Coming soon to YoYoExpert.com!
The EH is a run of ~40 pieces. Designed by SPYY and TMBR to match the model that Ed Haponik has thrown exclusively all year. Flat-sawn red oak, walnut axle, and type 10 cotton string….each one hand-twisted by Ed Haponik from his “Cones to Balls” cone of string. WOW. Only $35 each, and they’re moving fast!
Happy New Year, everyone! We kick off 2012 with a chat with team SPYY’s own zen master, Ed Haponik! As announced on his blog, this year Ed will spend the entire year throwing a single wood axle yo-yo. We approached him to ask a few questions about this quite unusual decision.
YoYoNews: Hello and Happy New Year, Ed! Thanks for joining us for this little chat.
Ed Haponik: Hey Red! Psyched to be involved in Hired To Win [note: now YoYoNews]!
YN: This is it, 2012! For the next 365 days, you vow to only throw a single fixed-axle wood yo-yo! What do you expect from this upcoming year? Is it a challenge, a vacation, or an experiment?
EH: It’s really a bit of all 3. I’ve always been the type of person to do better with an endeavor if I make some sort of “sweeping pronouncement” about it beforehand. Like, if I say “I should really drink less soda”, it’s very unlikely that I’ll change my behavior at all. Whereas if I say “That’s it! No soda for 6 months!” I stick to it easily. To be honest, I’ve wanted to try this for a long time, but the timing wasn’t right. My tricks are naturally gravitating toward a more fixed axle-inspired style, and I’ve always been into the idea of focusing on one single instrument, getting to know it through and through. I expect it to be spectacularly difficult and frustrating, but also rewarding, in that it’s exactly what I want to do. I’m stoked to be starting out on it.
YN: This is not the first time you engage in a year-long experience. Tell us a little bit about Cones to Balls. What was it, what did you get from that?
EH: I feel as though that project really set the stage for this one. I got a great deal from the process of using the thick, unwieldy, type 10 cotton from that cone, and it reinforced a growing belief of mine – that the materials we associate with yo-yoing don’t matter as much as our mindset. I got really into the ritual of twisting the string. It’s like tuning up an instrument before playing music or applying pine tar to a baseball bat. You can’t separate the “trivial” rituals from the art, itself. That project really taught me that nothing is trivial, and that yo-yoing extends beyond the boundaries of throwing and catching. In Japanese swordsmanship, there are arts associated with tying the cord onto your belt, for bowing to the sword, for kneeling in armor. The art extends outside of what we normally associate with it, and your attitude toward yo-yoing is irresistibly manifested in your attitude, well before you ever throw down.
YN: Do you still have/use your cone string?
EH: Oh, totally. I actually found a backup cone of the same stuff. It’s great string, and I’m sure I’ll use a ton of it this year. It’s perfect wood-axle string; nice and thick. It’s the kind of string that sort of smacks your hand on sidewinders. Even the stringburn feels nice and even.
YN: You are also part of Steve Brown’s 365 Yo-Yo tricks’ roster for 2012. What do you expect from that extra challenge?
EH: I’m looking forward to it. 365 has obviously been a huge deal this year, and the other guys in the line-up are not only incredible yo-yo players, but also close friends. I think we’ll all really push each other to come up with high quality content. I’m not really stressed about coming up with 52 decent tricks on wood. Between old tricks I want to lay down ‘for posterity’ and the new stuff that always leaks out, it’ll be more an issue of challenging myself to hit stuff fluidly and to be discerning in the tricks I choose. With six guys putting out tricks every week though, it’ll definitely be something to watch.
YN: You do throw fixed axles more often than most yo-yo players. What was the longest period you went throwing only fixed axles?
EH: 40 days. I gave bearings up for lent one year. I’m not really a practicing Catholic, but I love the ritual of lent; of giving things up. I had a lot more growing to do with bearings and wasn’t ready for something more lengthy or permanent, but now I feel like I’ve kind of “gone where I’m going to go” with ball bearings, and it’s time to see where this path leads.
YN: For the first time in yo-yo history, a significant amount of yo-yo players learned everything on unresponsive yo-yos. What are your feelings about that?
