This might just be Gentry Stein’s year. Starting as a high-school freshman, the now 17-year-old Chicoan has placed forth, third and second in succession at the National Yo-Yo Contest held annually in downtown Chico. Now in his senior year, he hopes to finally become the national champ. He says he will be revealing a brand-new routine at the Oct. 5 contest—which starts at 10 a.m. at Chico City Plaza—and will also be rocking the Shutter, the signature yo-yo released by his sponsor, YoYoFactory (which will also be bringing a team to do demos around Chico during the national contest). Stein will also go on to compete in the World Yo-Yo Contest next August, as he has done in previous years.
How did you get started yo-yoing?
I found out about the store here downtown, Bird in Hand. They ran a club—well, they still do; they run a club every Saturday from 12-2 p.m. I just showed up to the club and hung out there and learned some tricks. They’re all super friendly; I felt welcome and it just felt like it was the right thing for me. I learned most of the stuff they teach at the club, and then I stopped for a few years. I got busy with other things.
How long have you been competing?
I’ve been competing for about 4 years. I was playing for a traveling basketball team when I was in sixth or seventh grade, but I started having problems with my knee. So, time freed up, and I started yo-yoing again … and that’s when I realized that I could compete in contests, and that there was more to it than the stock tricks that I got bored with.
What’s your favorite trick to do?
That’s a hard question to answer, because I make up pretty much all the tricks I do. Usually the newest trick that I’ve made is my favorite. When you’re preparing for a contest, you kind of have to repeat practicing the trick over and over, so they get old. My favorite trick is the one that I’m doing at the moment. I don’t have names for them.
How do you go about inventing a new trick?
When you’re making a trick, you start with a base of a lot of tricks that everyone knows. You can take elements from those tricks and put them together in different ways. So you might change the motion, and you’ll come up with a whole new trick. Having a bunch of different styles of tricks helps a lot. You can choreograph the whole thing to music so it looks professional.
What’s your practice regimen like?
For Nationals, it’s a three-minute routine. For me, I’ll start planning my routine a few months out, and I’ll actually try to have the routine finished about two months out, and then all the polishing is about a month. So I’ll be doing the same thing for a month straight. It’s fun, though.