The Doctor of Spin: 'It's kinda like magic'
GARDEN CITY, Idaho (KBOI) -- In person, Dave Bazan comes across like Clark Kent: not as tall, certainly, but a mild-mannered bloke who has a winning and wonderful secret identity. He's a world champion yoyo-er.
"It just changed my life," he says, still astonished at his good fortune.
Standing in "Time Zone Toys," his collectible toy shop, Bazan spins a tale almost as incredible as the yo-yo at the end of his arm.
He was working as a buyer at a natural food store in Missoula, Montana, and, on a whim, walked into "Rockin' Rudy's," a music shop that featured yo-yo's. He took one home and discovered he had a natural talent for making the tiny orb spin.
"It's something hidden in my DNA," he says with a characteristic grin.
And you believe him as he puts his yo-yo through its paces. Sometimes, just for fun, he grabs two and throws them down (and back up) with the aplomb of the virtuoso he is.
What's new to a novice reporter is that yo-yo's are now made to conform to an upside-down way of thinking.
"It's designed so it doesn't come back to your hand," Bazan offers.
So the trick is to make it come back.
"I could go to the door, put it back on my finger and still get a trick out of it," he says.
So now, despite a day job that has him knee-deep in action figures, he spreads the gospel of what he calls "the state of yo." It's a mash-up of happiness, giddiness, athleticism and spirituality--and all based on the premise that wrapping your head around a yo-yo is good for the soul.
"All your energy and focus is on this little piece of plastic spinning at the end of a string," he says as he un-spools a Duncan.
"You do it and maybe get better and you can put it down and that's a great day."
With a devil-may-care philosophy like that, he has won over many converts. Like 14-year-old Nick Strader, no stranger to yoyo-ing.
"I'm learning a lot more tricks than I used to," admits Strader.
Bazan routinely takes his show on the road, teaching classes at schools in the Treasure Valley. He knows that, in a Pied Piper sort of way, he can charm the kids with a toy that hints of high-tech but in a way that slyly gets them out of a video-gaming stupor and up on their feet.
"We're fighting video games and now tablets," he says. "It's like we're shouting in the forest, 'Yo-yo's are cool!'"
As if on cue, eight-year-old Indy McCarter suddenly apparates, like a curly-haired Harry Potter. Young Indy is on a quest for a yo-yo that he will give as a birthday present. He settles on a blue-and-green one, because his friend is a Seahawks fan.
Indy is a yoyo-er himself, and prefers his new discovery to video games because they get you moving around.
Later, Bazan chuckles, because he knows he has won over another fan.
In a corner, 14-year-old Nick Strader is practicing. Well, maybe it's more like showing off, because Strader is a state junior yo-yo champion. His ultimate goal is winning it all at the "world's." His intensity is admirable and affecting.
But he gets it from Bazan.
The man with Duncan in his DNA has traveled the world to demonstrate his string-pulling skills. In fact, some years ago, he appeared on a reality TV show called "Master of Champions." The show died a quick death, but Bazan's path was set.
He's now the principal cheerleader in Boise for all things yo. And also a master salesman.
A glass case displays an array of the toys that aren't really toys anymore. They're anti-gravity systems, with prices to match. You can spend $10 or $100, depending on your skill level or size of your budget.
"A $50 aluminum yo-yo is a good deal nowadays," Bazan says as he points to models designed to impress before they even land on your finger.
Yo-yo's aren't just plastic, but titanium or aluminum or high-density resin. And if the one you buy isn't fast enough for your liking, Bazan can help with that, too.
He has a small industrial lathe in the shop that can cut a groove on the inside of the yo-yo discs. Flow-able silicone will add measurable spin.
"It's all very legal," Bazan points out.
In fact, he says competitors at the national level often carry portable lathes with them to contests. Modifying your yo-yo is almost a requirement if you're serious about winning,
And watching him work his patented string theory is mind-blowing.
Bazan does a trick he calls "The William Tell." He places a disc on the ear of a willing volunteer and then tosses the yo-yo toward the head. As it gets closer, it makes a sound like hummingbird wings.
Then, with one last flick of the wrist, Bazan knocks the disc to the floor.
It's a remarkable thing. But no big deal for a yo-yo prodigy. In fact, he likes to toy with you, in a room full of them.