Allow me the unprofessional luxury of opening in first person: I love ultimate frisbee. It's a relatively new obsession. Arriving at college, I could chuck a disc well enough, but I figured out pretty quickly that this wasn't a barefoot, hippie party. Gravity bong hits are not an appropriate hors d'oeuvres to two hours of running your ass off.
Granted, these guys did make a habit of filling the frisbee with beer and chugging that after the game, but I couldn't be bothered with all the intensity leading up to the drinking. My sport was boozing, and I didn't adulterate it with unnecessary sweat.
After graduating, I moved to Charleston. My co-workers at our environmental education camp had a tradition of playing ultimate on Wednesday nights, so I gave it another shot. We had a big field on site, with lights. Everyone played barefoot, and nobody kept score. If someone consistently dropped the frisbee, we tossed it to them even more.
Ultimate is a field game like football or soccer. The object is to get the disc across the other team's end zone. You accomplish this by throwing the disc amongst your teammates. Once you catch it, you can't run, so you have to find a teammate breaking away from a defender, and toss it to them. If you drop it, the other team gets the disc. Simple enough.
Eight years after those first games in Charleston, our group still plays every week. There's been quite a turnover, and some things have changed. We keep score now, although it's casual and people swap back and forth between teams. Some folks wear shoes, even cleats, much to my chagrin. But if you drop the frisbee, we're still going to throw it to you. And even though the stakes aren't high, there's nothing like the thrill of running full tilt at a slowly sinking disc, then launching your body through the air for a fully laid-out snag inches off the ground.
"It's like we only keep score, so we know when to stop playing," says Nicholas Boudreau, a regular player on Tuesday afternoons at James Island County Park. "It's great to be able to ferociously defend your sworn enemy in a game, and then share a touchdown toss with them in the next one. The group I play with, I never hang with any of them outside of frisbee, but every week I show up and I feel like I'm amongst great friends."
Adam Oliver, another long-time player, adds that the ease of learning makes it a friendly sport for beginners.
"You can guard someone of a relatively equal skill level so you don't get intimidated," says Oliver. "It's an opportunity to hang out with friends and catch up on plans for the week ahead. And while you're doing that, you exercise and burn off the calories you put on while hanging out with those friends. It's a win-win-win situation — hanging out, exercising, making plans, and showing off your mad crazy frisbee skills."
Want to try it out? There are lots of options for competitive and pick-up games in Charleston.
Where to get your game on
• James Island County Park hosts a noncompetitive pick-up game every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. Search "James Island ultimate frisbee" on Facebook. A competitive group also plays pick-up at the park on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a co-ed league organizes games during the summer. charlestonultimate.net
• Summerville at Gahagan Sports Complex hosts pick-ups on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. windsor-hill.org/ultimate.htm
• On Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., you'll find pick-up games at Mt. Pleasant Municipal Complex.
• The City of Charleston Competitive League hosts an eight-week season beginning in September at Harmon Field in downtown. The cost to join the league is $35 per player. Please contact Nick Kierpiec for more information at (843) 402-7329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.