January is national hobby month and here at THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT, we've decided to celebrate by looking at those hobbies that are well, a little bit out of the ordinary - extreme hobbies.

Today, we're talking yo-yos.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1: What was that?

Unidentified Man #2: It's a yo-yo.

Unidentified Man #3: Physical(ph) butterball(ph), 28-inch string, silk, real smooth action.

STEWART: How extreme can you get with a yo-yo sure to smack in someone upside the head with it?

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Well, yo-yo-ists or yo-yo players, as they call themselves, take this so-called toys quite seriously, engage in what some call velocity veracity.

TOURE, host:


STEWART: The founder of YoyoNation.com is in the studio, Pat Cuartero.

Hey, Pat.

Mr. PAT CUARTERO (Founder, YoyoNation.com): Good morning.

STEWART: Thanks for the yo-yo, by the way.

Mr. CUARTERO: No problem. It's a pleasure.

STEWART: So how did you go from just playing with a yo-yo to being this top competitor?

Mr. CUARTERO: I think it was all just by accident, really. So I started off as a hobbyist, I guess. And after four months, I went to this local contest in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, which is, yeah, very close to where I was. And all of a sudden I won the contest and I don't really remember winning anything like that.

TOURE: When you say contest, though, what do you mean? Is it like the amount of times you go up and the quality tricks or…

Mr. CUARTERO: Yeah. You know, back then, I remember it's a different contest format than what we have today. Before, it was like, you know, if you can do a certain trick or if you can get to a highest level of a certain trick, then you win the contest. And the tie-breaker would be if you could do a certain amount of something of a certain trick, which I'll demonstrate later, then, yes, you would win.

TOURE: So it's kind of like figure-skating and that it's judged sort of thing rather than like, you know.

Mr. CUARTERO: Yeah, yeah exactly. And especially nowadays, a contest is specifically set to three minutes of music and you go on stage and you do as much as you can. And then they will have compulsories before you do that, which is the preliminary. This is all like, you know, aspects of figure skating like you say so, that's judged in a similar way, except not as…

STEWART: I have to ask you this, so, on your Web site, you had all these competitions and this is a description of one. John Robertson(ph) shows us what nasty is with his first taste 5A freestyle using a one-half Bapezilla and a one-half Eetsit, an Anti-Yo man all the way.


(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: What does that mean?

TOURE: What do you…

STEWART: What the heck does that mean?

Mr. CUARTERO: Okay, well, you've got to realize that some people or a lot of people in the yo-yo community are - have very dynamic personalities and this guy John Rob, he always says stuff like, you know, that's nasty or, you know, get it or, you know, step up your game, you know, all that kind of stuff. So that's what that means, you know, with the whole nasty words. So…

STEWART: Okay. What is Bapezilla?

Mr. CUARTERO: Bapezilla and Eetsit are two different kinds of yo-yos and what he did was - from a company called Anti-Yo, which is that last sentence you were talking about there. And two very popular yo-yos - high-end aluminum metal yo-yos and stuff. And what he did he took one-half of one yo-yo, which is the Bapezilla and another half of another yo-yo, the Eetsit and just combined them to make one yo-yo.

TOURE: Dude…

STEWART: A super Yo-yo…

TOURE: You left Merrill Lynch to surround your life with yo-yos.

Mr. CUARTERO: Yeah, yeah.

TOURE: Are you sure?

Mr. CUARTERO: I would never go back. Well, I don't want to say never, but there's a very slim chance of me going back to any, I guess, corporate situation…

TOURE: You have an IRA?

Mr. CUARTERO: Well, from Merrill, you know, a little bit of stuff like that, yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: The man knows his money.


(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Let's' talk about equipment. I mean, like a lot of sports, if you're in this for competition, how much does a competitive yo-yo cost?

Mr. CUARTERO: You can actually get - even the yo-yos in your hands are exactly the same shape of the yo-yo that I would use, except mine will have a ball bearing in it so it spins longer. But that would be around $13. That's what I compete with.

