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Basking at the Beach: Playing at the World Championships of Beach Ultimate

You spend your holidays at the beach? Enjoy and bathe in the sun and then refresh yourself in the water? Well, that´s what most people do on the beach. Not me. Almost every time I travel to a beach I do this to do sports: I play Beach Ultimate. - Ultimate Frisbee played on the beach. Last year in August I played at the World Championships of Beach Ultimate in Lignano Sabbiadoro, Italy. Read on how hard it is to run in the sun when everyone else on the beach is looking for shadow.

Photo by bloomchen

Most of you might never have heard of Ultimate Frisbee. So I´ll explain shortly: Ultimate Frisbee is a team sports played with a flying disc and the goal of the game is to score points by passing the disc to one of your teammates in the end zone of the opposing team. The end zone is similar to the one of American football or rugby. The player holding the disc can´t run and only move with one foot (pivot) similar to basketball.

Photo by bloomchen

Now here we go with the story of playing Beach Ultimate in Italy in scorching heat.

Well, we all know it´s hot during summer in Italy. And as most of the players play Beach Ultimate tournaments quite often everyone of us was expecting it too be hot.

But last year end of August it was so damn hot that even the Italians suffered and told us that usually it isn´t that hot end of August and we´re not lucky having to play in such a heat.

Irish player warming up in the sun.

After only one day the host realized that it is not fun nor sports anymore to play at noon with about 40 degrees (and no shadow on the playing fields). I must explain that Ultimate is a very fast and tiresome sports – you have to run/sprint almost all the time while you´re on the field. So the host decided to give the teams a break of about 2h from noon to 2pm. But well, that didn´t help much.

German National Mixed team listening to the anthems before the quarter-final against Austria.

It was so hot that it was almost impossible to run. The sun was sucking all power from the players bodies. Basking at the beach became somewhat a different meaning. Everyone on the field was basking but actually wanted to leave the field as soon as he could.

German National Mixed Master player taking a break between the points in the semi-finals.

After running two or maybe three sprints all energy was gone and you needed a break. But if the point was still played you had no other possibility than to actually walk as fast as you could on the sand. So sometimes the games looked more like players walking slowly on the fields and throwing or better trying to throw a disc to players with the same jersey. What we normally practice – good/save throws in moments of high physical stress – didn´t work anymore. This lead to turnovers and the opposing team had the same problem which meant that points normally played in less than 2 minutes took now up to 8 or in the worst case probably 10 minutes. That was really hard. To give you an impression with numbers how hard it was: I drank about 8 to 10 liters of water during the day while we played but I didn´t have to go and pee once.

At times we didn´t play ourselves we watched other games and it was really hard to do so. Those not playing took pity with those on the field. Another problem caused by the sun was the hot sand. It was getting so hot that you could only play with sand-socks or sand-shoes. But these got wet quickly because the feet were sweating and with getting wet they got more heavy and then you had to run with heavy sand-shoes as it wasn´t hard enough to run anyway.

I admit that all this sounds like a stupid idea and that it wasn´t fun at all but that´s not true: we had a lot of fun!

Player from Austria with a bloody jersey can still smile even though she stopped the disc with her face unintentionally.
Canadian Player having fun in the sun being caught on film.

We players had a hard time on the fields but Ultimate Frisbee has something of high value which is called “The Spirit of the Game” (SOTG)! This means playing fair or fairness is higher rated than actually winning the game. Therefore Ultimate Frisbee is played without a referee. But not only fairness on the field belongs to the SOTG. SOTG means to have fun, be polite and spent time together and discuss before and after the game with the players of the opposing team.

Discussing the game with the team of the US.
Team Canada Masters celebrating the 5th place.

And as we were playing World Champiosnships it was quite a lot of fun to meet players from 31 countries playing in 6 different divisions and talk to them, have fun at parties on the beach in the evening or refreshing with them in the water after the last match of the day with a beer and talking about the game we just played.

Two players of the team from the virtual Ultimate Frisbee country Currier Island are drinking the gift they got from our team: a bottle of Jägermeister.

The beach players are a bit like a huge family. We meet each other at tournaments all over Europe. But this time there were even teams from Canada and India, the Philippines, USA, Japan, Australia, Venezuela, United Arab Emirates… Unfortunately the first team from Africa ever talking part at Worlds of Ultimate Frisbee – the team from Uganda – couldn´t come because they didn´t get their papers to enter the country.

I was playing with the German National team in the Open Masters divison (players older than 33). We tried hard but failed to go to the semi-finals. In fact we didn´t deserve it as we didn´t play that well. Even though we had up to 3 matches a day and we were busy warming up, between the team-meetings and tactical instructions there was time left to take some pictures with my La Sardina.

Photo by bloomchen

Unfortunately I had a hard time because the transport button broke. No good advertising because everyone was interested in my camera but everyone had to wait for my camera to be ready to shoot when we took the team-pictures after each match. Sorry for including two digital shots here to show you how I tried to transport the roll and everyone was waiting for me.

So if you ever notice some guys playing Ultimate Frisbee on the beach remember this story because there might be one of the players from Italy among them. Or maybe we meet each other on the beach if you step over and ask if there is some german guy from Berlin among them. Well, this upcoming week-end I´ll play a beach tournament in Berlin. Next time will be in Germany too. Usedom. Across Europe probably end of October in Barcelona/Castelldefels.

Photo by bloomchen

Thanks for reading and here some more shots and impressions from this great event:

written by bloomchen

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