The fourth World Championships of Beach Ultimate roll into to Dubai on Sunday, with the promise of sea, sand and quality sport at JBR.
Never heard of beach ultimate? Let Pedro Miguel Vargas, director of the Beach Ultimate Lovers Association (BULA), illuminate you….
Q: First things first, what exactly is beach ultimate?
PMV: It is probably best described as a combination of football (soccer), American football, and basketball – played with a flying disc (Frisbee™). It’s a fast-paced game that sees teams of five players trying to catch the disc in the opponent’s endzone (like in American Football). Doing so scores you a point. Whenever the disc is intercepted, touches the ground, or goes out of bounds, the teams switch from defence to offence and vice versa.
Q: How popular is the sport worldwide?
PMV: I believe the sport has reached a critical mass and modern communication makes spreading the advantages of the sport easier. New tournaments quickly learn how to attract players and use that as an ignition point for local set up of games and leagues. The fact that the game is played on the beach also helps with the appeal, and as it is a non-contact sport that relies on self-officiating, it attracts a new type of player that enjoys healthy competition. It is a sport in which fair play is a key element, yet fundamentally it is still has really good physical merits.
Q: The World Championships are coming to Dubai, why was the UAE chosen as host nation?
PMV: In the Middle East, the sport’s popularity is in its early stages and the World Championships is really seen as a catalyst to get it into the public's eye. There are four teams participating from the UAE as well as one national team from Qatar. Considering the abundance of sand and beaches in the region, this is a potential major growth area for beach ultimate. The event will attract 1,100 athletes from 25 countries – it will be a fantastic advert for the sport.
Q: Which countries tend to dominate the beach ultimate scene?
PMV: This is the fourth world championship after Portugal (2004), Brazil (2007) and Italy (2011). Each tournament has various divisions and in Dubai there are seven divisions: open, women, mixed, open masters (age 32+), mixed masters (32+), women masters (30+), and grand masters (40+). USA has ruled in most divisions throughout the years with nine gold medals and other countries such as Austria, Great Britain, Australia, and Germany have each taken five gold medals in total. [For more complete standings, click HERE]
There have been eight ever-present nations at the BULA Beach Ultimate World Championships: Canada, Switzerland, USA, Portugal, Currier Island, Ireland, Great Britain, Germany.
Q: Hold on, Currier Island? That’s not a real place is it?
PMV: You’re right! Currier Island was the brainchild of a couple of guys who wanted to play at the 2004 world championships but didn’t make the U.S team. They wrote to WCBU president Patrick van der Valk claiming they were from this country, Currier Island, and requested an invitation to attend – stating that WCBU could not possibly qualify as a legitimate ‘world’ championships without them. In the spirit of the sport, they were allowed to play and since it has been a team that serves the purpose of hosting players whose countries are not being represented at the event in a particular division. Tt allows everyone an opportunity to take part in the WCBU. There are some caveats surrounding Currier Island’s participation, namely the fact that because is not an official country it is not allowed to access semi-finals (or quarter-finals, depending on the division).
Q: Thanks for clearing that up! Who are the favourites going into this year’s tournament.
PMV: The US teams are seeded first in every division. The Philippines are going to bring some strong squads and they have been practicing a lot under the watchful eye of Tim Morrill, a beach ultimate fitness specialist. Outsiders can be Sweden (mixed), Portugal (mixed), Ireland (mixed), Australia (open, mixed and mixed masters), Canada (all divisions), Germany (all divisions) and Great Britain (all divisions).
Q: Does beach ultimate have ambitions of being an Olympic sport?
PMV: Beach ultimate is potentially going to be included in the first World Beach Games to be held in 2017. For the Olympics it is more likely that our sister sport of grass/field ultimate will be included. It won't happen in the next five years but it is definitely a potential in the 2020s. In 2013, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) provisional IOC recognition and with recent changes to make the Olympic games more attractive we feel that ultimate can play a role.