The History of Frisbee and Disc Sports in the United States and Canada

35 Frisbee World Magazines on DVD 1976-1982 (See sample pages and more information below)

$11.95

The Counterculture of the 1960s and Early Frisbee Pioneers

In the 1960s, as numbers of young people became alienated from social norms, they resisted and looked for alternatives. They formed what became known as the counterculture. The forms of escape and resistance manifest in many ways including social activism, alternative lifestyles, experimental living through foods, dress, music and alternative recreational activities, including that of throwing a Frisbee. The perceptions of the Frisbee being popular within the countercultural community probably came from seeing long-hair young people throwing Frisbees in the parks, on campus and at music festivals in the 1960s. Also in the early 1970s when new Frisbee sports and events were being invented, it could be perceived that these new sports were being invented as an alternative to traditional ball sports. All of these early perceptions would turn out to be true. The idea that these were non-athletic hippie types that couldn’t play traditional ball sports is false, most were former athletes, that had an athletic past in ball sports and happened to have a certain 60s style look, that usually included long hair, as well as sharing an anti-establishment attitude. The only difference with the athletes that play disc sports and the athletes that play traditional ball sports, is not their athleticism, but disc athletes strict self-imposed philosophy and attitude towards sportsmanship. With yesterday and today’s disc athlete, winning is not as important as is how you play the game, although you hear that for all sports, you rarely see it in ball sports and when you do, it’s the exception. Disc sports like ultimate, the most competitive team game, actually give awards for it.

“All players are responsible for administering and adhering to the rules. Ultimate relies upon a Spirit of the Game that places the responsibility for fair play on every player. It is trusted that no player will intentionally break the rules; thus there are no harsh penalties for breaches, but rather a method for resuming play in a manner which simulates what would most likely have occurred had there been no breach. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but should never sacrifice the mutual respect between players, adherence to the agreed-upon rules of the game, or the basic joy of play”.——Spirit of the Game (SOTG).

Kenner

Jim Kenner (Discraft) Early 1970s.

 

In the beginning, Frisbee and early disc sports were mostly attributed to the counterculture, Jim Kenner and Ken Westerfield were two prominent counterculture figures that pioneered early disc sports. Their story begins in Michigan and in Canada. It was at age thirteen, in 1960, that Ken Westerfield and Jim Kenner  became friends. They began playing Frisbee in high school. Daily they would experiment with new ways of throwing and catching the Frisbee, this would later be called “playing freestyle”. In the sixties, when the Frisbee was still considered a toy used just for recreation, there wasn’t a reason to become proficient at throwing a Frisbee. The only reason they became as good as they were was because of their shared anti-establishment attitude and lifestyle (that also included the rejection of traditional sports in general). Graduating in 1965 from Franklin High School (Livonia, Michigan), and living the counterculture lifestyle, Westerfield and Kenner spent their summer days on Cass and Silver Lake beaches, as well as at music and rock festivals, displaying their freestyling Frisbee skills. One day, looking for a road trip they noticed an event ad in a local alternative newspaper, they took their Frisbees and a VW Bug and went to a music festival near Bethel, NY, called Woodstock, that later became the music event of the century. While at the festival they would throw the Frisbee over and just out of reach of the crowd, who while sitting on the ground watching the bands would keep reaching for it as it flew by, probably not even knowing what it was.

In 1970, Ken Westerfield and Jim Kenner moved to Canada, from Michigan to Toronto, Ontario, setting up their Frisbee playing headquarters in Queens Park. Playing Frisbee freestyle and object disc golf became a daily event at the park. In 1971, with a hundred dollars each, bedrolls and a Frisbee, they set out to hitchhike across Canada, stopping to do improv Frisbee urban street shows to crowds in cities along the way, including popular annual events, the Klondike Days in Edmonton and the Calgary Stampede in Alberta. Concluding their cross-country hitchhiking tour in Vancouver, they made their summer home in the Yippie (Youth International Party) founded ‘All Seasons Park‘ (tent city). This park was a protest against the Four Seasons company plans to build a complex on two blocks adjacent to Stanley Park, which was inspired and modeled after People’s Park in Berkeley, CA, formed two years prior. Westerfield and Kenner, although not politically affiliated with the Yippies, still made the protested park their home. They would make a minimal income, by selling alternative newspapers, the Georgia Straight, on the city streets by day and performing nightly Frisbee shows in the historic Gastown area, in front of a railroad car turned restaurant, oddly enough called Frisby’s. Because of the urban settings, free-styling with a Frisbee at night in front of crowds in the streets was very surreal. They would bounce the disc off the buildings, throw around statues, skip the Frisbee through traffic and throw over mobs of interested spectators. One night, while performing at Frisby’s, they unwittingly became involved in the Yippie organized Gastown Smoke-in, a demonstration for the legalization of marijuana. The subsequent smoking of it in the town square, quickly turned the peaceful but illegal demonstration into the now famous Gastown Riots, the police also began regular raids of All Seasons Park. In the fall of 1971, wishing to return to Toronto, they needed travel money.

