How Fun And Imagination Evolved A Pioneering Extreme Sport
Sure, any sport deemed "extreme" requires a little danger, a little risk. But extreme sports aren’t about hazards as much as they’re about originality, fun, self-expression and...okay, maybe the occasional adrenaline surge. Also critically fundamental to the existence of an extreme sport, is the company it keeps—invariably, the young or young at heart—and the movement it either perpetuates or intensifies. In other words, extreme is a scene as much as it is an off–the–wall activity. But the true test of an extreme sport is its longevity, lasting appeal and ability to evolve over time.
For some 70 years the flying disc, commonly known as the FRISBEE® disc, has held court on the quieter side of the extreme sports universe. Germinating from a few 1920s Ivy League students goofing off with pie tins from the Frisbie Baking Company of Bridgeport, Conn., the flying disc movement swelled to national proportions in 1958 when WHAM–O, a Southern California-based toy company, introduced the FRISBEE flying disc. Since then, the flying disc movement has soared through several incarnations and more than a few fads.
Guts And Glory… Forever
To address any skepticism at the outset about FRISBEE play not qualifying as an extreme sport, let’s talk danger right here, right now. Let’s talk Guts! Hailed as the granddaddy of all flying disc games, Guts was a tournament competition created by Ivy League students long ago—before most of us were alive. Legend has it that players used to stand in two five–person lines facing each other so each of them could wind up and fling a six–inch circular saw blade as hard as they could at the guts of their counterpart on the opposing team. In turn, the opposing player (i.e. the target) would try to catch the speeding saw blade in his or her hand. Now if that’s not extreme, what is? Guts is still around and widely popular on the collegiate circuit, although the saw blade has long been replaced by the plastic FRISBEE flying disc.
There are a ton of other FRISBEE games around the world, including the hugely popular sport called Ultimate. Created by Maplewood, N.J., high school students back in the late 1960s, Ultimate is kind of like football—except everyone passes, runs, and receives. Your team tries to advance a FRISBEE disc down a playing field and into the end–zone of an opposing team. It’s a lot of fun; but after a few rounds of play, you better hope your adrenaline starts to kick in. Ultimate requires a higher level of cardiovascular fitness level than any other field game.
Ultimate has helped take FRISBEE sports to extreme levels of popularity. A quarter century after its intercollegiate debut in a game pitting Princeton against Rutgers (Rutgers won); thousands of people the world over still enjoy Ultimate on the college and club level. Want to participate? Refer to the "Ultimap" on the Internet to find your nearest organized game in America, Asia, Europe, Australia or New Zealand.
Now, games are fine and dandy; but to many critics, games are more mainstream than extreme. Remember, an extreme sport also has to be about expression and originality. Accordingly, those on the fringe of an extreme but mainstream sport—like skateboarding, for example—would not only skate over the usual sidewalks and stairs, they would also skate down the actual stair railings. Looking for that kind of extreme self–expression? Look no further than the FRISBEE freestyle scene.
Like extreme surfers, skiers or snow boarders, FRISBEE freestylers are extended families with their own collection of living legends—truly great jammers and shredders, that is. By the hundreds, these extended families congregate in parks or sporting arenas year–round for freestyle events, jams, or expression sessions. What expert FRISBEE freestylers do with a flying disc is truly amazing and cannot be done justice by a written description. Essentially, freestyling is anything you can do to manipulate a FRISBEE while still keeping it in free–flowing motion—either on the passing or receiving end.
For example, just imaging catching and twirling a FRISBEE on your fingertips like some people twirl basketballs. But you don’t stop at twirling the disc. No, you transition into a rapid gitis pull to a bad attitude catch. Or, maybe you do a UD crow, or a double–spinning reverse osis catch.
Most freestyle routines involve teams of two or three c as in the mixed pairs competition, where people shared to the tunes of the Chemical Brothers, Talking Heads, Nirvana or anything that greases their agility and fuels their creativity. Between toe jams, barrel rolls, triple skid pullouts, flutter combos and occasional flips, an outsider could start thinking that FRISBEE freestyle competition is as structured and nerve–racking as Olympic figure skating. Not true. For what drives the thrill of this sublime movement is pure imagination and improvisation. It's like surfing a 30–foot swell at Hawaii’s North Shore; you do what comes natural to you, and everyone else cheers you on.
Indeed, one of the most extreme aspects about FRISBEE sports is the extreme variety of things people do with FRISBEE discs. The world speed catch record (i.e., catching a rocketing FRISBEE disc cleanly in one hand) is 119.14 kilometers—nearly 72 miles per hour from a distance of only 46 feet. That’s like catching a major league pitch without a glove and at closer range! To make distance an issue, in 1998 a man from Colorado threw a flying disc more than 690 feet to set the current world distance record. In 1994 at the U.S. Open Flying Disc Championships, the current women’s distance record was established with 447.2–foot throw.
If you like this extreme distance stuff—and a little accuracy thrown in for good measure—check out the FRISBEE Golf scene going on at more than 700 FRISBEE Golf courses in the U.S. Or, be like thousands of avid impromptu FRISBEE Golfers who tee off from any wide open space each week. With lamposts, buildings, trees and other landmarks as their designated holes, the world is their FRISBEE Golf at a dizzying 11,000 feet, and a FRISBEE disc has even been thrown from the peaks of Mt. Everest. There’s also disc bowling, disc football and the FRISBEE form of baseball called "Basebee."
Don’t assume, however, that the variety of FRISBEE play is limited to just our passion for the flying disc. Since 1974, FRISBEE enthusiasts and their canine companions have congregated around the world for the always festive, always entertaining all–dog FRISBE competitions. "Ashley Whippet" was the first official FRISBEE Dog and gained national fame for his blazing speed and remarkable leaping ability. Ashley’s FRISBEE skills made the first non–human to receive a full–page profile in People Magazine and also landed him the featured half–time entertainment at Super Bowl XII. While the Whippet breed initially led the canine FRISBEE sport, many dogs have shown talent in chasing and successfully catching a FRISBEE disc, except perhaps the Dachshund, which finds FRISBEE playa bi1 too extreme.
If being a member of a FRISBEE dog club isn’t extreme—at least in a fun–loving kind of 1—one FRISBEE enthusiast at the University of Queensland has even gone so far as defining a religion called FRISBEEtarianism. It’s driven by the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on top of the roof—and stays there!
So, who would have thought that a notion spawned by tossing pie tins—an idea as wacky as strapping two pieces of wood to one’s feet and schussing down a snowy hill—would rise so high in popularity, sail for so long as a beloved pastime, and soar off into so many extreme different directions?