Monday, May 4, 2015

World Championships for Beach Ultimate Frisbee

The Pete trying to guard someone from the UK team.
Moving across the world for your senior year can bring some exciting and very unexpected surprises. For a recreational ultimate frisbee player from St. Louis to be able to represent the country of Qatar  in the 2015 Beach Ultimate Frisbee World Championships in Dubai, well, it was just plain incredible! Quote: "Best week of my life" (and then looking at me), "without my family." Twenty-five countries, with 1,000 athletes, were represented from all over the world, and lucky for him, he was to play teams from Kenya, the UK, U.S., Australia, France, Canada, and Singapore. Think "the Olympics" with athletes from all over the world on a beach throwing a frisbee (they even had an opening ceremony). In fact, the World Championship Beach Ultimate is recognized by the International Olympic Committee. So I guess it's almost like you played in the Olympics, right?

Beach Ultimate is different than Ultimate because of fewer players (five on a side), and the field is smaller (75mx25m). Off go the shoes, with warm sand in between your toes instead. You can hear the wind and surf as you guard your opponent. The sand makes for fewer injuries, and people can play for decades. It keeps you in great condition, as you run in the sand, elbowing people a generation younger or older than yourself.

Running on the field/beach, with Dubai's city skyline in the distance....


Some teams had been training for years, but our eclectic Qatar team was gathered this year with people hailing from Lebanon, the UK, Canada, and the US. They had been practicing on a high school field of grass, and sometimes at a beach here in Doha since October. Sometimes the captain of the Egypt team would drop in to throw the disc with them.  Every Wednesday night and on a few Saturdays teachers, firefighters, students, a token geologist, a grocer, and even parents would hit the field to play a game they all loved: ultimate frisbee. Here is the team that ultimately went to Qatar for the World Championships:

This is the 2015 Beach Ultimate Frisbee team from Qatar, even with some team members' darling kids in tow. The Qatar team's mascot was the oryx, the Qatar national animal. You can see the oryxes on their team shirts. 

The oryx, the national animal of Qatar, in his native habitat, the sand of the Persian Gulf.....

Here is the group huddle with the U.S. team after they played. The U.S. would later win the tournament.

After France beat Qatar, they all shook hands, and laughed together.  Peter said, "My friends and me (a few other high school students) were treated with complete and total respect. Even though some of these people had trained for years, we were all the same in their eyes. And that felt really good."

The huge component of Beach Ultimate Frisbee is the SOTG or The Spirit of the Game, which translated means after they finish, both teams come together to dialogue about the game they have just played. They analyze and talk about the game with three elements: fair play, knowledge of the rules and how they were implemented, and if respect was shown to all the players. It is self-refereed; no hired referees to combat or challenge. The game is highly aggressive and competitive, but it is played with the knowledge that both teams will be face-to-face with one another, talking about any disagreements after the game.

The Pete is almost 6', but he said the average height was 6'13! Ha! These were ripply athletes--some of them even professionals. But again, everyone had their toes in the same sand. Age, nationality, and social-statues melted in the sun in Dubai--with a frisbee in your hand. Notice the Pete is wearing the France bracelet from a previous game....
After every game, the captain of each team would address the other team they had just guarded, chased, and drove to the line. They would converse back and forth about what they liked during the game--with a joke, a clap, or a compliment. Peter said, "Because you know there are no refs, there is a mutual trust and consideration for one another. After each game, there is a group huddle, and even gifts are given to the team or captain." The France team gave everyone a bracelet that had France inscribed. The U.S. team gave the team captain an umbrella with the Stars and Stripes on it. Memorably, the Australians serenaded them with a ukulele--the bush ballad Waltzing Matilda. The Australian captain then gave the Aboriginal instrument called a didgeridoo to the other captain. Music, gifts, laughs, cheers. This is what sports should be like: on the field, in the pool, or on the court or ice--and in life.

I have been thinking about the "spirit of the game" or SOTG, and that it has some significant lessons for life--off the field or beach. Knowing that you will be face-to-face with a former opponent (not screen-to-screen), and have the chance to converse, interact, and cheer each other could be revolutionary in some political or business arenas.  Maybe they need some more serenading and huddles at the United Nations--or at least a run in the sand together. Who would know that age, nationality, and socio-economic status can melt in the sand as you throw a plastic discus?
This is a picture of the Pete getting a point in the U.S. vs Qatar game--pretty big grin!

Posing with the Kenyan team
The Pete with two of his high school friends from Qatar. Do they look happy? Getting out of school for one week to play Frisbee?  Yep, they all agreed. It was a perfect week.

Huddling together after the Qatar-Singapore game
The U.S. and Qatar after their game.
Go Team Qatar!!! You might have not won the tournament, but you (with four nationalities on your team) showed robust enthusiasm and pride as you brought Qatar for the first time to the World Championships in Beach Ultimate Frisbee. Four years from now....maybe you will win!


  1. This is so cool! I love that they play without refs.

    My nephew is a rookie with the professional Ultimate team, the Boston Whitecaps. He has scored and assisted already and it is so fun!

  2. This is so cool! I love that they play without refs.

    My nephew is a rookie with the professional Ultimate team, the Boston Whitecaps. He has scored and assisted already and it is so fun!

  3. Hi the 'someone from the UK team' is Matt Parslow - he has been playing ultimate for nearly 10years started at Portsmouth Uni (UK) and loved the game for its ethos, and friendly atmosphere.He has played for Fully Charged, (a founder member), Fire of London, Clapham and of course UK

  4. Thanks for the info. It sounds like he has brought lots of exposure to the game in the UK!