Frisbee defines recreation. If you do it right, you hardly even have to move your feet - perfect for a lazy afternoon or in between classes. But there are many variations on the classic game that test your Frisbee finesse, and you can experience them all in Chattanooga.
Ultimate Frisbee (or simply Ultimate) is a fast-paced sport that's also one of the fastest-growing pastimes in the United States. It's highly competitive, and professionals can actually earn money playing Ultimate. However, it still retains the grassroots feel of its origins.
"It's wholesome; it's competitive; you play fair," says Lori Hairrell, who was one of the first to play in the Chattanooga Ultimate league. Now, as the Executive Director for Re:Start - The Center for Adult Education, she sees Ultimate as "a whole new adult education."
This year, Re:Start sponsors Hairrell's Ultimate team. "I believe in it so much that I'm willing to put Re:Start's name on the disc," she says.
The Chattanooga Flying Disc Club is the local Ultimate authority. League coordinator Steve Cobble is another original, with nearly 25 years under his belt. "I started playing in 1988," Cobble says, "and I started the Ultimate league in 1998."
In 1998, they had four teams of 10 to 12 people. Since then, the league has expanded to about 200 individuals divided among 13 co-ed teams across town. Players range from age 14 to 61, and they're evenly split by ability - so everybody gets to play, and the games are competitive.
"We have a summer league that runs May through August, and our winter league typically starts in early December and goes through March," Cobble says. "The summer league games are at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays; they typically last about two hours."
Socials follow the Tuesday games, held at league sponsors like Mojo Burrito, Crust Pizza and Market Street Tavern. "We try to build a community," Cobble says. "I think a lot of our players are individual enthusiasts: mountain bikers, climbers, kayakers, stuff like that. And they find Ultimate, and it changes them in that aspect."
Nearly a dozen local high schools have had players in the league. And there's a push to get more involved. "This fall, we're looking to do a club-type league," says longtime local Ultimate player Jeb Barrett. "We're also looking for this as a way to get a youth club team to compete at USA Ultimate regional tournaments."
Chattanooga hosts the annual Deep Freeze tournament for youth and high school players, with teams from as far away as Wisconsin. But the main event is the Shawn Adams Memorial Tournament. "He's the fellow that got me to come back and keep playing Ultimate," Cobble says. Adams was killed by lightning in 1994 while playing Ultimate in Nashville, and he's a legend of the sport - as much for his character as his aptitude for the game.
Adams believed in the Spirit of the Game, which still governs official competition. It's a rule that places the responsibility for fair play on the players - so even at the highest levels, referees are rare. Players make their own calls and respect the decisions.
"The spirit of Ultimate that I know was founded on our own truthfulness," says Hairrell, who played with Adams. "That legacy is something that anybody can pass down to their kid in the backyard."
Move Over, Augusta: Disc golf catches on
Formalized in the 1970s, this game comprises the joys and frustrations of regular golf, minus the triple-digit price tag. Disc golf began with only a Frisbee and a "hole," like street signs or Hula Hoops. Like golf, the competitor with the lowest score (fewest throws) wins.
Course design has come a long way, however. Landscape architects attempt to build courses that are challenging but inherently enjoyable. Chattanooga claims six of those, including our premier course, The Sinks.
Located on Access Road in Hixson, it's a technical 18-hole course that requires players to navigate the wooded fairways. The course is dotted with sinkholes (hence the name), with intimidating descriptors like "The Pit of Despair and Gnashing of Teeth."
Despite the names, it's a family-friendly course. "Ask anyone at one of the courses for a few tips," says CFDC disc golf guru Scott Homberg. The CFDC also hosts clinics a few times each year, or by request.
You can use a single Frisbee, though many holes become easier with a full set comprised of a driver, mid-range disc and putter. At The Sinks, you can launch a driver from the concrete tee box and make your approach (often around a dogleg) before putting. The "hole" is a metal basket draped in chains, which keep the disc from bouncing off the center pole.
Who let the dogs out?
This one's a little different. The competitors are furry and slobber all over the place. No, not your mother-in-law: This is the Skyhoundz World Championship, an unreal test of canine agility.
About 200 dogs and their owners will gather at AT&T Field Sept. 22-23 for a series of competitions in Frisbee-catching - from distance and accuracy, to choreographed routines judged by their Wow! Factor.
In the week leading up to the competition, Camp Jordan will also host qualifying tournaments and world championships in the DiscDogathon and Xtreme Distance events. This is the tournament's fourth year in Chattanooga, after moving from Atlanta. "We've always loved Chattanooga," says Jeff Perry of Skyhoundz. "We've watched it grow over the years."