Ken_Westerfield_1977

Ken “Legend” Westerfield

 

Continuing to perform at Frisby’s, they decided they would try to collect money like street musicians, it was a success. Returning to Toronto they moved into the notorious counter-cultural Rochdale College.  To pay the bills, Ken and Jim would perform nightly Frisbee shows on the Yonge Street Mall.  Thousands of tourists and Torontonians would enjoy displays of their Frisbee expertise, while girlfriends would use a Frisbee to collect donations. Wanting to add professional legitimacy to their Frisbee show, they approached Ed Hurst, promotions manager for Irwin Toy, the distributor of Frisbee’s in Canada and proposed their show to promote the Frisbee. Their first professional performance was a basketball half-time show at Jarvis Collegiate Institute in Toronto. The students loved it; Westerfield and Kenner were only paid twenty dollars each for the show, but more importantly, they had proven that their show would be beneficial in helping the company to promote the Frisbee. In 1972, they were retained by Irwin Toy to perform at special community and sporting events across Canada. These Irwin tours also included teaching and conducting contests for the Jr. Frisbee Program assisted by the Canadian Parks and Recreation.  Although Westerfield and Kenner did much to give the Frisbee it’s counter-cultural image, they always promoted it as a serious new concept in sport and competition. It was only because of their countercultural lifestyle and living an alternative to what they considered to be the establishment, that would allow them to see and eventually develop their disc sport alternatives. More information on Westerfield and Kenner’s Frisbee and disc sports history timeline, included in the sections below.

Early Frisbee Play and First Disc Sports Competitions 1968-1973 

There were a few gut’s and distance tournaments in the 1960s, but the birth and history of Frisbee and disc sport competitions began and were developed in the early 1970s in Canada and the U.S. at the same time. You cannot write about the history of disc sports without looking at the early Frisbee history of both the U.S. and Canada together. Many innovations in competition and tournament formats were being discovered and established in both countries in the early 1970s. Disc sports were not invented in the U.S. then eventually migrate to Canada, all disc sports were being invented, developed and promoted in both countries during the same period. Canada has shown that despite population differences, Canada has always been competitive at the highest level against the U.S. and the World.

The first known instance of a flying disc sport was disc golf, invented in the early 1900s. The first game was held in Bladworth, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1926. Ronald Gibson and a group of his Bladworth Elementary School buddies played a game of throwing tin lids into 4 foot wide circles drawn into sandy patches on their school grounds. They called the game Tin Lid Golf and played on a fairly regular basis. However, after they grew older and went their separate ways, the game came to an end. It wasn’t until the 1970s that disc golf would be reintroduced to Canadians at the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships in Toronto and the Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships in Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC. Disc golf is now played in over 40 countries with a popular PDGA semi-professional tour.

 The November 1969 “All Comers” meet in Brookside Park in Pasadena, California, advertised a “Style throwing and catching” activity area and also a “Free exercise” activity area in addition to the other more traditional Frisbee events like guts, distance, and accuracy.

Dan Roddick

Dan “Stork” Roddick.</p

 

The IFA Newsletter made its debut in 1968 and brought together previously isolated and undocumented pockets of disc play. Stories of Frisbee activities, including stories about people who could throw a Frisbee in different ways and could make fancy trick catches began to circulate. There were stories of the legendary Spyder Wills from Laguna Beach, whose floating throws and fancy catches were unlike what anyone else could do with a Frisbee. The Frisbee community found out about the big International Frisbee Tournament (IFT) gut’s Frisbee competitions in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Ken Westerfield and Jim Kenner’s Canadian Open Frisbee Championships in Toronto, Dan Roddick’s Pennsylvania State Championship events, and Wham-O’s National Junior Championships.

