Sunday, June 13, 2004

My NER Adventures 

Alright, time to try to write about my adventures today before I forget! Today was an amazing time all-around, and I'm so happy I was able to attend. NER is NorthEast Regionals for yoing, happening in Northampton while sponsered by A2Z.

First, a little personal background. So, I'd been waffling for a good while on whether to compete. After working on compulsories a while, it seemed like maybe I'd have a shot to freestyle as well. The website said you couldn't do binds for compulsories, so I lubed my my original Night Moves to make it more responsive. That made it good for suicides again, so I ended up deciding to use that for a freestyle.

The day before yesterday I started seriously trying to figure out freestyle music. I almost used a song by Brad Sucks (Look and Feel Years Younger), but I think I'll keep that for a future clip video. Instead, I ended up using Ghostchaser by Atari Teenage Riot. The crazy energy of ATR was helping me plow through things.. :)

Last night I burned a cd, plugged headphones into my dvd player, and made a bunch of flash cards with tricks I know. Luckily I have a website, so I could re-learn old tricks of mine.. ;) I spread those out on the floor and slowly put something together until about 1am last night. Seemed shakey but workable. Didn't fall asleep 'til like 2:30, and kind of woke up at 5, so not much sleep..heh

Also, at A2Z yesterday was Steve and Rick and Jim, which was a very pleasant surprise. I got to try the Freehand MG, which is very nice. Very little friction during grinds and smooth and stable. Don't tell Steve, but I actually dropped that $400 yo-yo on the ground once! ;) We also discovered that Steve has nearly withered away to nothing from too much travel (though he's sporting a new tatoo). Eat more Steve! All the kids were in a signing mood, so I actually ended up signing a couple. The great irony was that one was a Black Mamba, who I actually demoed for a looong time ago. ;)

Anyway, back to the day at hand. Got at the Arts Center in Northampton around 8am, and everyone was lined up in a little hallway inside waiting to get in the main room. I think there was some issue where the organizers were locked out for a while, so that had delayed the setup of sound systems and food and everything inside. You could tell right away that it was going to be a big competition from all those people crammed in that space!

Finally we got inside (along with getting a nifty orange/black Lyn Fury with NER caps), and it was a very nice area. I was worried about lighting, but not only was there big windows in the back, but big glass windows in the ceiling! There was plenty of light. It was almost like being outside at times. The weather was great also! All I can say is, it was a good thing they didn't have the competition at A2Z this year, because turnout was incredible! A little over a 100 people actually signed up to compete, and then there was the family members and general spectators. I got some pictures, so I'll try to get at least a couple up later. It was crazily packed!

Lots of really cool people were there. The club regulars (Nick, Brett, Andre, etc.), lots that I see at Dog Bites (La Weird One, Vargas, bazzwazzle, Brighto, etc..), some very infrequently seen (Dana, Higby, the judges, Ouch, etc.), and lots of new people. yoyo4food (Shane Karen) was there and is a very impressive off-string player, as well as having good style in general for freestyles. Frank Dif-e-yo was there and I got to try a mini yo-yo that he made that plays really really well. Peter is a great player and seems to have come completely out of nowhere. Meeting Justin Webber was very cool. He has foot skillz! I met a lot of great people whose names I don't remember (for instance one who most definitely was Not Japanese!.. maybe Nathan was his name??). Hopefully seeing the official results list will refresh my memory.

It was so packed that the ladder compuslories and 1A ones happened at the same time. A little crazy since we thought we had more time, but it was all good. Steve literally judged me while lying down on the job. :) He also aknowledges the evil that is Black Hops.. ;) I got 31 out of 50 in the compulsories, which was OK. I was right between Nick and Brett, which was fun. I think the highest person only got 41, so I think everyone was having trouble. The huge crowd probably didn't help the nerves any! Bazz was off by only a point or so from freestyles. That's always a pain, but I'm sure he'll get in next year...

There was a little scoreboard of local records for a couple of different tricks. I managed to do 88 reps of vertical punches (1-handed), so that was pretty cool. I considered trying to beat the 250 planet hops, but it'd just take soooo long to do it... I think Dana had two records at least (11? suicides and something else). I believe someone got over a 2 minute sleeper, which is good considering you had to actually return it to your hand..

A2Z had a big table set up with everything from yo-yos to juggling equipment to some gyro rings. The NEYY had some really nice t-shirts for sale (Got String? and some others). I probably should have bought one, but oh well. Tons of people were going around getting their t-shirts signed. Got to do like 5 of those, which was fun... There was also some people selling various kinds of popcorn.

There was also a Safe Zone area taped off that was more devoted to teaching people who were starting off, a very good idea. Lots of yoing and diabolo in there...

So, most of the time was just hanging out and having fun. Watching people and sharing some tricks. Did some juggling for a while and was doing not too bad at the 5 balls (10-20 throws sometimes). Seemed like I was the only one attempting that many, which was kind of an odd feeling! However, there was a good guy who was doing 4 balls and very nice form on Mill's Mess who turns out is at the UMass Juggling Club. I was one of the first people local yo-yo people to cross over to the club, but it has been so long since I've actually attended. I have to get back there! There was a little juggling conference when me, him, Devon (who can also do 4), and Weird One.

I did a bit of experimenting with the yo-yo/juggling stuff that I haven't tried in a while. Besides the normal looping in one hand (or hopping or punching) and two balls in the other hand, I managed a couple of reps of loops behind the back while juggling. Also, using one ball, you can circle the looping hand with the ball, which is neat... Speaking of looping, Higby's Speed Beetles were very nice. Now if only pads didn't wear out so fast...

