“All ultimate people are great people. Well, except for the assholes.”-Matt Love
Location: Okura Beach, Akashi.
Format: Hat tourney Saturday (competition included accuracy and distance throwing as well as on-beach play), team play Sunday. 25 minute (continuous) rounds made for short but sweet games (the girls, perpetually shorthanded, were especially appreciative of the short game times)–games were typically followed by an hour or more bye, so there was plenty of time for hangout/fooding/socializing between games.
Conditions: Warm bordering on hot (20-24 deg C), cloudy on Saturday, sunny on Sunday. Beach was pretty rocky–barefoot playing was a no-go, sadly. Still forgiving enough to bid freely, but the arms and legs would pay the price.
Overall experience: Great!
Saturday I wound up with a squad of Japanese college students (as I’ve mentioned before, the scene here largely revolves around college teams). I showed up late and arrived as teams were already huddled. Opening conversation went something like this:
“Is this team G?”
“Sorry I’m late! I’m Matt, nice to meet you.”
“We were just thinking of our team name…What’s that on your shirt?”
“This? Oh, you mean ‘Dartmouth?’”
“What’s a ‘Dartmouth?’ Mouth, like mouth?”
“Oh! Well, uh yeah…it is but it doesn’t really mean anything, it’s a person’s name…”
“Sounds cool. Alright! ‘Dartmouth’ will be our team name.”
So it was that Dartmouth had its inaugural tournament appearance in Japan. Our 2-1 record was good enough to finish 5th in the tournament, but a poor showing in the accuracy contest sank any hopes of finishing in the top 3 overall. Our foreigner contingent represented pretty well though, with one team sporting a couple of us making it to the finals (out of perhaps 150 players on Saturday, there was just the dozen or so of us foreigners spread about).
After games on Saturday we made the obligatory onsen trip to clean off, hit up a nearby buffet, and then hung out at the beach for the evening with some of the other players–now teammates and friends–and some watermelon. Spent the night in a ryokan near Kobe, channeling some summer-camp sleepover nostalgia sharing a room with the 10 of us for the night.
Sunday we Wondertwin-powered into the form of a Rising Tide:
The smallish roster and being already familiar with each other from having played together in Awaji meant that as a team we gelled pretty well from the get-go, with a little bit of basic strategy talk and subbing (your basic “always have a handler on the field” prescription).
First game we opened up a 3 or 4-0 lead before letting them creep back in late for a 7-6 victory that never felt so close. Second game saw us brush up against some stiffer competition–indeed, the team went on to win the whole thing–and drop a 7-5 game that also never felt as close as the score indicates. Almost all of the Japanese teams had a good grasp of the fundamentals of using the dump-swing and break throws to punish poaching or generate easy motion, but this team had it down even more systematically than the rest, who seemed to improvise more (or maybe we just played better D). At any rate yours truly wound up looking stupid on D a couple times.
Our third and fourth games were also tight, with our last game going into sudden death overtime after we were tied at the end of 25 minutes, but, much like our namesake, we slowly and inexorably rose above. (Our second game of the day obviously occurred during a receding phase).
Rising Tide finished 8th overall, with a 3-1 record and the 1 to the tourney champions. In other words, I think we have a solid claim to second-best team overall.
Other events: Between games/during byes (games are only 25 minutes, remember, so 3/4 games a day means a lot of down time) were various frisbee-related demos: some freestyling here, disc golfing there, a fair bit of dog catch, and some other games of skill, all complete with an announcer to narrate (“Ok, here’s the throw to Rover…can he do it? YES! Nice catch!”), as well as continuous (good) music playing at the fields. It wasn’t just an event for the people who love to run themselves ragged on the field; families could come and enjoy, with there being several food options and games on the side. Saw a few young’uns tossing foam discs around, or throwing at targets, while the families picnicked. Tourney organizers in the States take note–loath as I am to feed associations between ultimate and dogs, there are plenty of options out there to make a weekend of ultimate about much more than simply ultimate.
Highlight of the non-ultimate events was definitely the 「ダイビーングケーチコンテスト」, aka Diving Catch Contest, aka Layout Grab-off. Yours truly did a little showboating before tracking down and catching a nice floater above the head, with a near-faceplant of a landing and a facefull of sand to show for it and little else. For whatever reason we didn’t so much as place despite, you know, actually catching the disc, which some 20 of the 25 pairs did not. Plus we had way more style.
Personally: I felt pretty great all weekend–despite having to deal with a strained quad for much of the week preceding, the short beach fields combined with some day-before muscle debugging (my VMO was too tight and not firing; got it working with a bit of foam rolling and some massage along with some focused mobility work) had me feeling fine all weekend long, the usual after-game and day-after aches and pains notwithstanding.
Played pretty darn well–the short field helped in a lot of ways, as it a) reduced a lot of defense to something closer to handler D, where I’m most comfortable and b) put me in close proximity to all the other players, meaning I had plentiful opportunities to poach, bait and help with good results. Offensively, despite not having really thrown a disc in a month or so, my IO backhand and forehand were both gellin’ (though the flick was a little too zippy at times) and the rest of the arsenal fell in line pretty well too–it helped that Saturday was close to breezeless and Sunday wasn’t too strong either, but regardless of condition it bodes well to see the muscle memory holding up. Having fewer players on the field makes it a bit easier to assess the state of my options with the disc and find space, so I didn’t find myself struggling in the handler role as much as at Awaji (it helped that we defaulted to a straight stack O).
Personal highlights are numerous. I knew I was set for a good weekend when, late in my first game on Saturday, I had a full-extension, fingertip layout D on a swing for the goal, which I immediately followed with an IO backhand break huck to the other endzone for the goal. There was also a span in one game Sunday where I believe I threw a goal (or at least right up to the endzone), and then in the ensuing two points D’d up the first throw and threw the score on the next pass (the first, a poach on an upline pass that led too far; the second, a straight-up denial catch D on a dump attempt), turning a pretty tight game into a comfortable lead in the span of about two minutes.
Altogether, couldn’t have asked for a better weekend getaway. Left on Sunday riding on cloud nine; it’s ridiculous how happy this sport makes me sometimes.
Been a while since I had cause to do a tourney writeup…this is less a writeup proper and more a short impression, since it was so brief (one day).
A few lessons I learned from today:
1) Navigating in Japan by car is harder than you think.
2) I’m really out of shape.
3) There’s a rather significant ultimate population in Japan (the tourney had some 14 or 16 teams!?–the majority of which were 90-100% Japanese. University clubs are becoming more poplar here, it seems)–it’s just not concentrated close to where I live and work. Feel free to get in touch with me if you ever happen to be out East and in search of some action.
4) Even out of shape and out of practice, my throws remain solid–more on that later this week.
5) Turning a 2-hour trip into a 5-hour one does not, in fact, do a driver’s body well. Ouch.
I racked up a layout D in my first game (second point, I think)–if you’re ever picking up with a team and you need to prove you’re legit in a hurry (say you show up 3 hours late and really need to prove that you were worth the wait), get ho.
There’s some stuff from the summer version here. The site and condition were pretty much exactly the same, maybe a little rainier, but you get the idea.