By the early 70’s, Victor Malafronte and John Weyand of the Berkeley Frisbee Group (BFG) had raised Frisbee tossing and catching to a delicate art form of flowing throws and receptions. Their contemporary counterparts on the East Coast in Toronto, Ken Westerfield and Jim Kenner, were doing the same thing with fast flowing routines, and were already touring as Frisbee Professionals performing in cities across Canada. Vaughn Frick, John Sappington, and Scott Dickson were doing creative trick throws and fancy Frisbee catching on the campus of the University of Michigan during that same period of time. Dan Roddick had featured “Eastern Trick Catch” at his Pennsylvania and New York State Frisbee Championships. Freestyle play prior to 1975, before the invention of the nail-delay, was a fast moving and flowing routine of many throwing variations with spinning and leaping stylized catches off the throw. Early freestyle play was intense and commonly compared to martial arts and dance.

ifa_patch_img_8363The IFA Newsletter was instrumental in bringing all three of these groups together in one way or another. It led Victor Malafronte to the 1973 Canadian Open Frisbee Championships in Toronto where he met Ken Westerfield and Jim Kenner. In response to meeting Victor, Ken trekked out to the West Coast later that year to meet and play Frisbee with the Berkeley Frisbee Group (BFG) players. They exchanged volumes of information about Frisbee styles, techniques, and activities. The IFA and its newsletter helped the University of Michigan guys get in contact with the Humblies Guts team and to get involved with the IFT, where they met even more Frisbee players like John Connelly, Alan Blake, and Tom Cleworth of the Highland Avenue Aces guts team. The exchange of ideas about creative throwing and catching grew substantially during this 1968-1973 period of time.

In 1973, Dan “Stork” Roddick met Spyder Wills at Laguna Beach for some Frisbee play and was highly influenced by the graceful and beautiful style that Spyder demonstrated.

Frisbee, Disc Sports, Early Multi-Frisbee Event Tournaments 1972-1976

The Canadian Open Frisbee Championships (1972-1985) in Toronto is the next oldest gut’s tournament to the IFT and  along with the Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships (1974-1977), Vancouver, BC, the Octad (1974), New Brunswick, New Jersey, the American Flying Disc Open, AFDO (1974), Rochester, NY  and the WFC (1974) Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA,  are the earliest Frisbee multi-event competitions that treated the Frisbee as a new disc sport, up until these tournaments, the Frisbee was considered a toy. Organized disc sports, began with promotional efforts from Wham-O (U.S.A.) and Irwin Toy (Canada), a few tournaments and professionals using Frisbee show tours to perform at universities, fairs and sporting events. Freestyle was the first Frisbee activity to demonstrate the athletic possibilities of using the flying disc in sports. The early competitions and touring freestyle show tours of performing freestyling Frisbee athletes were the beginning of  exhibiting new disc sports in Canada and the U.S.

In the mid 1970s,  several player Frisbee publications became available, like Flying Disc World, for the purpose of communicating everything that is Frisbee and disc sports. The IFT guts competitions in Northern Michigan, the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships (1972), the Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships (1974), the Octad (1974) and the AFDO (1974), became the first annual flying disc competitions. This was the beginning of an introduction of all the disc sports including freestyle, disc golf, ultimate and double disc court (DDC) as well as an array of individual Frisbee power disciplines like distance, MTA and TRC.  Beginning in 1976, Frisbee World Magazine with Dan “Stork” Roddick as it’s editor, provided tournament dates, finishes, stories and was instrumental in providing the information needed for the early growth of Frisbee and flying disc sports.

jim palmeri

Jim Palmeri

 

There are certain people and events that stand out when acknowledging who laid the ground work for the transition of playing with the Frisbee as a toy to disc sports. The Healy family (guts), Jared Kass, Joel Silver, Tom Kennedy and Irv Kalb (ultimate and UPA), Ken Westerfield (ultimate, freestyle, disc golf , distance, Canadian Open and Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships), Jim Kenner (Discraft, disc golf, freestyle, Canadian Open and Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships), Dave Marinni (FPA), Jim Palmeri (AFDO, disc golf and DDC), Dan Roddick ( Octad, WFC, IFA, Frisbee World and WFDF), Ed Headrick (Wham-O, IFA, WFC, and disc Golf), Tom Monroe (Frisbee South, tournaments and disc golf). These were Frisbee and disc sport pioneers that not only excelled with the Frisbee when it was still considered a toy, but help create the formats and concepts through their own tournaments and or organizations that produced the early events and organizations of disc sports we see today. Two sports, the team sport of disc ultimate and disc golf are very popular worldwide and are now being played semi-professionally. USA Ultimate , Ultimate Canada, World Flying Disc Federation, Professional Disc Golf Association, Freestyle Players Association are the official rules and sanctioning organizations for flying disc sports in the U.S. and Canada.

