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More than 40 participants of all ages and yo-yo-throwing abilities packed the outdoor amphitheater at The River in Rancho Mirage to compete for the title of Southern California Champion.

The event, sponsored by the Yo-Yo Factory out of Phoenix, drew participants from as far as Northern California, Arizona and Nevada.

"This is my first time competing," said Raymond Chin, 16, from Rancho Cucamonga. "My tricks aren't the greatest because I haven't been yo-yoing that long, but I thought I would try it out."

Patrick Mitchell, 26, a national champion from Huntington Beach, Seth Peterson, 26, from the Yo-Yo Factory and Vashek Kroutil, 23, four-time Czech Republic national champion judged the event.

When judging a yo-yo competition, judges look for a variety of elements such as landing the yo-yo on a string, tossing the yo-yo and catching it, and switching hands.

Divided into two categories - beginner and advanced - each contestant performed his or her own unique routine to music.

While some contestants used one yo-yo, others spun, flipped and twisted two yo-yos simultaneously.

During the past decade the yo-yo has made a huge comeback.

These new yo-yos are nothing like the old-school plastic discs on a string that you could buy at the toy store for about $2.

Nowadays, yo-yos are custom-crafted pieces of art, ranging from $10 for a beginner's model to more than $150 for a competition level yo-yo.

"These new yo-yos have ball bearings and a threaded axle in them and they are a wider shape so it's easier to catch them on the string," said Peterson. "They also come apart so that you can get your knots out if you happen to make a mistake."

In addition to plastic models, modern yo-yos come in a variety of metals, including titanium and aluminum.

And, it wouldn't be cool to just carry your yo-yo around in your back pocket.

Hardcore yo-yo performers tote their arsenal of yo-yos around in custom carriers - some as large as guitar cases.

Austin Morris, 15, of Phoenix, came prepared to dominate the competition, armed with a briefcase full of colorful yo-yos made out of different materials.

"I have 20 yo-yos and my most expensive yo-yo was $145," Morris said. "I usually perform with metal yo-yos but I do have some plastic ones."

The competition also allows attendees to swap gear and tips on performing tricks.

"It's all right if you don't know how to yo-yo because we will teach you," Peterson said. "We've taught thousands of kids how to play yo-yo."

For more information on upcoming yo-yo events, visit www.socalyoyo.com.

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