EH: I don’t think it’s good or bad. I do think that we stand on an interesting precipice, because while what you say is true, most of the “heroes” of yo-yoing, the players at the top, still grew up having to manage response, and still kill on a responsive yo-yo or fixed axle. That’s starting to turn over now though, which is interesting. I can’t imagine a future in which elite players can’t shoot the moon or lacerate a stock gade. But at the same time, what I like most about yoyoing is that it’s always in flux. We’re perpetually redefining it, which is what keeps it relevant and fresh. If most modern players were to trade yoyo’s with Pedro Flores, each would probably be pretty flummoxed as to how to approach the other’s tool, but that’s as it should be. Arts are always on the move. You either accept where yo-yoing is headed, or you make a statement about where you’d like it to go through your own play.
YN: Is there a renewed interest in responsive play? The fixed axle challenge at the World Yo-yo Contest and your recent fixed axle battle against Drew Tetz were quite popular.
EH: I think there’s always been an undercurrent of appreciation for fixed axle yo-yoing. It’s where we started, collectively, and some people will always go to that well to test themselves or experience the past. In terms of response, I think being able to manipulate a yoyo that comes back teaches useful habits, especially when it comes to regenerations and dealing with slack. I’m old fashioned, but I definitely don’t feel a trick is “mine” if I can’t hit it with aggressive response. It’s not for everyone, but I think more and more people are getting a kick out of the simple, carefree flavor responsive playing evokes. The deeper you dig into it though, the more unforgiving (and also addictive) it becomes.
YN: We’re looking forward to follow your progress on your blog, Ed! And we’ll no doubt talk to you again after your endeavor comes to an end! Any shout-outs to wrap this up?
EH: Thanks Red. It’s so cool to be part of yo-yoing, where you can literally be best pals with your heroes. You know I could rattle off a list of shout outs as long as my arm. I guess major thanks and props to the Steves though. First to Steve Buffel of SPYY, for his willingness to embrace this commitment despite the obvious repercussion that I’ll only be able to rep one of his products this year (and not even one we’re selling). Also to Steve Brown, who really helped set me on the fixed axle path, and with whom I’ll get to collaborate again on his 365 yoyo tricks project in the new year.
2011 saw National Master Steve Brown present us one yo-yo trick a day at the 365 Yo-Yo Tricks project. Next year Steve is ramping up the project by making it a team effort, with an incredibly diverse and remarkable roster. From YoyoFactory, in addition to Steve Brown himself, David Ung will be showing off his tricks, which are mostly seen in his amazing clip videos. This will be a great chance to catch up with David’s tricks, as he’s seldom seen freestyling at contests.
Finally, Drew Tetz of Duncan Crew will also be part of the roster. Drew, who’s always been a trick creation enthusiast, he used to run a now-defunct YouTube channel filled with single trick videos, and will no doubt have plenty of new material for the project. We caught up with Steve Brown himself to talk a little more about this very welcome surprise:
YoYoNews: Thanks for taking the time for this little chat, Steve!
Steve Brown: I always have time for my funk soul brother from another mother.
YN: That’s quite a crew you got on board! When did you decide you wanted 365 Yo-Yo Tricks to become a multi-man project?
SB: A couple of months ago I started thinking about the project, and realized I needed to make a decision…was I going to just end it when I hit the last trick, or keep going? I’ve put so much work in to the whole thing this past year…but at the same time it’s been a MASSIVE time drain for me and I haven’t made any money off it. The actual video editing and uploading is the easy part…finding time to spend an hour or two every day to make up a new trick isn’t easy for me at all. I’ve got two kids, two small businesses that I’m trying to get off the ground, the Triple Crown of YoYo, and a beautiful wife who prefers to spend time with me instead of just seeing the back of my head while I’m sitting at my desk.
After thinking about it for a while I realized that I didn’t want the project to end, but I really needed help. And after winning the Trick Innovator Award and seeing people come out of the woodwork to tell me that my tricks suck and that I’m no good anymore, I have to admit…I was really rattled by that. I’ve been a professional yo-yo player since 1995…that’s 16 years. Hearing that kind of crap, especially from a bunch of people who have been around half as long as I have (or less), really stung. So I decided that I needed help with the trick creation, I wanted to take some of the focus off myself because I’m sick of being a target, and I wanted to expand the project beyond just being another piece of vanity on the web.
At that point, the only logical decision was the bring in more people. It helps me with the workload, gives the viewers a wider variety of tricks, gives me a chance to show off how awesome some of my friends are, and still accomplishes the same goal of giving yo-yo players a new trick, every day.
YN: Why these players?
