This past weekend, Kris and I went to a ridiculously fun Ultimate tournament in Pohang called Six on the Beach. It was a two-day celebration of Ultimate, filled with sand, sun, and throwing some discs. We brought back sore muscles, sand in places where sand should never be, and many lessons. I’ll share some of the things I learned this weekend, from the difficulty of running on sand, to the quality of the Ultimate community in South Korea.
Playing Ultimate on sand is painfully hard.
Running of any kind is difficult enough, but sand goes out of its way to be exceptionally uncomfortable and awkward. Whether it is the mini-mountain-climbing feeling of playing on soft, uneven sand, or the pain of playing on unyielding hard, wet sand, it is not an ideal surface for quick, sharp sprinting. The only benefit that sand has over other surfaces is that it is rather suited for layouts (diving to catch an otherwise unreachable disc). This did lead to more layouts than I would have expected. Some of these were clearly gratuitous, and players were jeered accordingly from the sidelines when they planted themselves in the sand for a disc more in their reach than the hem of their sleeves.
Every Ultimate player, no matter how experienced, has something that they need to work on.
I have a great deal of my game that I need to improve on, most of which were agonisingly highlighted during the tournament. Most prominent amongst them is my need to gain speed and endurance in my running. Close behind my physical ineptitude is my need to not panic when I get the disc. I have the annoying tendency to simply throw the disc away wantonly. This was demonstrated in what could have been a highlight of mine for the tournament: I made a full stretch, horizontal layout, catching the disc with the tips of the fingers of my right hand. The fact that I succeeded in doing this sent a surge of adrenaline through my body, and I casually tossed the disc away to what I thought was a nearby teammate. Sadly, my throw flopped pathetically to the dirt. I was, however, heartened by the fact that even the most experienced players had moments that they could have done markedly more proficiently. Whether it was throwing the wrong type of pass to making a cut to the wrong side of the field, we all had something that we felt we did poorly. We are all human, and it is helpful to remember this when you mess up.
There is no shame in having McDonald’s for two (or even three) meals in one day.
It’s close. It’s fast. It’s (mostly) in English. When you don’t feel like breaking out your rudimentary and embarrassing grasp of Korean or waiting a long time for your meal, the golden arches lie in wait. They know you want their salty, fried, processed goodness. And they are more than willing to give it to you.
Ultimate tournaments can run on time!
I have only participated in a handful of Ultimate tournaments before Six on the Beach, but a common feature of all of them is that they ran over time to varying degrees. Some were a handful of minutes over time. Others were a handful of hours. Six on the Beach proved that they could run to schedule. With nothing more than an air horn, a watch, and some shouting, the Six on the Beach team managed to start and finish matches when they said they would. Well done! While Ultimate people are generally relaxed when it comes to time, I appreciate when events I attend run on time, and Six on the Beach did not disappoint!
Not all love motels are seedy.
When we had been told about love motels before this weekend, I had the impression that they were completely decrepit, poorly-maintained old buildings with tiny rooms and beds filled with lumps and mysterious stains. When we booked a love motel for our one night stay in Pohang, I had my reservations. I quelled these by rationalising that we would only be there for one night, and the price was very reasonable. I needn’t have consoled myself. Our motel, which was two minutes away from the beach, was spotless. It came complete with a well-sized shower, computer (for stimulation purposes, we deduced), television, a comfortable bed, and clean towels. We would gladly stay there again, and will be far more willing to frequent love motels in the future.
The Korean Ultimate community is amazing.
While we had experienced some of the Ultimate community beforehand by playing in the Seoul Spring League, Six on the Beach was our first major exposure to players from around the country, and we were eager to see if players from around the country were as friendly, helpful, and generally pleasant and fun to be around as the Seoul community was. This was indeed the case. From first-timers brimming with enthusiasm, to veterans with the name of their Korean hometown tattooed onto their bodies, everyone was simply enjoying the weekend of sandy disc-throwing revelry. Advice was passed cordially and in good nature. Smiles abounded. Laughter contended with the various tactical calls throughout the weekend. It was sublime.
While my legs may still be sore from running, what will stay with me longer will be the memories made at Six on the Beach. The lessons I learned, the new friends I made, the older friendships made stronger – this is what Ultimate is truly about. We may all leap around after a small plastic disc, but the main driving force behind it all is something that Ultimate has had everywhere I’ve played it – a wonderful community. Thank you to the organisers. Here’s to the next tournament being as epic!