There was a time, back in the halcyon days of competitive Frisbee, when Santa Barbara was the living, breathing, and spinning center of the flying-disc universe. World-renowned freestylers like Joey “The Oracle” Hudoklin, Chip Bell, and David Zeff all called Santa Barbara home, and Chase Palm Park, with its tickling ocean breeze and stretched-out open space, was the place to watch the action go down.
While the early 1980s aren’t coming back no matter how high you pull up your striped tube socks, the best Frisbee players the world has to offer are, once again, Santa Barbara bound. This week, for six action-packed days, our little hamlet by the sea will be simultaneously hosting the U.S. Open Overall Flying Disc Championships and the World Masters and Juniors Overall Championships.
“It is just going to be fantastic, man,” beamed Zeff, a former freestyle world champion who still calls S.B. home after moving here decades ago purely to pursue Frisbee-tossing greatness. “It is going to be old friends getting the band back together plus some of the best new players in the world — all right here in Santa Barbara playing in some of the best Frisbee conditions you will find anywhere.”
The free and open-to the-public event, which is being codirected by area architect Jeff Shelton and his nephew, and current reigning Masters Division Overall United States Champion Thomas Cole, kicks off Monday, June 25, with the first rounds of the Accuracy contest at Pershing Park, and concludes Saturday, June 30, with the always crowd-pleasing Freestyle Finals at Chase Palm.
Specifically, the tournament will see more than 100 competitors (or “people with odd learned abilities,” as Shelton put it) from a wide range of age divisions throwing down — or simply throwing, as the case may be — in seven separate events with a champion being crowned in each event, as well as the overarching goal of declaring an “Overall” champion based on combined scores.
The competition features a distance contest; two rounds of Frisbee golf out at the Lake Casitas course in Ojai; the grueling discathlon, in which competitors must run and throw their way through a one-kilometer-long slalom course; an accuracy contest; self-caught flight at UCSB’s Storke Field (a player throws a Frisbee to him- or herself with the dual goal of keeping it in the air as long as possible as well as covering the greatest distance while doing so); the fast-paced, two-on-two action of double disc court (this event truly must be seen to be understood, but, in short, it is a bizzaro sort of tennis match that has each team using two Frisbees at a time as they work to get points by either landing one of their discs in their opponents’ “court” or getting both their discs to be touched at the same time by their opponents); and, of course, the spinning and artistic acrobatics of the freestyle competition.
While all the events require finely tuned athletic ability coupled with supreme Frisbee manipulation skill, it is the freestyle category that is the crown jewel of the weeklong jamboree — this is the one where partners toss and spin a Frisbee back and forth while performing a mixture of martial arts and dance maneuvers.
As Shelton summed it up, “Friday and Saturday will be just phenomenal, the best freestylers in the world out there doing their thing at Chase Palm Park. It is going to be great.”
U.S. Open Overall Flying Disc Championships and the World Masters and Juniors Overall Championships take place Monday-Saturday, June 25-30. For more info, visit web.me.com/tmbanzai.