Fort Collins teenager transforms yo-yoing into an art

Nicole Towne

An old wooden yo-yo, what some may view as an obsolete toy, inspired a Fort Collins teenager to join a movement of taking a tried and true pastime and making it an art.

Andy Riley, a student at Preston Middle School, has shared his love of yo-yoing with friends, family, peers and yo-yoers all over the world.

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“It’s the oldest toy in the world,” Andy said. “It’s been around for thousands of years and there are still new things you can do with it everyday.”

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the yo-yo is believed to have originated in China prior to 500 B.C.

This ancient toy sparked Andy’s interest while packing to move to Fort Collins.

“When we were moving, we were packing up (and) I found my dad’s old wooden yo-yo,” Andy said. “So, I just started playing with that and from there I went on the internet and found all these other people doing tricks.”

Andy taught himself tricks by utilizing websites such as yoyotricks.com and has since made tricks of his own.

“We got him a few modern yo-yos and he just took off with it,” said Andy’s mother, Amy Riley.

Andy currently owns 48 yo-yos of different styles and designs.

“They’re all different in shapes and sizes and material,” Andy said. “They react to the string differently. When you play with it, it has a different feel to it.”

In August, Andy competed for the first time in the annual, multi-day World Yo-yo Contest, in Cleveland, Ohio. He finished 152 out of over 500 participants.

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Andy was not the only yo-yo competitor representing Fort Collins. Zach Gormley, Fort Collins native and yo-yo master, also made an appearance. Gormley placed first in his division in the 2015 World Yo-yo Contest held in Tokyo. In Cleveland, Gromley placed third.

During the competition, participants are given a score out of 100 points based on categories such as cleanliness, rareness, music use and body control. The performances are both creative and artistic.

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Andy performs a yo-yo trick. (Photo courtesy of Amy Riley_

“At its base it’s a toy,” Andy said. “It’s supposed to be fun… It still is fun, but people push it past that into almost an art.”

Yo-yoing has become a daily piece of Andy’s life and that is what makes it an art. He estimates that he spends three to five hours a day yo-yoing.

“He’s always yo-yoing,” Amy Riley said. “If we’re watching TV or it’s after dinner or just hanging out, Andy’s yo-yoing.”

“It almost becomes an extension of your arm after a while,” Andy said.

Andy communicates with international yo-yoers on a regular basis through Instagram. They create and share tricks with each other using the hashtag #trickcircle.

In Fort Collins, Andy has created a yo-yo club at Preston Middle School, which meets twice a week. He is also in the process of creating the Fort Collins Yo-Yo Club.

Andy is hoping to compete in the 2017 Yo-Yo World Competition, which will be held in Reykjavik, Iceland, but until then, Andy will be yo-yoing for fun without the pressures of performing on a world stage.