The technology is as complex as you can imagine: Yo-yos are now crafted from aluminum and magnesium and etched with intricate laser designs, and they utilize ceramic bearings and silicon-ring response systems. There’s also a special, brightly colored string that’s made in Brazil and considered to be a grade above the ho-hum American variety -- to yo-yo specialists, anyway.
“We have a type-six string, which is two bunches of three strands of thread,” Cuartero explains. “Brazilian is one by 10 strands of string, just twisted together. Supposedly, this helps keep the yo-yo string more stable while you’re doing certain tricks. It also helps prevent what we call spaghetti string. When the string gets too twisted, it starts messing with your tricks. The Brazilian tends to stay more stable longer.
“I don’t know if that makes any sense at all,” he adds. “But it always sells out!”
The scoring criteria for the event is designed to please the crowd. “In a regular contest, you get five or 10 percent from how much you smile, how much you perform to the audience,” he continues. “Our event is 30 percent performance. We want to show that people are having fun on the stage. If you’re not having fun, there’s no reason to play with yo-yos. That’s what it comes down to.”
In terms of worldwide popularity, the United States is number one in yo-yo sales, followed closely by Japan, Canada, Brazil, and Russia. Cuartero thinks the yo-yo comes in and out of fashion throughout the decades, but with kids already online so much, it’s easier for them to learn tricks and become part of the sport’s virtual community. And when they attend a contest, a whole world opens up and they make new friends.
One of the most difficult tricks in the world for beginners is called Rancid Milk. I won’t even begin to describe in words how to do this, but the most-watched instructional video on YouTube for Rancid Milk is more than four minutes long. Which should tell you something.