The Flying Camel is one of the most idiosyncratic and beloved bits of fixed axle yoyo history. Originally created by Tom Kuhn as the butterfly-shaped standard release of his No Jive 3-in-1 yoyo, the name came to him while backpacking in 1978 after seeing a cloud that looked like a camel with wings.
When Brad Countryman and What’s Next Mfg. took over production of Tom Kuhn yoyos in the late 90s, the quality fell tremendously and many of the shapes changed to reflect existing tooling that What’s Next was already using on their own wooden yoyo line. As ball bearing yoyos took over the market, the Tom Kuhn line slipped away into near obscurity, What’s Next production ground to a halt, and new models were not only few and far between but largely unsuccessful in gaining any traction in the market.
Which makes it all the less likely and all the more wonderful that this particular model has been resurrected by Adam Bottiglia at YoTricks.com. Available now in their webstore, I reached out to Adam to get the scoop on why this model, and why bring it back now.
The Flying Camel was the first yoyo I ever bought with my own money. This was back in the early to mid-90s when there was still some debate over whether bearings were actually superior to wood yoyos for learning tricks or not. Looking back at that moment in history, it is honestly hard to say. At the time I was using a Raider to work on my string tricks, and if a butterfly-style ball bearing yoyo was available, I was unaware. This was before the Freehand, before Team Losi’s Cherry Bomb, back in a time when two-handed play was seen as the pinnacle of yoyo skill. All that to say, in my mind, a butterfly shaped wood yoyo could still hold its own against the best plastic had to offer, and the No Jive’s reversible design had great appeal for me.
I didn’t have a job so I wandered the streets of my small town for weeks collecting soda cans to return for a dime each, constantly resisting the urge to spend my money on baseball cards. When I finally had enough I gave the money to my mother who wrote a check, I believe, and we sent it to Infinite Illusions to receive my reward.
I only had it for one week, but it was a glorious week. I couldn’t stop looking at it, mystified at the name and intricate laser etched design. I must have swapped it back and forth a hundred times from butterfly to imperial style. In my mind I owned the best yoyo money could buy. In typical adolescent fashion (typical for me, at least) I left it on the school bus, never to be seen again. I am sure some bus driver is still learning tricks with this oddly named bus-seat artifact.
I would be lying if I said my teenage disappointment was not a strong motivator for bringing this one back. Besides that, I genuinely love this yoyo and I knew it would never see light again if someone did not take action. The 3-in-1 design, while not so necessary any more, was pure genius back in its day. Add to that the bizarre and inexplicable name and graphic on the yoyo and it was just too sad to leave in the annals of yoyo history. With the recent interest in wood yoyos it seemed like a perfect opportunity to resurrect this lost gem without taking a total loss.
Since Tom Kuhn and Brad Countryman had closed down their own wood yoyo making facility a few years back they had to commission a new factory to make this run. Brad described the intricacies of the process to me over the phone, getting the hex parts to fit perfectly, and how precise each hole needed to be to make the yoyo work properly. “Wood is not like metal” he said, “and we know what it takes to get these made perfectly.” He suggested that it would be difficult to get another shop to hold to the proper specifications, but that he would make sure they came out right. His suspicions were confirmed when the first batch of yoyos came back unacceptable due to some carelessness or misunderstanding in production. Thankfully the second effort turned out a much better yoyo half. I believe Tom and Brad still had parts from other yoyos they make (many of them are interchangeable) so they assembled the yoyos and got them right out to us.
Of all the things I remembered, the one thing I forgot was the smell. The laser etching on the yoyo really brings out the maple, even syrupy, smell of the wood. I feel any yoyo player would find throwing this aromatic camel a soothing comfort at the end of a rough, yoyo-less day.
Huge thanks to Adam for bringing these back, and for sharing his story. The new Flying Camel retails for $29.99, and is available at YoTricks.com.