Hurtling through the air, the red plastic disc escapes the desperate grasps of clasping hands and instead plunges, untouched, into the warm sands of Siloso Beach. Mere inches away lie the defeated: two panting players, now face-planted, who both missed the whizzing disc. ‘Hey guys, how ’bout catching it?!’ jokes a shirtless and sinewy defenceman toward his two sprawled teammates. A middle finger and a smirking face caked with sand is all he gets back. Trash talking is just part of the game in this popular twist on Ultimate Frisbee where, like volleyball, the adrenalin-pumping game has found its way to Sentosa’s sands. This is Beach Ultimate.
A five-on-five team sport, Beach Ultimate merges football’s running power with American football’s end zones and aerial nature. The goal is to keep the disc airborne via passes like the ‘flick’ or the ‘hammer’ and get said disc into the opponent’s end zone for a point. Like American football, this often warrants celebrations with touchdown flair (think ‘The Bird’ dance). In fact, thanks to the sport’s cultivated social nature through weekly open games, most aspects of Beach Ultimate embrace some sort of flair – when the defence turns, players endure the ‘walk of shame’ back to the start line; witty taunts are often heard, even encouraged, from the sidelines; and it’s not uncommon for games to pause for beer breaks. ‘It’s quite free spirited,’ says Kee Khoon Neo, a Beach Ultimate hard body himself, as well as the president of Singapore’s Ultimate Players’ Association (www.singaporeultimate.com). ‘Ultimate culture promotes a lot of socialising, whether the game is played on grass or beach.’
The original game has experienced a whizzing emergence into the world of sports since its development in the late ’60s, a path that Ultimate players predict for its beachside spin-off as well: ‘About two years ago, you hardly saw Beach Ultimate,’ Neo says, indicating the surrounding Siloso Beach. ‘But now you see a lot of discs flying around.’ Whether those flying discs make heads duck or turn, the game is gearing up for its first regional tournament, the Asian Championship Beach Ultimate 2009, in the Philippine island of Boracay this October. With Ultimate’s customary social style, this will be hosted alongside what is billed to be a raucous Halloween party.
Robert Mittelsdorf, an American expat living in Singapore, helped invent the original game back in the ’60s with a crew of buddies from his New Jersey high school. He notes the rising emergence of Beach Ultimate with a smidgen of parental pride. Ultimate Frisbee is ‘ideally suited,’ for the beach, according to Mittelsdorf. ‘Everyone wants to throw a disc at the beach, right? Basically, it’s the same game, except sand is softer than turf, so if you fall it doesn’t hurt that much.’ Perhaps an obvious observation, but Beach Ultimate’s forgiving pitch is precisely the perk that differentiates it from its grassy relative.
Sprinting, pivoting and passing, the game involves the inevitable sandy spill or, better yet, an all-out ‘layout’ where players dive into horizontal reaches for the disc. ‘Here, you can dive with more ease than on grass,’ explains high-school student Melanie Lim, the newest and youngest player to take part in the weekly games. As evidenced by the sand stuck in her hair, she has done her fair share of diving this game. And really, that’s the spirit of this sport, dubbed ‘ultimate’ because the inventors considered it exactly that: the ultimate sport where anyone – guy or gal, rookie or pro, teenager or grown-up – can dive in. ‘Just go and play,’ advises Mittelsdorf. ‘You don’t have to take lessons to have fun. Just keep ’em flying,’ he says, rehashing the original team motto.
Open pickup games, a weekly free-for-all.
When: Saturdays between 3.30pm and 7pm