One thing I've been trying to make an attempt to do lately is break out a jitter ring. It is really getting to me that barely anyone is using them anymore, so I think any kind of visibility helps. There was about 5 kids or so that ended up trying the rings a lot (coincidentally, three of them got trophies in the ladder!), so that was cool. I hope some people at least buy some Gyro Rings from Jack. I need to get one of those to judge the performance... I was doing well with boomerang, which everyone seems to love (goes up and down the arm) and I remembered some Eclipse tricks and finally remembered how to do Punching Bag. Weird One got a lot of footage, so I dunno if maybe it'll appear online some day...

Speaking of video, there was one guy with a real official-looking camera that did taping for a while. Not sure if he was from a news station or if he was hired out or what? There was a camcorder on a tripod and several people with smaller hand-held digi-cams. I'm guessing we'll see some freestyles online from at least one of these people eventually.

So, X division was the first set of freestyles. Lots of great stuff in there. Higby was memorable for a very funny routine using a radio as a prop, a unicycle and some fun tricks. He's a real performer. Dana is the freehand king, and Shane did well at offstring (like 7 yo-yos went flying, but still pulled off a lot of good stuff). Robb Kitts did the only AA freestyle of the competition. He wasn't happy, but it was well done. Lots of other good freestyles in X as well...

Lots of really skilled people in 1A. Eric nailed his freestyle and Alex did amazingly well considering he hadn't planned anything and didn't remember most of his own tricks at the beginning of the day..heh. Nick and Brett have come a loooong way and their freestyles were definitely better than mine. Going back further, but Nate's come a long way also. Too bad Jordan and Auger couldn't make it (or Eric Girardi for that matter!). Mark had the beatbox style going and Peter was pretty amazing. Andre of course had the thumb grinds and gyro flops amongst other tricks.

To gripe just a little bit, I know contests are extraordinarily hard to set up, but I hope some things can be a bit better finalized ahead of time next year. The website implied that you had to do the ladders to be state champ, when that was only if no one from that state was in 1A. It specifically said binds were not allowed in 1A compulsories, only to find today that they were in fact allowed. Site said you could enter any combo of divisions, but I was told yesterday you couldn't do both 1A and the sports ladders, but then today two people who won the ladders also were in 1A. Something like 15 freestyles versus 10 is no big deal and understandable based on time restraints of the day, but some of the other things above can really affect how someone has spent their months preparing for a contest...

On the good side of weirdness, Brett got a 3rd place trophy for 1A compulsories. None of us are sure how this happened as it seems numerically impossible based on what we thought people scored for compulsories, but they confirmed it on the computer.. I guess things will become more clear once official results are posted.

What about me? Well, I did get to freestyle, which was nice to know I was able to do. Got to use pretty unusual freestyle music (which Vargas appreciated..heh). The process of putting together a freestyle was also good in that it reminded me of the tricks I know. Still, the freestyle itself didn't go as planned. I knew from the start that there was pretty much no chance of placing in the top three, but I wanted to do something that was OK and highlight certain tricks I know. But things really were not cooperating. I missed a lot of tricks early on and then got a knot, having to switch yo-yos. That really threw me off and I was flailing around to try to fill time with some sort of tricks. I don't now.. a couple of people said I did ok, but to me it felt like I only managed to do like three combos in the whole freestyle successfully. However, I did manage a trick right at the beginning that Nick created the beginning for and me the end, and I also did Mr. Punch, which I hadn't even been planning to do! (NM was too responsive to risk it, but with the Speeder it didn't matter). So, I don't know if I got last place in the freestyles or what. I guess we'll see when full results come up..

If someone has a video of my freestyle, I'd really like to see it. Also, please let me see it first before putting it online. I'm not sure yet if I want anyone else to actually see this thing..heh

But anyway, this was a great day overall. Lots of great people and performances. Oh, and I can't forget Steve's freehand demo! This was the last performance of the day, and Steve just totally nailed it! This was pretty much a perfect freehand performance, and I really hope someone puts a video of it online soon. You've still got it Steve!

Other random tidbits? Brett named a trick after me! Woo! :) Dana and Rob totally convinced that the other had won the X division. The hilarity of Rob having to tighten the belt on his pants, anticipating being turned upside down on stage..heh. A very strange chocolate cup-cake with bubble-gum frosting? Several instances of wall panels almost falling over. Juggling at walls. Ouch failing at trying to pronouce people's names. I was seemingly the only one to actually give two copies of music to the music people. I think Nate was prepared though (thanks Nate!). My voice is now officially quite horse from having to speak at a decent volume.. ;)

Also, a big thing I've gotten out of this all has been inspiration. Seeing Nate using the Lyn for freehand made me realize that I have two lyns now and I should really practice free hand. There's so many cool tricks out there these days!

Also, I saw Rick doing AAA yesterday. After that, I watched the AAA video again with Alex and Paul and was doubly inspired. Now that I have more butterflies, I should really try especially some of the sidestyle AAA stuff. I also discovered I can do suicides right-handed when using a responsive Night Moves. I shall have to practice...

Hmmm.. I'm sure I'm forgetting stuff. I took pictures especially at the beginning. I'll have to see if I can post them eventually. Many thanks to Jack and Precilla for continuing to support yo-yos for all these years, and to everyone else involved in the competition. It was a great time, and I'm even more hyped up for Worlds now. :)

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