yo-yo looked phenomenal by all accounts, he felt it vibrated too much to be released at full price, and put it up for sale direct from his site for what was basically a $75 pittance.
regardless, i never saw a yo-yo i liked the look of so much, and i contacted steve about maybe working out a trade. i offered him one of my ronin prototypes for one of his pistoleros. to my shock and glee, he not only accepted, but offered me a red one, the existence of which i was unaware. despite shipping from calgary, it showed up at my door like 4 days later, and i was even more blown away. i quickly traded a benchmade butterfly knife for a 2nd one, and it became my main player for a few weeks (along with my no jives, of course), reinvigorating my interest in playing with a bearing.
although i assumed that steve had received the ronin, felt "meh" about it, and had just kept mum to be polite... in actuality it took him about 3 WEEKS to receive it. when he finally did, he e-mailed me straight away, intimating that he liked it a lot, and if nate was truly "awol" for good, that he'd be interested in producing it for me himself. needless to say, i was flabbergasted. this was a yo-yo dream that was basically dead in the water, and suddenly it's being raised like a relic from the lusitania? moreover, jonrob, one of the yo-yoers i most respect, had just become spyy's first sponsored player, and his yo-yo, the "pure" was due out in a few weeks. though i had always associated it with extremely (maybe even obsessively) high quality, it occured to me that spyy was suddenly one of the most multi-faceted and interesting companies out there. i talked to nate about it, expressing my interest, and he said in his predictably low-key way "hell yeah, do it! i love spyy! i'll make the ronin my way eventually to make it up to people who never got their lucha libres replaced." (whether he will shall remain to be seen.)
steve and i talked, and he sent me 3-d CAD-drawings of what the ronin would look like with a few "spyyish" tweaks. it looked good, and i was dizzy at the idea of being included in something so cool... but i was also pretty conflicted. this was just not a yo-yo that matched me very well anymore. coke-can wide, and with a gap you could drive a truck through, it would probably sell great... but what's the point of having "your own yo-yo" if it's not truly, FULLY, what you want to play? despite my reservations, i didn't mention any of this stuff to steve at first.
and as it happens, i didn't need to. during our 3rd or 4th phone conversation, he basically asked whether this was really the yo-yo i wanted, and i had to say "well...". though i still can't believe it, he said "let's start from scratch", and we set about making a yo-yo that really fit with the yo-yoing i do. that was easier than it might sound. i play with no jives. i basically asked steve to make me a metal one.
obviously, it was more complicated than that, especially for him. at first we even bandied about the idea of making a wood yo-yo. but i've already got about 30 wood yo-yo's that do exactly what i want a wood yo-yo to do. i've never had (and never SEEN) a metal yo-yo that plays with the classic feel and subtlety of a wood yo-yo. that's what i wanted. steve had just finished setting up the cad profile of the "addiction", complete with a big c-size bearing and recessed silicone. he wondered whether we could use the same guts on this yo-yo, but expressed concern at the idea of such a wide gap on a slimline. it was a leap of faith, but he made it. the morning after he made the initial proof, he called me before coffee, seriously worried about whether it would work. it "just feels so different" he said. in the end though, thankfully, he evidently recognized that that's what he was going for (and maybe that's what having me on the team implied), and he went ahead.
this yo-yo is mostly all i've played for the last month or so. i've still thrown my no jives some (especially with my weak 2-handed). i love it. LOVE it. it's slim enough to put in a tight jeans pocket and plays like the emmeff dickens; just as smooth as any spyy you've ever played. it's got a hint of classic old school flavor, but handles anything the new school could possibly throw at it. it regenerates smooth and easy and eats string layers for brunch. it's going to ship not ONLY with a big c bearing, but also with a "half-spec" bearing that greatly reduces the gap and instantly makes the v tug-responsive, enabling the trapeze stalls i love to do on 3-in-1's. i wanted a slim metal yo-yo that could be set up to handle spirit bomb and shoot the moon on successive throws, or huge, beautiful fly-away dismounts... and now i've got one.
steve had the idea for the name, "the flying v". i don't exactly remember his reasons, but i liked it. the flying v is, of course, a classic gibson guitar, and fit well with our idea of a kind of "retro" profile. it also occurs to me that when i play yo-yo, i generally only "see" one half of the profile at a time. pretty much every yo-yo i throw therefore makes a kind of "flying v" as it moves over and through string segments (a little cheesy maybe, but i think it works for this yo-yo). it's also way rad that it's my favorite color, by which i don't just mean "green". anyone who's spent time in a forest will recognize that there are a bazillion "greens". this is my favorite green. it's the green you get sometimes in the early-morning shade of pisgah national forest in the blue ridge mountains (ok, really cheesy, BUT IT WORKS FOR THIS YO-YO). tressley cahill did the art for it, and i'm really pleased with how it turned out.
i'm still a little conflicted and werided out, in a "this is all surreal" way. not about spyy, mind you. i can't imagine a company that'd be easier to "rep". good people, amazingly consistent yo-yo's; what's not to like? no, although i strike a lot of people as a pretty "take-it-easy" kind of guy, i'm not at all. i over-analyze things and take apparently trivial matters pretty seriously. i still worry about being able to do something positive for the brand. i'm an old guy who's mostly good at throwing old wood yo-yo's. and here i am holding this next-generation metal masterpiece that's clearly capable of "more" than i could ever throw at it, so it's easy to feel a little guilty. add to that the fact that i'm not going to be champion of the world (i probably only barely deserve my "champion of the state" status), and there are tons of kids who can shock me with moves i don't understand after they've yo-yoed for 1/10 as long as i have. so it's also easy to feel a little apprehensive. and yet it's been made clear to me that i'm not really on the team for those reasons. so i'm just gonna keep doing what i do.
i remember when yoyojam came out with the 'matador' for jennifer baybrook, and everyone was like "um... why does she need a 1a yo-yo when she pretty much just loops (and had a concurrently issued signature looper)?" well, sometimes i worry that people will say "um... he plays old, irrelevant yo-yo's, right? why does he need a high-end metal signature?" again, i don't need one (and i don't actually concern myself with things "people will say").
so maybe it is a little weird for me to be on spyy given my proclivities... but at the same time... yo-yoing's yo-yoing. it's playing with physics, with the air, and a bit of string. sometimes there's wood attached to the end, sometimes there's plastic, or metal. i'm coming to learn that it doesn't matter as much as i thought it did - either way. it's the yo-yoing that's going on INSIDE that matters. and i really approach that the same no matter what i'm throwing.
this yo-yo is everything i could want in a metal. and at the risk of sounding [predictably] esoteric to many, the hardest, coolest, most serendipitous thing steve's done was to inject some real "soul" into it; some character. it doesn't feel like just another super-smooth metal yo-yo. yes, i recognize that it's probably just the hand i had in its creation, but this yo-yo and i connect where so many others just feel distant and alien. i really, really hope other people are able to say the same. i hope they can pick it up and feel inspired to play really honestly. cause that's really all i could ever ask of a yo-yo... or a yo-yoer.
it should be out really, really soon!