Wyatt Bray is the No. 1 kendama player in the world.
The 20-year-old Portland native took home the title at the Kendama World Cup in Osaka, Japan, last July.
"When I tell people that I'm a professional kendama player, they don't know what it is," he says.
Kendama is a wooden skill toy dating back to 16th-century Japan. Players do tricks, catching a wooden ball attached by a string to a handle with three cups and a spike that fits into a hole in the ball. It arrived in the West in the 18th century, but had a surge in popularity about 10 years ago among American rollerbladers and jugglers visiting Japan for competitions.
But in the past few years, it's been adopted by Pacific Northwest kids, who have become sponsored players of the biggest kendama companies in the world. Think of right now as the kendama equivalent to the Dogtown era of skateboarding.
Kendama is perfectly poised for a cultural takeover, its players fitting nicely into the Venn diagram intersection of snowboarders, skaters, stoners, footbaggers and 20-something Pacific Northwest chillers.
Bray was introduced to the game at Lincoln High School, where a scene sprouted a few years ago.
"I borrowed my friend's kendama during a free period and landed some random sick trick and got super-stoked," he says. "I was hooked. I just never put it down."