Entries tagged with “battletop”.

The Ultimate Battletop Championship is a contest that Alan Gray, Eric Wolff and I designed to see if upper lever top-spinners could break each other’s tops.  So far no one has managed it, but we’ve realized that we would need crappier tops.  In order to get the best players to participate I decided that we needed an awesome trophy.  So for each contest I make a mechanical trophy where one top breaks another top, and the winner gets to keep it forever.  Here is the trophy for this year’s contest at the MadFest Juggling Festival in Madison WI.

First the video:

Then the photos:

Trophy for the 2011 Ultimate Battletop Championship: Wisconsin by markhayward534, on Flickr

Trophy for the 2011 Ultimate Battletop Championship: Wisconsin by markhayward534, on Flickr

Trophy for the 2011 Ultimate Battletop Championship: Wisconsin by markhayward534, on Flickr

Trophy for the 2011 Ultimate Battletop Championship: Wisconsin by markhayward534, on Flickr

Yup.  That’s right.  I made a new trophy for this year’s contest at MadFest:

Yup.  I think I finally have all the parts I need.  This photo actually has quite a few projects in it, including the machinery for the pumpkin laser vortex… but that’s another story.  And yes, that is a Barbie hair dryer.  This trophy will be for the 2009 Ultimate Battletop Championship: Wisconsin, and it’s gonna be awesome.  You can see it in person if you come to MadFest.

I spent this last weekend in Chico California at the National Yo-yo Contest, and it was a lot of fun.

The official Duncan Crew photo for Nationals 2008.  No one else was around but Mark McBride and me.

The official Duncan Crew photo for Nationals 2008.  No one else was around but Mark McBride and me.

The trip out was more than a little brutal. First of all, any voyage with three different flights is going to be  difficult. If you do take a trip with that many flights, I recommend that you don’t eat a bad sandwich in Las Vegas and then throw it back up on your next flight like I did.  Not fun at all.  It is very hard to puke on a plane and not get any on yourself. I still had another flight to go too.  Once that horrific ordeal was over, the rest of the weekend went really well.

Whenever I go to a yo-yo contest or a juggling convention I usually have a goal in mind.  For this contest I wasn’t really sure what my goal was until I looked at what I had packed. The most normal thing for people to bring to contests is a fairly big case full of yo-yos, and for some people, a few tops as well.  I was trying to travel light to avoid the airline baggage fees, and I realized that I had packed a mere 4 yo-yos but I was bringing 8 tops.  During the course of the weekend, two of the yo-yos never even made it out of my bag.  I guess I’ve got tops on the brain.

I spent most of my time hanging out with my top-spinning friends. It was awesome.  Alan Gray, Eric Wolff, Jon Gates, Jorge, Hans, Catherine and I had our own little posse of spin.  We shared some tricks, and had a good battletop contest.

Alan, Eric, Me, Hans reflected in the spinning Silver Surfer top (a highly polished Quicksilver).

Alan, Eric, Me, Hans reflected in the spinning Silver Surfer top (a highly polished Quicksilver).

One thing I always forget about Nationals is how short it is.  I got out to Chico on Thursday night, watched the Vice Presidential debate, and then hung out with the few others who were there.  Friday it rained, so the prelims were moved to Saturday. The result for me was that the contest felt even shorter than normal. Since almost everyone goes home Sunday morning, the contest really felt like one day this year.  It’s a lot of effort and money to get there for just one day.

There were some delays on my flights home, and I had to literally sprint through the Denver airport (at altitude, ug) after they called my name on the intercom. It took over 30 minutes to recover and stop coughing, but I made my flight.  In the San Francisco airport there was an awesome exhibit about the space race and its effect on popular culture from the 30s through the 60s.  They had toy robots and space guns and flying saucers and lunch boxes and all kinds of incredibly cool stuff.  It was one of the highlights of the trip.

All in all it was a good weekend.  I just wish Chico weren’t so far away from Pittsburgh.

Last weekend we held the 2007 Ultimate Battletop Championship of the Universe, in Chico California at the National Yo-yo Contest. It was a blast. In order to keep the game interesting we leveled the playing field by making everyone use the same tops. Alan Gray made 25 battletops, and he sold out right before the contest started. There was so much interest that I even sold two out of the 5 I brought.

There were two rounds to the contest: Long Spin, and Death and Destruction. In the Long Spin round you get more points the longer your top remains spinning compared to the rest of the players in the arena. In the Death and Destruction round, spinning doesn’t matter at all, you only get points for tops knocked out of the arena, and damage done to other tops. Halfway through the contest we decided that it was also a good idea if you got a point for a top ricochet that hit another competitor. This rule addition was developed after a competitor (who shall remain nameless) got it in the nards off a bad bounce.

