So I’ll apologize in advance for the apparent cop-out layup. Except it’s Thanksgiving weekend and my engorged body is incapable of either throwing myself into a ton of hard tricks OR actually caring about it… so consider that apology for what it’s worth.
One of our dear readers – we HAVE them! – inquired in my last column about whether we might dedicate an entry to “long-sleeper tricks”. He offered that while we have produced much content in the realm of 1-and-done stall moves, stop-n-go’s, and the like, FF has largely ignored the bizarre art of hitting protracted tricks involving many string-hits (bear in mind, such tricks max out around 10s on fixed axle). Although we have kind of overlooked those tricks, I think if you’re willing to go back through the archives, there have been several examples to the contrary. Regardless, there is certainly a good reason for our focus on the shorter stuff. I’ll get to that, promise. In any case, this vid combines #throwbackthursday with #fixedfriday, and is essentially a compilation of some of the longer tricks I’ve done on wood. Even more than that, I guess it serves as a fun little scrapbook chronicling my own development as a fixed axle player. Hope you dig.
I remember talking with Jack Ringca (who has always been a pretty awesome fixed axle player, himself) in 2006 about doing Cold Fusion on fixed axle, and specifically on a classic wood-axle Russell. That conversation lit a fire in me somehow. I decided to make that challenge my own, and I rolled it up a hill like Sisyphus for half a year before finally hitting it. I found it WAY easier on either a Proyo or No Jive, both of which have immeasurably smoother axles. Part of hitting a long trick on a fixie is simply throwing hard, and with an untreated Russell axle, I will either snap a string or scorch the wood with a single throw. This can be ameliorated by allowing some Vaseline Intensive Care Lip Therapy to cure on the axle overnight (thanks for that tip, John Higby). Learning to cope with those fickle Russells helped me to understand the importance of a smooth axle and, subsequently, ensured my eventual head-over-heels love affair with No Jives. Mind you, I still burn No Jive axles sometimes, and even the smoother, harder TMBR ones (hence the column’s name). It sucks, but at least it smells great.
In 2007 or so, I had no idea what to do with a No Jive beyond just trying to do the same tricks I did with a bearing. Somehow it felt as though doing a long trick on a wood yo-yo translated to being “a good yo-yoer” back then, and I was eager to chase down all of my favorite tricks on that medium. Branding, Hook, Suicides, Brent Stole, Gyroscopic Flop (initially suggested by Jack as “impossible on wood”), Mach 5, Pop N Fresh, and eventually, Spirit Bomb. I found it more tantalizing to be the sort of yo-yoer who could hit those modern classics on wood than to invent the next round of “post-modern classics”, myself (to be fair, I was still making up lots of tricks, but nothing remotely classic). Ironically, most of my stall-based stuff that actually IS progressive and relevant was born out of my missed attempts at longer tricks.
I have come up with some tricks that are at the edge of what a fixed axle will typically allow, in terms of spin-time. Smallpox Blanket comes to mind, but Would even more so. The TMBR Irving Pro is probably more capable of long, technical tricks than any fixie out there, and I’ve never hit that particular trick with any other yo-yo.
In terms of the classical canon, Spirit Bomb represented a line my mind drew in the sand from the start. While not a particularly long trick, it was the first one I came to that I really didn’t think could be done on fixed axle (when in fact, it can be done on almost ANY fixed axle). That line gets erased and redrawn, I’ve found, but it’s always there somewhere. At IYYO in New York that year, it became a fun challenge to hit Spirit Bomb on a No Jive. I was amazed that some guys (Red, Yuuki, Tyler) were able to hit it first try. Adam Brewster, Brandon Jackson, Joey Fleshman took a few go’s each (Adam also hit Superman!). And others (André, Sebby, Samm Scott) took the better part of a night to nail it at ECC, but they all got it dialed. It took me over a week of trying before it finally made sense, and it really opened me up to the truth that a) my technique was really not very good, and b) WAY more than you imagine is possible. That second realization is pretty much entirely responsible for anything/everything cool I have done with a yo-yo in the last 5 years. If even a small part of you believes that you can do something, it’s almost as though you already have – you just have to go through the motions and do the math. Fixed Axle Spirit Bomb became an obsession to me, and I made it a point to be able to hit it on ANYTHING, up to and including the O-Boy in the video, the woodies I made in Steve Buffel’s garage, and Colin Leland’s first ultra-thin TMBR prototype.
For awhile, my standard of impossibility was reset at Kamikaze, but in early 2009 I hit it on a FHZ with a Technic axle, and then again with a No Jive. Pure 143 seemed like a lion, but if you can manage your response through the bucket, it’s really just a kitten. Rancid Milk is a fixed axle killer, and I’ve never been smooth enough through the intro to take a shot at it, but Colin poked his head through that glass ceiling with a purpleheart Irving Pro. And while I thought White Buddha and McBride Roller Coaster (did he invent that trick on a transaxle? Jesus, I hope so) were easy tricks, they just seemed too LONG for wood. With the TMBR axle innovations, though, I could knock them over with spin to spare (OK, not much). Breath is one of the few tricks out there that I’ve never seen done on fixed axle, know could be, and that I’d really like to see. I can get through it on a bearing, but I’ve never been fluid enough to even make a reasonable attempt on wood. Maybe someday. If you beat me to it, I’ll send you a yo-yo and a high five.
By and large though, I’ve moved away from this content, which is why the video is populated mostly with content from years past. Tricks, to me, are like surf spots, and pulling off Kamikaze with a No Jive is a bit like stroking into Pipeline on a 10ft balsa longboard from the 60’s (minus the legitimate threat of crushing death). I’ve pulled up to those long tricks and worked through them with my wood yo-yo. Been there and done that and taken the moving digital postcard to prove it. There’s a value to it, absolutely, but you don’t need to keep coming back. While a long trick on your Imperial feels cool and may momentarily validate your sense of yourself, it’s hard to argue that it’s really the best use of the tool. What we’re finding in the past few years is that fixed axle yo-yo’s ARE BETTER at doing some types of tricks than their bearing counterparts. There are unexplored coastlines full of tricks to explore with high response and short-spin, and that’s where I want to go.
It was, however, extremely fun to look at these relic videos and recapture some of the feeling of hitting these tricks for the first time. To imagine that Cold Fusion ever felt hard on a wood yo-yo is just crazy now, but hitting it that night for my first No Jive video felt inexplicably awesome. I hope it will suffice for this column, and I wish you all the best as you load for bear to take aim at your own monsters this week.