- Associated Press - Saturday, November 22, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Walking the dog and rocking the baby bore Nathan Martsolf.

He prefers the challenge of some jazzed-up alternatives to the classic yo-yo tricks.

“Instead of on the floor, I like walking the dog on my arm,” the Whitehall resident said during a recent demonstration, whipping his aluminum green yo-yo and moving it smoothly across his forearm.

“And then I call this trick ‘dizzy baby,’” continued Martsolf, rapidly flipping the yo-yo up and over the string between his fingers like a rope jumper gone haywire.

Even more impressive, though, is the sight of Martsolf executing dozens of tricks consecutively - thumb grinds, finger spins, gyroscopic flops - in routines that span several minutes.

“The potential for new tricks is limitless,” he said. “I’m constantly creating new things.”

With his talent, Martsolf has attracted a sponsor. G Squared, a yo-yo maker in North Canton, provides him with free yo-yos (high-end models costing more than $100 apiece) in exchange for promoting the company and the hobby - which he does largely through Facebook and Instagram as well as online video tutorials.

Beyond his role as a yo-yo ambassador, though, Martsolf enjoys the pastime strictly for the fun and relaxation.

“It’s a very contemplative, stress-relieving creative outlet,” he said. “I’m 30, married with two kids, and I work 50 hours a week (as a chef at the Northstar Cafe at Easton Town Center). So, to me, it’s necessary to have something where I can just relax and not take life too seriously.”

As a child growing up in Butler, Pa., he showed a natural talent with yo-yos (the inexpensive plastic types), but he gave up the hobby as a teenager.

“I outgrew the basic tricks and got discouraged because I didn’t think there was anything else (to learn),” Martsolf said.

Five years ago, his interest was renewed purely by chance.

Newly married, he and his wife, Lindi, participated in her family’s traditional Christmas Eve gift exchange, which mandates a $5 gift limit. Unaware of Martsolf’s history with the toy, Lindi’s brother, Daren Wells, gave him a yo-yo.

Martsolf amazed his wife as he started doing tricks.

“He had said he used to yo-yo,” she said, “but I didn’t realize exactly what that meant. I was like ‘Oh, you REALLY used to yo-yo.’”

Doing research online, Martsolf caught up on the latest yo-yo technology. He joined online forums, watched videos of others doing tricks and began posting his own videos.

In 2012, in the hope of being sponsored, he contacted Jake Gross, owner of G Squared. After viewing Martsolf’s videos and talking to him, Gross agreed to add Martsolf to his team of six sponsored yo-yoers.

Several members of the team, Gross said, are competitive yo-yoers - focused on the speed and technical skill needed to do well in contests such as the Ohio State YoYo Contest, conducted in June in North Olmsted.

Martsolf is more of an educator.

“Members like Nate are really good guys who go out of their way to help bring new people into the (yo-yo) community,” Gross said. “If he wanted to compete, he would have to get a lot faster. Nate’s style is very artistic and visual.”

Martsolf has no designs on becoming a world yo-yo champion. Through his videos - or in person, when people come across him practicing outside - he enjoys passing along his knowledge.

“I just like educating others,” he said. “In high school, I played a little bit of sports. I wasn’t great at them. But something like yo-yoing, I clung to because I was good at it. It gave me some encouragement.

“And I know a lot of young kids are like that, too. You see a lot of the fringe kids who are interested in these sort of things, and it’s sort of a gateway for them to get some self-confidence and know that they can be good at something.”

___

Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, https://www.dispatch.com

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