SB: David Ung’s video “Broke” was amazing. The way he started and ended every single trick with a trapeze, the pacing, the flow, the style…I loved every bit of it. I had the same reaction that Ben McPhee did…I had to stop in the middle and catch my breath because it was just so much to take in. I’ve always known he was a really good player, but that video specifically sealed the deal for me.
Drew Tetz has been doing some absolutely amazing counterweight stuff for the past year, and some of his wrap concepts really are next level. He also has a style that’s really effortless but earnest…when you watch him play you know he’s working hard but you know he’s really enjoying it. It’s a neat combination, and the end result is a player that I can watch all day long and never get tired. I also like that Drew is local, which means if he doesn’t get me his videos in time I can show up at his apartment and completely ruin his day.
I defy anyone to come up with a single valid reason why Ed Haponik is not one of the most inspiring and awesome yo-yo players in the world. If you don’t love watching Ed play, then you don’t love yo-yos. Ed will be completely mortified and embarrassed by this…which is part of why we love him. And his personal challenge to only throw a custom-built wooden yo-yo for the entire year is pretty awesome. I can’t imagine limiting myself to just one throw for an entire year, so I’m really looking forward to see how he does with it.
I’ve known Nate for a really long time. I was doing a demo many years ago at A-2-Z Science and Learning Center in Northampton, MASS and the original Freehand was the hot yo-yo at the time. I had a couple of rare colors of them in my bag and announced “Best trick wins one of these. Go!”. All the kids came up and showed me the hardest trick they knew, and for anyone who knows me you know that I didn’t care at all. Then Nate came up and said “I’ve got something”…he threw a suicide, but grabbed the loop as it came around his throw hand so the loop never actually flew across….and stuck out his catching finger anyway, and looked at it. We all looked immediately at the catching finger, and it took a full 5 seconds before any looked at his throw hand to figure out where the loop went. It was brilliant, and hilarious, and perfectly executed. I handed over the yo-yo immediately, and have kept an eye on Nate ever since.
I love watching Sebby play, and every time he picks up a yo-yo I feel like something incredible is going to happen. His freestyle at Worlds 2011 was my absolute favorite of the year, and to me it really highlighted everything that I love about watching him play. He’s got a really casual style, and when he’s nailing his tricks he tends to pace, but tightly wound like a panther. His tricks are all built around singular concepts, and even his combos will always revolve around getting into and out of one particular movement that defines the larger sequence. His style and creativity are exactly what I always hope my one tricks look like to other people, and what I see in him forces me to re-evaluate what I do and try to make it better.
YN: Do you plan on having a new roster every year?
SB: Yes, although it’s almost impossible for me to think about saying goodbye to any of these guys before we’ve even started. But I think for the project to really push creativity and keep people interested, a new roster every year is the best way to go.
YN: What else is changing in 2012 for 365 Yo-Yo Tricks?
SB: Some people have noticed that I’ve started posting the videos from my Vimeo account instead of YouTube. They’re still going up on YouTube for now, but starting in 2012 they will ONLY be uploaded to Vimeo. It’s a better quality service and I’ve had tons of copyright issues with YouTube…having content taken down for using music that I actually had the rights to use, having audio deleted without any notification, and the fact that if you do use a piece of music that gets flagged as a copyright violation, they don’t offer you even the smallest window to delete it yourself and avoid penalty. I’ve used songs from my friends bands that I wasn’t aware had been licensed out to a larger company for something, and gotten a copyright strike…even though I submitted documentation from the band that said I had permission. I just hate the way YouTube handles all that stuff and Vimeo seems way more artist-friendly.
I’m also in the process of upgrading the site and moving from Tumblr to WordPress. I’ll keep the Tumblr active and probably mirror the posts to there, but the main site will be moving to WordPress, and I’m working on organizing the tricks better to be more of a searchable database.
YoYoExpert.com has come on board as a sponsor and provided some nice perks for the players that I’m pretty excited about, and all the manufacturers involved seem excited about helping to promote the project. Most of the changes really are just technical, though…behind the scenes stuff that is going to be a huge time-suck for me but will ultimately make it a lot easier for the fans to enjoy what we’re creating.
YN: Thanks for your time, Steve! We’re looking forward to seeing yet another full year of yo-yo goodness!
SB: Thanks for the interview!
Be sure to tisit 365 Yo-yo Tricks’ players page for full bios of the new team and more information about the project!