TOURE: What is the…

STEWART: How high could they go to?

Mr. CUARTERO: I'm sorry.

STEWART: How high can they go to?

Mr. CUARTERO: They can go up to $450. And there's…

TOURE: $450 for a yo-yo?

Mr. CUARTERO: For a yo-yo, yes, made out of magnesium. It's precision-balanced. It comes in this really, you know, elaborate wooden case with all these, you know, fancy parts in it and stuff like that.

TOURE: You actually came with a yo-yo case. What is…

STEWART: What is in there?

TOURE: …in your yo-yo case?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CUARTERO: So, in a typical yo-yo player's case, there would be a lot of string, first of all, because you're always, constantly switching out on your string. You don't want that string to break and, you know, possibly hit somebody.

TOURE: You use silk?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CUARTERO: I use 100-percent polyester string, but again, a different string for a different application. There's five different styles of play like 5A with John Rob. I use - so for one yo-yo doing mostly string tricks, which was what you saw me doing earlier, that's what I would use 100-percent polyester string for.

For - my main style of tricks, which is 2A, you could do two yo-yos, which are mostly looping at the same time and, yeah, and then - I use 50 percent-polyester, 50-percent cotton strings. And, you know, there are strings made of rayon, nylon, cotton, 100-percent cotton, mixtures of the two, different lengths, different colors and such so.

STEWART: We're talking to Pat Cuartero. He is a championship yo-yo and we are going to put video of you doing your thing at our Web site. You've got to see it to believe it. How many people are active in the world of extreme yo-yoing?

Mr. CUARTERO: I would say in the world and it is growing because of the emerging markets such as Russia and India and China and such - but, for besides those countries, I would probably say about, you know, 3,000 to 4,500 or so, which really is very small, you know, comparatively speaking. But for our market and, you know, for the enthusiast market, it's something to be proud of. And, you know, you could share that.

TOURE: Is there a Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, dominant figure sort - a Kobe Bryant who you look up to like, oh my God this guy, he's unbelievable.

Mr. CUARTERO: Yes. There are but for different styles. So people really specialize in certain discipline. Again, there's five styles to yo-yoing, and I guess each one of them or maybe of two of those styles really has that, you know, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods type of a role model or icon.

TOURE: So who's - I mean, who's the man?

STEWART: Or a woman.

Mr. CUARTERO: Yeah, yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TOURE: Well, I mean, well, wait that will be my next question, is it mainly men? Are there women in this?

Mr. CUARTERO: It's predominantly men and then the few females that are in the sport, get picked up with, get sponsored very easily. So you can be - well, they're great players, of course, but you can start off as a mediocre player and be female and get sponsored right away because they're high demand, of course so.

STEWART: All right. Well, then I'm going in. Okay…

(Soundbite of laughter)

TOURE: Yeah, yeah, yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TOURE: Since there are sponsorship opportunity, Alison is standing up.

STEWART: I'm up.

TOURE: She was good at it when she was eight she says.

STEWART: Yeah, I was.

TOURE: Can you do a trick? Can you show her a trick?

Mr. CUARTERO: Of course, I can.

STEWART: Okay, this string goes where? You told me earlier, but I want our audience to know.

Mr. CUARTERO: Sure. This string goes on your middle finger and between your first two knuckles…

STEWART: Okay, it's there.

Mr. CUARTERO: Okay, so then, the first thing you want to do is learn how to hold the yo-yo. You want to make sure that the string is coming up the top of the roll. If you hold it in your hand (unintelligible)…

STEWART: On top of roll.

TOURE: (unintelligible) standing up.

Mr. CUARTERO: Yeah, if you're holding it, come up. Yeah, that's perfect actually.


Mr. CUARTERO: So you hold on - hold the yo-yo with the string coming off the top of the roll…

STEWART: Looks like a small letter B.

TOURE: Right.

