The big event of the weekend may have been Pride, but as a fan of obscure sports (especially those which allow me to sit in a deckchair on the beach all afternoon), my own highlight was the ‘Nivea Sun Ultimate Showcase’, an exhibition of Ultimate Frisbee which took place at the Yellowave Beach Sports Centre on Sunday.
Ultimate Frisbee is, according to the commentator down at pitchside, “a cross between American Football and Netball”, so you might expect it to be played by small girls in shoulder pads. In fact the sport was born in the colleges of America in the 1960s, where it has grown in popularity and since crossed the Atlantic. It may still be relatively unknown in the UK, but only last week the European Ultimate Championships took place in Southampton, featuring teams from fourteen different countries, and Britain came away with four golds and three silvers.
I know that, because a lot of the winners were down at Madeira Drive on Sunday, and I was frequently blinded by the sun reflecting off their medals.
The word ‘Frisbee’ is a trademarked brand name, so to avoid legal action from its makers Wham-O, the sport is now commonly referred to as ‘Ultimate’. The beach version of the game involves two teams of four, with the aim to score points by passing the disc to one of your team-mates in the end-zone. As someone who struggles to comprehend American Football and gets confused by the finer points of cricket, I’m pleased to say that Ultimate is about as easy to pick up as a Frisbee. Or a generic plastic disc.
Keen to introduce the sport to a new audience, the organisers of this showcase were offering free deckchairs to spectators, so ignoring the constant threat of being hit in the face with a flying disc, I took up residence in the front row. Unfortunately I seemed to be on a direct route between the bar and the players’ marquee, and found myself watching a succession of waitresses filing past with drinks, nuts, snacks, and finally chilled champagne and vol-au-vents for those taking part. It’s a wonder any of them could still walk, let alone catch a Frisbee.
In stark contrast to football, one of the top Ultimate teams in the country is Accrington Stanley, who put on a fine display of catching, throwing, diving and kicking sand in the faces of eight-stone weaklings. They even managed to beat a Brighton team which included “UK Ultimate legend” Doug Milne, a man who has apparently won twelve national titles.
According to the official commentator, Sky Sports were there to capture the day’s action, but it must have been some kind of undercover filming, as I failed to spot them. It’s probably just as well though – having enjoyed the action for a couple of hours and failed to take the advice of the sponsors, I could feel myself beginning to burn. I may be a convert to Ultimate Frisbee, but I don’t want to appear on TV looking like a lobster in shorts.