World champion yo-yo grand master giving Auburn a whirl

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Bill de Boisblanc is a spin master in a world that most people of his generation tucked in a box of childhood keepsakes by the time they hit high school. In fact, Boisblanc recalls he did box up his yo-yos in the mid-1950s, after reaching lofty heights as a teen from Monrovia in statewide competition. Boisblanc had been swept up into yo-yo competition that started with contest packages sent to schools by manufacturer Duncan Yo-Yo. School, city, regional and state competition pitted thousands of would-be champs against one another, demonstrating their skills in tried-and-true tricks like walking the dog, rocking the baby and around the world. Boisblanc emerged as one of the schoolyard stars. He finished second in 1955 after placing third in 1953 and 1954. But Duncan set an age limit of 15 on the competition and Boisblanc was reluctantly out of the competitive side of the sport by 1956. Boisblanc never completely set aside his love for his days of yo, though. When new tricks and new mechanics re-invigorated the hobby, Boisblanc made a comeback, capturing world titles in 1994, 1995 and 1997. A grand master and judge, Boisblanc now travels to the world championships held every August in Orlando, Fla. With ball-bearing transaxles on today’s yo-yos, the spins are long and the creativity is unlimited. Instead of walking the dog (a trick where the spinning yo-yo moves along the ground), competitors are more apt to throw the yo-yo up in the air and catch the still-spinning toy. Boisblanc, 70, has adapted to the changes as a member of the Team YoYo Jam, a manufacturer that includes signature “Boisblanc” yo-yos in its collection. But he now tallies scores of others much younger than him rather than trying to earn high marks. “It’s a good workout,” Boisblanc said. “Kids are doing somersaults and flips – and all the time yo-yoing. The Japanese kids have practically raised it to a martial art.” Boisblanc, a retired engineer living in Oakland, said he’s seen players as young as 11 win world championships in recent years. Yo-yoing has found a place on the Internet, with Facebook and other social media knitting together an international community. “At the world contest this year, we had 23 different countries represented,” Boisblanc said. “The Internet has kept it alive and it’s grown amazingly.” Boisblanc said he’ll provide both a look at the history of yo-yoing, which stretches back to the days of Ancient Greece, as well as demonstrating some of the modern tricks of the sport. Pat Brophy, co-chairwoman of the Auburn Library noon programs, learned of Boisblanc’s yo-yo status through a mutual acquaintance in Grass Valley and was able to secure him for Friday’s session. Noon hour programs at the Nevada Street library were started to provide working people with a different kind of lunch break, Brophy said. The event has no admission charge and attendees are encouraged to bring their own lunch. Brophy said the Friends of Auburn Library is looking for other interesting presenters. She can be contacted at (530) 885-0854. ----------------------------------- Auburn Library Noon Program What: Demonstration and talk by three-time world yo-yo champ Bill de Boisblanc Where: Auburn Library Beecher Room, 350 Nevada St., Auburn When: noon, Friday, Nov. 19