Mr. CUARTERO: Yes, exactly. That's works, right.


Mr. CUARTER: Okay, so then hold on to the yo-yo now. All right. So we're going to learn this first trick. It's called the gravity pull, and it's the most important trick that I teach, you know, everybody when they're first starting to play with yo-yos. It's a very intense trick.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TOURE: She is so excited.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: I got my intense face on.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CUARTERO: Okay, so you want to start off with your hand, just kind of like in front of you.


Mr. CUARTERO: And with your palm down. Okay.

STEWART: Palm down?

Mr. CUARTERO: And there's three things you want to do here. Number one, you just want to, don't do it yet, but you want to - I'll go to the three things first. You want to drop the yo-yo, don't throw it down. A lot of people when they first play with the yo-yo, they tend to just throw it down and it goes crazy and they can't pick it back up, okay? So then you're just going to drop the yo-yo.

Okay, number two, you see those, there's two ends of the string.

TOURE: Oh, Alison did it, oh.

Mr. CUARTERO: She did it. Okay, now you need…

TOURE: She dropped it and came right back to her. Hey, like that, oh, she's good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CUARTERO: You don't even need lessons.

STEWART: I don't play. I don't play.

TOURE: No, you do play. You're a yo-yo player.

Mr. CUARTERO: You're the yo-yo player.

STEWART: Okay, be serious.

Mr. CUARTER: There you go. You want the sponsors?

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: All right. So that's all I had to do?

Mr. CUARTERO: That's all you have to do. But there are certain tricks to the trick, I guess.


Mr. CUARTER: And a lot of, you know, not a lot of people are as talented as you are.

STEWART: Thank you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CUARTERO: So, you know.

TOURE: She's the second most talented person in the room.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: I got skills. Oh, but so far - I'm curious. So what skills do you have to have to be a good yo-yoer? Do I have to have hand-eye coordination or can be athletic at all?

Mr. CUARTERO: No, I think that helps and again, different traits or attributes for each style. But the most important thing is perseverance and determination.

TOURE: Can you blow our mind before you get out of here?

(Soundbite of laughter)

TOURE: Can you do something that is just ill, that we're just like, oh my God, how can he do that?

Mr. CUARTERO: If you want me to right now, I can.

STEWART: Right yeah. We got a minute left.

Mr. CUARTERO: All right. Hold on one second, let me get…

STEWART: Headphones off.

TOURE: He's getting his set up; he's standing up.

Mr. CUARTERO: I got my little yo-yo holster here.

TOURE: He got his yo-yo holster like a gun holster on his hip. He's but, oh, He's going very fast.

Mr. CUARTERO: Right. Here we go.


STEWART: What was that?

Mr. CUARTERO: Well, that's just a little warm up, just adjusting the string. Now, I'm just going to get started with the advanced tricks here.

TOURE: Wow. I would - I can't even describe that. The yo-yo is going up in the air, down, around. It's…

STEWART: Be quiet. You can hear the strings.

Can you hear? That's amazing. I don't even know what to tell you.

TOURE: And now he's making a triangle, and the yo-yo is going back and forth through the triangle.

STEWART: Oh my gosh. It's like a double helix kind of DNA strand. That's what it looks like. Under the knee?

TOURE: Okay, he went under the leg. Now he's…

Mr. CUARTERO: I've done something else.

STEWART: Oh, that's one where we can't describe that.

TOURE: It's gone through the legs.

STEWART: That one was x-rated.

TOURE: That was…

(Soundbite of clapping)

TOURE: This is extraordinary.

STEWART: Patrick Cuartero is the founder…

TOURE: You are amazing.

STEWART: … and CEO of YoYoNation.com and a lifelong yo-yo player. Go to npr.org/bryantpark to see his magic.

TOURE: We'll be back in a second. Well, he's got a lot to live up to.

STEWART: Thanks, man.

Mr. CUARTERO: Thank you very much, guys.

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