It all comes back around eventually, huh?
There was a hell of a yoyo craze happening in 1998, and I wanted in on it. I’d gotten to be a pretty decent player at that point, for the time anyway, and was building up a solid catalog of original tricks…something that wasn’t happening much yet, so it set me apart. I called Alan Nagao, the guy who was in charge of HPK Marketing and heading up a massive team of yoyo demonstrators called “Team High Performance” to see about a job.
Alan: “Can you do Two-Handed Shoot The Moon?”
Me: “No, I mainly focus on original single-handed tricks.”
Alan: “Oh, well, sorry I can’t really use you then.”
Not sure if I missed out or dodged a bullet with that one, but either way it left me at loose ends. And then my boss at the time got a sample of a new yoyo from an RC car company called Team Losi, and I thought “Well hell, I’ll call them and see what’s what.” It was a good phone call, they seemed like good folks, and they offered to fly me out to the 1998 World YoYo Contest in Primm, Nevada and meet me there to talk about a sponsorship. I got drunk during the contest and fell asleep at my table waiting to go on stage. Jon Gates kicked me and woke me up, and I jumped up, filled my pockets with the yoyos that were on the table, and ran up to the stage. I ended up competing mainly with a Spintastics Tigershark and a Team Losi Da Bomb, both with wood axles, and taking 4th Place. (Ben McPhee took 5th Place, and both of our trophies starting falling apart on stage. He ended the awards ceremony with a pile of trophy parts in a heap, gathered in his t-shirt.) The Team Losi guys were impressed, and offered me a gig as a demonstrator and consultant on retainer.
They already had the Da Bomb, their standard shaped yoyo, completed. They wanted a butterfly shape, and showed me a render. I made some suggestions, drew some ideas, and after some back-and-forth and a trip for me out to visit their office in Chino, California, the Cherry Bomb was designed. The first version, the red one, was made of ABS and came with weights that you could add to change the way it played. The idea behind Team Losi yoyos was to treat yoyos the same way they produced RC cars…you bought a model, and then you bought parts to customize it to suit your style. Yoyo players weren’t super into the idea, though, so instead I had them experiment with chrome plating and other materials and the results were the A-Line (made of a sort of glittery, denser plastic) and the Silver Series, which were chrome plated. Counterweight yoyoing was created on those yoyos, and I used a prototype Silver Series Cherry Bomb to win the 1999 Bay Area Classic, the first time anyone saw counterweight yoyoing.
Team Losi didn’t last long in the yoyo market, and we parted ways a year later when Duncan offered me more money, benefits, and the chance to freeze my @$$ off in Ohio. The owner of Team Losi, Gil Losi Sr, sold the company in 2001 and the yoyo line ended pretty much right there. It was a brief moment in the history of the industry, but it was my first gig with a manufacturer and I’ll always look back fondly on it.
I’m pretty excited to see that YoYoExpert has scored some old dead stock of the original Team Losi yoyos. I don’t even personally have any left, so I’ll be buying a few of these myself. They definitely don’t play up to today’s standards, but they are a fun throw and an interesting look back at a weird moment in the early history of modern yoyoing.