Well, first off I guess we have to apologize for last week. The World YoYo Contest came and went, and afterward neither Drew nor I were in a position to do a coherent column. Actually, I’m STILL not, but I promise you’re not gonna care! This week, we’ve got the sweet, sweet footage from our annual fixed axle free-for-all, the Fixed Axle Championship of All the World!
2013 marks the 5th year of the contest’s modern incarnation, which previously existed as the Fixed Axle Challenge (presented by several different companies, most notably Russell) before being demoted to “Fixed Axle Breakout” in 2007. I was at that 2007 breakout, put on by Ben McPhee, having just started going hard on No Jives over the previous year. Like 3 other dudes ended up showing. Ben helped me out with my moons, we did some silly “challenge” tricks, and called it a day. I spent the next two years gravitating more completely into the swirling vortex that is fixed axle play, and by 2009 I had put out some videos and was volunteered to run the breakout if no one else wanted it. Fixed axle seems like skating (or any number of weird niche activities) in that it goes through alternating periods of popularity and dormancy. During the advent of bearing yo-yo’s in the late 90’s, for example there was a staunch and stalwart fixed axle resistance movement led by Steve Brown, Chuck Short, David Capurro, and Jason Tracy. By 2004, there was again enough interest to generate the classic video “Fixed Axle Fun: Unlimited” at Worlds.
When the 2009 breakout was attended by Drew, along with Joey Fleshman, Jeff Coons, Shawn Fumo, Justin Weber, John Bot, Andrew Robinson, Dana Bennett, and others, it seemed fixed axle was due for another peak. At the very least, we felt we had enough radical players to have a sweet little best trick contest. After a few minutes of deliberation on format, Drew suggested that it be peer judged and (I THINK) it was Shawn Fumo who offered “Why not vote with our shoes?”
And so began what has become (in my humble opinion) the best tradition at the World Yo-Yo Contest and the most fairly (and amusingly) judged contest format in the history of yo-yoing. Drew beat out Jeff Coons for the win in 2009, and we [somewhat] jokingly hailed him as the Fixed Axle Champion of All the World. Sadly there was no trophy that year to commemorate his win. The next year, we took it a bit more seriously. We established trick criteria for the 4-round, bracket-style contest, and I commissioned a legitimately cool, playable trophy from yo-yoer/woodworker James Buffington. Randy Jansen took it home, edging out another talented field. Colin Leland, having just started TMBR, was the obvious choice to craft the 2011 trophy. I’m not sure anyone expected him to bring it home with him, winning the first Fixed Axle Championship of the modern era on the main stage instead of a salon. Last year, I caught a series of lucky breaks to win the raddest trophy ever (also by Colin), edging out a late-entry Ben Conde in the finals as he tried a trick which defied either description… or any likelihood of being hit. But, as the video will show, Big Ben has no problem going back to that well. Honestly, I don’t think anyone gets nearly as excited about who happens to win as they do about the joyful atmosphere and crazy-rad tricks… which is just as it should be.
Major thanks to Drew and Steve, who kept the dialog rolling on stage, to Ben and Nate, who’s first-ever head-to-head fixed axle freestyle battle was nothing short of spectacular, to Iron Mod Champion Adam Reeder who saved me with a sweet trophy at the last minute, and to Ben McPhee who took great photos of the whole affair. It’s really awesome to do this contest year after year. Everyone wants to throw down great tricks, but it’s almost as if the competitors are more stoked by seeing their friends crush it than by doing so themselves. I think part of that is a product of having everyone laughing and interacting on stage together, but it’s also a testimony to the chill and joyful mindset endemic to fixed axle play. (At least that’s what I’m going with.)
Voting with shoes is funny, but some of the Fixed Axle competitors need to invest in some Odor Eaters. Just sayin’. -Steve