Alan designed the battletops to be just the right size for a bottle cap to fit on the crown. On one hand, the bottle cap lessens the potential for destruction, but it made the tops way more awesome, and easier to identify quickly during a battle. In an amazing coincidence, there was an Old Town Root Beer Company just down the street that sold literally hundreds of kinds of small-batch soft drinks, and they let us take any of the used bottle caps we wanted.

In an effort to make the contest as awesome as possible, and to entice people to compete, I spent a few days making a really cool trophy:

We had 20 competitors and a bunch of spectators. With the help of the illustrious Mark McBride acting as MC/herder, we got all the people organized and had a great contest. It had all the suspense, intrigue, and action that you could want… well, with one exception.

Part of the reason that we designed this contest the way we did was so that we could find out if it is really possible to split a top in two in the midst of a battle. Anyone who has ever played with tops in public has had someone come up to them to tell about how they used to battle as kids, and break each other’s tops in two. I believe that it is possible with the right conditions, and the right top, and if anyone can do it, I think it is committed top-spinners.

We had surprisingly few direct hits in this contest, especially considering how much damage was accomplished at the Indiana State contest last month (mostly by Heidi… she was on FIRE). Since we had so little damage in Chico, I’m going to have to hold out on any conclusions about top splitting, and we will just have to do more battling.

Although there were no split tops, the arena (a trash can lid) certainly got a lot of abuse. I was not the only one to lodge my top into the plastic, and punch a hole all the way through.

I was surprised by the number of competitors, and the number of spectators (as well as the fantastic amount of noise we made), and it was great to be a part of such a raucous good time. There will be more glorious battles in the future… and Alan already gave me the idea for the next trophy.

The Ultimate Battle Top Championship of the Universe will take place for the first time at the National Yo-yo Contest in Chico California this year, and I spent the weekend figuring out some of the details with my friends in Chicago. I was lucky enough to have a gig in Mount Prospect IL the same weekend that Alan Gray and family made their annual pilgrimage to visit the Wolff family in Chicago. Eric Wolff and Alan Gray are superstars in the top-spinning community and they individually made the two best tops in my arsenal.

Alan came up with the idea that if everyone in the contest had the same tops then it would be a contest of skill rather than a contest of who bought the best top. So he and Eric set about making several prototypes of the new battle top.

Alan with the afternoon’s work.

Eric, Alan and I all have slightly different ideas of what this contest should be about. Here are my two goals for the contest:

  1. It should be fun. i.e.: Not boring. Sometimes battletop contests get a little slow when you end up just standing around waiting to see who’s top is going to slow down and fall over first.
  2. There should be mayhem and destruction. When old-timers come up after my show to talk tops they often tell me about how they used to split tops in two when they would battle as kids. That sounds awesome to me… AND I recently learned the deadly overhand throw.

Eric’s son Woody came up with a good scoring system, and we all fleshed-out the tentative rules:

  • Everyone throws at once, and there are multiple rounds.
  • You can only score points if your top ends up spinning in the arena.
  • If you knock another top out of the arena (or hit it and keep it from entering in mid-air) you get a point.
  • If you land the tip of your top on the crown of another top you get two points.
  • If you break another top (or break a chunk off) with your top you get 5 points.
  • The tops that are spinning in the arena get points according to which ones spin the longest. If three tops are spinning in the arena, the first one to die gets one point. The second one gets two points, and the third one gets three points. If there are 10 tops spinning in the arena, it is the same point progression all the way up to the last one to stop spinning, which gets 10 points. If no one lands in the arena, no points are won.
  • Before the first round you decide on the winning total number of points. The number of players times 3 seems like a good recommendation.

This scoring system makes the game exciting, but it basically eliminates my favorite goal. There is very little mayhem and destruction. One possibility is that there could be a separate division that is just about the destruction, but I’m hoping that some of the other top spinners have more ideas. Please leave a comment if you do.

I love hanging out with spin-top people. It’s always a ton of fun, and at MadFest this year we had a ridiculously good time.

Eric Wolff with his 11″ diameter top. The largest he’s ever made… so far.

For the average person, the phrase “spin-top people” is not one that is heard very often. Of all the very small social groups I belong to, the top-spinners are one of the smallest; I think only “paddleballers” are fewer in number. At the MadFest Juggling Convention this year we had a really good showing of spin-top people… and that means that there were 7 of us. Eric and Noah Wolff, Alan and Robert Gray, Chris Mulhall, Steve Brown and me.

The normal progression of events when top-spinners get together is:

  1. Show off new tops. This rarely takes very long since there are virtually no mass-produced tops, so it’s really a question of who had the time to make some themselves.
  2. Show off new tricks. This also rarely takes long since there are very few new tricks developed each year.
  3. Play Battle Top.
  4. Continue playing Battle Top until it degenerates into a different game that is way more fun.