SURREY ULTIMATE: Hammers, flicks and scoobers in the park

SURREY — Surrey Ultimate couldn’t wait until summer to kick off its summer league.

The local ultimate Frisbee organization started its seventh season opener a few weeks back, in spring, and they’ve already created some friendly competition among its board of directors.

"I caught the winning point against this tall guy – the highlight of my life," said site manager Ryan Koop, laughing with Supreet Malhi, the organization’s community growth and development co-ordinator.

Similar to football, the objective of ultimate is to get the disc into the opposing team’s endzone for one point. But unlike football, you can’t just run the disc in – the player possessing the disc can only pivot on one foot and must pass it to a teammate in the endzone.

The sport has taken on a life of its own outside of high school P.E. classes: Surrey Ultimate started in 2009 with nine or 10 teams, and has steadily increased to 14 over the years.

"It’s evolved so fast ," said Malhi. "When I was in Grade 8, there weren’t all these teams and divisions."

"In the past couple years, we’ve really seen an increase in youth," said Koop. "(But) the age range goes from kids that are 14 to some adults in their 60s. It’s really neat like that."

The sport’s broad appeal is attributed to its easy accessibility and positive atmosphere, though at the same time, it can be tremendously competitive.

Ultimate offers two divisions: One for more advanced players and the other for people who are just looking for a good time.

For the really skilled athletes, the sport has transcended high school soccer fields to the point of major league competition, with two highly ranked teams based in Vancouver.

"There are teams from Atlanta, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal," said Gagan Chatha of Fraser Heights, who plays for the Vancouver Riptide in the American Ultimate Disc League. "It’s pretty massive.

"You need to be really athletic – your disc skills need to be 100 per cent. You have to be really good with the basics, and from there, you can go on to more advanced skills."

Perhaps the biggest difference that sets apart the pros from the amateurs is the ability to perform a variety of throws. While a backhand is the most common throw, it’s not always the best when facing a heavy defence.

"These throws have different curves you can put on them," said Chatha. "You can use those to place the disc where you want it to go."

Every throw has its own advantages and disadvantages. A flick is a forehand throw performed quickly with minimal energy, but requires practice. A roller throw covers a lot of distance, but can be easily turned over. And what about the upsidedown throws?

"If you want to get it to your player on, say, the far side of the field, but you don’t want it to get blocked, you’d throw a hammer," said Chatha. "The scoober’s a similar one, but it doesn’t go as far. That’s to get it over one or two people rather than across the field."

Both throws send the disc upside-down, but they’re not just for style – they allow for a greater control.

And if you thought "scoober" was a weird name for a throw, wait until you’ve heard the team names.

"We’ve got the White Elephants this year, AYCE, Uptown Flick, GangGreen," said Koop. "One year, we were the Purple People Eaters and we had a Pac-Man trying to eat a guy diving for a disc."

"The sport’s kind of got a history of putting goofy names on teams," added Malhi.

Goofy or not, the sport is unique – not just because it’s untraditional, but because of the good vibes and sportsmanship among even the fiercest of rivals.

"Spirit is one of the few things that really separates ultimate from any other athletic competition," said Malhi. "It draws a lot of players into the sport, knowing that you don’t have to be out there bloodthirsty or cheating to win.

"You can play hard, give it your best shot and your opponents are going to be your friends at the end of the day."

Surrey Ultimate is holding its summer league games every Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m. at South Surrey Athletic Park. For more information, check Surreyultimate.ca.

jacobzinn@gmail.com

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