Yo-Yo Champion Evan Nagao On His Life-Changing Hobby

Evan Nagao grew up in the world of yo-yoing, introduced to the sport by his father as a natural human behavior like walking and talking.

"I just started yo-yoing when I was like 1 years old," Nagao told Newsweek. "My dad actually launched the yo-yo boom of 1996. Any yo-yo that was sold from 1996 to 1999 was pretty much due to his marketing. So at that time, he had a bunch of yo-yoers over at my house. I just saw everybody yo-yoing and I thought 'Wow, this is what humans do then.'"

Since then, the 22-year-old's obscure hobby has led him to multiple championship titles along with launching his own line of yo-yos, called Edge and Wedge. It's "the aerospace engineering feat of yo-yo."

Evan Nagao performing yo-yo tricks
Evan Nagao performing yo-yo tricks Adam Bottiglia

Nagao even finds it hard to separate himself from his craft at times sharing that "really yo-yoing at this point has become a part of my identity. People all know me as the yo-yo guy."

"It's something that I really take pride in," he explained, "because it's something that I spent hours and hours, like 20,000 hours on and I know that I'm a master of my craft."

With tricks that move so fast that they need to be played back in slow-motion to be fully appreciated, Nagao's skill has earned him back-to-back U.S. national championship titles in 2017 and 2018.

"In competition, I go into what's called a flow-state," he divulged. "It's basically where time disintegrates and I'm on stage for three minutes, but it feels like two seconds and afterward, I get off stage, and I don't remember anything that I did."

Yo-yo champion Evan Nagao performs a trick
Yo-yo champion Evan Nagao performs a trick. Adam Bottiglia

Yo-yoing has given Nagao more than just fame and notoriety though. "Yo-yoing in today's world is creating a community for people who people who feel like they don't belong," he expressed.

In fact, Nagao witnessed first-hand how his skill can impact lives when he received a message from the mother of a boy named Andrei who wanted to meet him. Though Andrei was stuck in his hospital room fighting leukemia, he was inspired by Nagao's tricks to start yo-yoing.

"He hasn't really been able to go outside but he has his yo-yo," Nagao explained.

Nagao was so touched by Andrei's wish that he surprised him in his hospital room and spent three days throwing with him and teaching him new yo-yo tricks.

"It was amazing," he said. "That experience made me realize that even though it's such a simple thing that I'm doing, it can really make a huge impact on people."