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“These are NOT your grandfather’s yoyos.”

01 October 2018 Written by  By Lorenzo Penacerrada
Published in October 2018 Articles

MY TOYS ARE MORE THAN PLAY THINGS  From Thomas the Tank Engine to Competitive Yo-yoing

People have been playing with yoyos at least since 440 BC, when some artist painted a boy playing with a yoyo on the side of a Greek vase. I’ve only been playing with them for the past four years, but they have been at the very center of my life during that time. 

Yoyo technology has grown over the past five decades or so with modern, highly-engineered products. These are not your grandfather’s yoyos. Many are made of aluminum or titanium. Some have stainless steel rims on the outside and ball bearings inside. Others are made of a special thermoplastic, called Delrin, which is a type of Polyoxymethylene (POM) used for a number of high-performance engineering purposes including small gear wheels, eyeglass frames, ball bearings, ski bindings, fasteners, guns, knife handles, lock systems — and of course, nearly indestructible yoyos. Nevertheless, I prefer metal yoyos to plastic because they seem more stable, spin longer, and have a smoother feel. 

I don’t perform live very often except to amuse my friends, but I film all things related to yoyos. I review various products and then do different tricks with them in some nice context, perhaps in a park someplace or my backyard. I filmed one performance at the Grand Canyon, using the canyon as an impressive backdrop. Many performances take place in the film studio I have created at my house, with backdrops and studio lighting. I sometimes film with an ultraviolet emitting blacklight that makes the strings glow. 

I am well known in the yoyo community because for the past three years I have been showing my yoyo videos on my LorenzYo Cubing YouTube channel. I make HD videos of my yoyo performances with a professional Canon EOS M-50 camera and conduct post-production edits with Apple’s Final Cut Pro professional editing tool. 

Manufacturers send me free yoyos in the hopes of getting them some exposure on my YouTube channel. Last time I checked I had more than 6,000 followers and nearly 3.5 million views. My ranking is number eight among yoyo-themed channels. My competitors in some cases are large yoyo manufacturing companies. 

Even though I can, and do, review yoyos from many manufacturers, my main sponsor is TopYo, which is a Chinese company that makes some pretty cool designs focusing on form and function. They sell yoyos ranging from the injection molded $13.00 MOJO to the $288.00 Neptune TiSS that is constructed of titanium/steel bi-metal. The profile shape is machined to a steel rim for a seamless transition between the two parts. Both of them were given me by the manufacturer. 

I co-designed with TopYo engineers a signature yoyo to match my style. My LorenzYo Cubing brand name appears in their catalog: 

The latest release from TopYo is a collaborative effort that has been in the works for a long time. They joined forces with team member LorenzYo Cubing to create the all new TopYo Meta! 

The yoyo I helped design is light but with some weight on the rim, and wide so the string can be easily caught. It has round rims and a bowl shaped face that makes it easier to do finger spins.

Besides the business and promotional aspects of the sport, yo-yoing is fun. It is relaxing and stress relieving. The yoyo and I seem to create an intimate conscious state. The yoyo provides a release — an escape value from any sad or frustrated emotions that threaten to bring me down. 

People are often surprised to learn how large the yoyo community is. The annual competition begins in this area with the Bay Area Classic Yoyo event, held at Jack London Square. The tournament has been going on for 21 years, so it is the longest running yoyo tournament in California and one of the longest in the world. Winners move up to the State contest and then on to National. The champions who make it that far then compete in the World Yoyo Contest, which was held in Shanghai this year. 

Yoyo competition is complicated because people complete against each other in five separate yoyo styles. My style, which is designated 1a, uses one-handed string tricks. The other hand is used to manipulate the action. The 2a style is two-handed doing loops with imperial shaped yoyos. The 3a style uses two modern shaped yoyos that do spinning not looping. 4a is an off-string style of yoyo in which the yoyo is connected to the hand, while 5a is the opposite because it is connected to a counterweight rather than the hand. 

I have been competing, but have never gotten to the final round. I’ve only been doing this for a relatively short period of time. The current 1a world champion started when he was a year old, which means he had been practicing yoyo for at least two years before he was out of diapers. Becoming a champion is my goal, and I’m gaining ground. I have no scheduled time for practice because my rest state is trying to improve performance with my yoyo. I’m always practicing unless I have something else to do. 

My folks enthusiastically support my efforts. In fact, my father Vince reaches out to various companies, reminding them of who I am, and requesting them to send me yoyos and yoyo-associated products for me to feature in a video. 

Dad studied Video Documentary at UC Santa Cruz and had his own video production company for years, filming weddings and lifestyle events. He has been helping me with that part of my business. For example, I streamed the US National Yoyo Competition in Chico last year and filmed the California State and Bay Area Classic contests two years in a row.


I have lived in Brentwood all of my life and am currently in my junior year at Heritage High. The academics are okay but my greatest satisfaction comes from hanging with my friends. My brother and I had the benefit of healthy nurturing by two loving parents. They especially deserve my gratitude for giving me space and permission to follow my passions with all my heart. 

Music occupies an important position in my life. From the beginning I took to music as my natural element. I have perfect pitch and began playing the piano when I was six years old. I enjoy playing classical works by such masters as Scarlatti, Mozart, and Bach — as well as performing original arrangements. I began learning saxophone when I was ten. I also play the keyboard and am an organist at our church. I plan to study music and video art production in college and to make that my career.

I am a perfectly normal looking person with regular features. However, no matter how ordinary a person looks, each of us possesses some quality that crosses boundary lines from normal into something else — weird in some cases; dysfunctional in others. My area of departure from the norm is a lifelong tendency to spend some time — usually years — fixated on some particular activity or hobby. 

The strange fixation first appeared in early childhood. I was probably four years old when I held the first Thomas the Tank Engine in my little hand. Something apparently clicked in my brain because I began to focus my attention on acquiring as many Thomas the Tank Engines as I could. Every time we were in a store, I would beg Dad or Mom to buy an engine to add to my growing collection. Every birthday friends and relatives had no problem trying to decide what present to buy for me. I would carefully set up little train venues on my bedroom floor and would record videos, reenacting episodes from the popular television show, with a little flip camera. I never counted how many versions of the toy I actually collected, but the large collection is still stored in four large bins. 


After two years of fervent railroading, my passion for the little trains was replaced by an equally strong craving to collect bakugan, which are small anime-inspired transforming toys. The name comes from two Japanese words meaning “to explode” and “spheres,” because a bakugan is a ball that can be skillfully maneuvered over some game cards to pop open into a powerful bakugan monster action figure. After collecting 30 or so of these, I moved onto beyblade, in which you use “launchers” to power spinning tops up to speed and then release them into a plastic “beystadium,” which is a dished base, where your top does battle with other beyblades that have been released by competitors. I collected a couple dozen beyblades before moving on. 

Rubik’s Cube was a more enduring passion. I began speed cubing when I was seven. I have entered two competitions, but usually do it with friends or by myself. My current personal best is 9.42 seconds. I never counted how many Rubik’s Cubes in various formats I have in my collection, but I think there are about 40 of them. I still do speed cubing sometimes. 

When I was 12, one of my friends showed me a yoyo. 

You know how that is turning out. 

And, by the way, I have a collection of more than 60 yoyos — almost none of them alike. 

Photos by Casey Quist



Read 1500 times Last modified on Monday, 01 October 2018 21:35
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