Yo-Yo, Check Out The Tricks

USF student Jon Martin recently took second place in the 2010 National Yo-Yo Contest in California.



By Jenna Withrow

USF.edu News Writer


TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 8, 2010) – In those tense moments before a competition, most players try to keep their cool by winding down. USF student Jon Martin prefers to wind up.


The fourth year computer science and engineering major is putting his own spin on yo-yoing and tackling title championships as he does it. Most recently, he snagged second place at the National Yo-Yo Contest on Oct. 2. Before that, in August, he finished eighth in the World Yo-Yo Contest.


You could say Martin’s best tricks are a little, off. His greatest success has been in the 4A Division of yo-yo contests, called “Off String.” The name speaks for itself; Off String is a technique in which the string is not wrapped around the axle of the yo-yo.


For a hobby that is more than 140 years old, the Off String style is relatively new to the competitive yo-yo realm. The Off String style was invented in the 1950s, but was not perfected until the 1990s.


One of Martin’s most popular tricks is one he personally invented, the “Bucket Whip.” It’s an Off String trick, in which Martin launches the yo-yo into the air, loops the string twice, and catches the yo-yo back on the string. In the blink of an eye, the one-second trick is over. Save one person on Martin’s yo-yo team, Martin is the only person he knows that can do the trick.


What about “Walk the Dog” and “Rock the Baby”? That’s child’s play to Martin – literally. He learned the basic yo-yo tricks as a child, but eventually gave up the hobby. It wasn’t until 2004, when he saw a yo-yo video online, that he decided to get back into the swing of things.


The 22-year-old got his first taste of victory on his first try at the competitive level. He started competing professionally in late 2005, at the Florida State Yo-Yo Contest, where he placed first.


“I was exposed to yo-yoing as a kid, but I was really inspired by this video. The technology has increased so much. The tricks you see today are nothing like what you would have seen 10 to 12 years ago. I was just mind blown,” Martin said. “I said to myself, ‘I bet I can do that.’ It turns out it was not nearly as easy as I thought it was going to be.”


Martin practices about two hours a day, sometimes more. You probably won’t see him yo-yoing in one of his classes or at his job tutoring fellow students in calculus and physics at the USF Tutoring Center.


He prefers to practice at home with his 200 piece yo-yo collection. The yo-yos range in price from $10 to $350, but most of his were free prizes from contest wins.


“I don’t practice every moment I have free time. When I’m on campus, I’m either in class, studying or tutoring. Sometimes, I feel like it’s socially inappropriate to practice in public,” Martin said. “I usually just practice at home. I’ll also do it at parties, my friends really enjoy it.”


And apparently, so do the yo-yo contest judges.


Jenna Withrow covers student activities and events at USF. She can be reached at 813-974-4014.