“I hate playing beach, I can’t jump.” – Brett Middleton
Brett is right. The sand limits your ability to jump. And you know what? Good. I am sick and tired of you beating me in the air for the last ten years.
Beach ultimate is the great equalizer. Seriously. No longer do freakish athletes do what they please. Honestly, it is a thing of beauty watching the worlds best throwers shake their heads in frustration as their beautiful leading passes fall softly to the sand, metres in front of their intended target.
After playing the last two Beach Worlds campaigns for the Australian Mens team (first the Salty Crocs and then the Reef Sharks) I wanted to share some of my thoughts on what makes beach ultimate such a unique and exciting version of the sport we love.
While the rules for beach ultimate are almost identical to grass, the style in which it is played and the strategies and ideas surrounding play are very different. I hope to convince you to give it a go.
Leading passes are hard on the beach. Very hard. No longer can you rely on throwing out to space and letting Alex Gan or Rosie Dawson go chase it down. This does not mean that you can’t throw a leading pass, it just means you must adjust both the timing and shape of your throws.
On the flipside of this, cutting is actually easier on sand as your defender’s reaction time is slowed. Hip and shoulder fakes gain you separation and mean that you can often footrace your defender to the free space.
Break throws are very dangerous on sand. Both the US and Philippines teams moved the disc quickly and attacked the break side all the time. In turn, the game moves at a breakneck speed and is open to big plays both offensively and defensively. The Philippines in particular, play with an almost reckless abandon on offense and have no concept of safe throwing.
Not very fun when you have to chase them around, but thrilling when you watch them.
Just as offence becomes easier on the sand, defence becomes harder. The sand slows you down and if you trip over your feet or get turned around you are toast.
Trying to contain your player is useless and you must be aggressive on defence and force turnovers. This breeds a real sense of urgency on defence and now, if there is even a sliver of a chance that I can get the block, I will lay for it in beach. With the risk-reward balance completely flipped, you can have confidence in just going for it!
So you know that feeling at the end of a tournament when your knees and ankles feel like someone has been hitting them with a hammer for the last few days? That doesn’t happen at the end of a beach tournament. While each point can sometimes feel like murder on your lungs and muscles as you try to plough your way through the sand, at the end of the day you feel fresh and ready to go.
Your feet however may end up a little worse for wear if the sand is really hot…
The beach scene is an incredible mixture of competitiveness and fun. Playing on the sand, with the water within twenty metres of you, evokes the feeling of summer parties and a sense of camaraderie. After the sixth turnover in a single point, you turn to your opponent and share a moment, as you both realise you will need to start running in this bloody sand again and that neither of you wants to do it.
I started this article talking about how Beach Frisbee is the great equalizer, but that is not entirely correct. Beach Ultimate has its own unique skills and strategies that are completely different to that of the grass game. Learning how to run and turn properly on the sand and how to throw to slower and smaller target areas will give you significant advantage against those who don’t practise these things and could set you up to have a really successful playing career on beach. This in turn could lead you to representing your country and there is no greater honour than that for a frisbee player.
So, what is my final message? Simply to give beach ultimate a try. You might just love it and you may find you have the skills necessary skill sets to become one of Australia's best beach players.