Canada’s Early Frisbee and Disc Sports History 1970-

In 1970,  Jim Kenner and Ken Westerfield moved from Michigan to Canada, becoming Toronto residents. Using Queens Park as their playing headquarters, began their pursuit of playing,1975 Canadian Open Frisbee Championships developing and introducing Frisbee and the beginning of disc sports. In addition to touring Canada as Frisbee professionals for Irwin Toy, Ken Westerfield and Jim Kenner teamed up with Humber College professor, Andrew Davidson, early Canadian disc sports promoter and Jeff Otis, event coordinator for the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), to produce the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships at the Canadian National Exhibition. The event began in 1972 with Guts and Distance and in 1974 added Freestyle and Accuracy. In 1975, Ken and Jim moved the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships from the CNE to the Toronto Islands, where disc golf, ultimate and the individual field events were added to the original events.

The PDGA Disc Golf Hall of Fame induction for Ken Westerfield:

“Ken Westerfield is an icon of disc golf and one of the strongest overall competitors in flying disc sports of all time. His powerful and accurate sidearm throw is widely acknowledged as one of the best the sport has ever seen. He was one of the top players at the emergence of organized disc golf competition. He pioneered the growth of disc golf across Canada. Many Canadian players trace their introduction to disc golf to being mentored by Ken. His contributions are a huge part of the foundation of our sport”.

The PDGA Disc Golf Hall of Fame induction for Discraft founder Jim Kenner:

“A modest pioneer in a sometimes flamboyant industry, Jim Kenner has proven himself to be a brilliant innovator in the pursuit of flying disc excellence. Experimenting with both new shapes and materials, Kenner’s development of a unique line of flying discs has been punctuated with the introduction of disc designs so radical and inventive that they mark a turning point in the nature of the game. Though he could easily rest on his laurels as a pivotal developer of disc technology, Jim Kenner continues to contribute to the growth of disc golf as a consistent supporter and sponsor of events and players”.

Freestyle is an event where teams of two or three players perform a routine that consists of a series of creative throwing and catching techniques set to music. The routine is judged on the basis of difficulty, execution and presentation. The team with the best total score is declared the winner. Freestyle in the beginning, before the invention of the “nail delay” catching possibilities would depend on the throw you were given, it was always spontaneous and unpredictable. Play of this type of freestyle was performed with two players standing 30-40 yards apart, the throws were fast and varied and the catches were right off the throw, except for the occasional kick or slap-up and rarely a pause between the catch and the throw back. At advanced levels, the throws and catches would become a flow that was created once you mastered the basics.

In 1973, Westerfield and Kenner, wanting to see if there were other Frisbee freestylers, had decided to add their idea of a Frisbee Freestyle competition to the 2nd Canadian Open Frisbee Championships, but due to a lack of competitors, the freestyle event was canceled. Unknown to Westerfield and Kenner at the time, there had been the beginning of a growing Frisbee freestyle interest in the United States centered in Berkeley, New York, Ann Arbor, New Jersey and Chicago. In 1974, at the 3rd annual Canadian Open Frisbee Championships, Westerfield and Kenner introduced the first ever freestyle competitive event called Freestyle which was attended by players from each of the above-mentioned areas and they won it.

The Decade Awards 1970-75 Top Freestyle Routine: Ken Westerfield/Jim Kenner Canadian Open 1974:

“Considered the greatest speed-flow game of all time. Ken and Jim put on a clinic to cap off a blistering hot final by all of the teams. They featured a rhythmic and dynamic style with concise catch and throw combinations. These two gentlemen are credited with creating formal disc freestyle competition. The 1973 Canadian Open did not have freestyle as an event, the end result made history”.

Later that same year, in 1974, Kenner and Westerfield organized the Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships (1974-1977) at Kitsilano Beach.  Aong with other Frisbee events, they included their second big freestyle competition where Bill King, Jim Brown and John Anthony made their first competitive appearance. The Canadian Open Frisbee Championships (1972) and the Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships (1974), was the beginning of freestyle and introducing disc sports in Canada and the U.S.Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships 1974.

Westerfield and Kenner were inducted into the inaugural Pioneer Class of the Freestyle Players Association  Freestyle Disc Hall of Fame.

In 1974, Westerfield and Kenner approached Molson Breweries with the idea of performing Frisbee shows at basketball halftimes in Canadian universities as the Molson Frisbee Team. Always looking for unique ways to get into the university market, they accepted their proposal and were more than impressed with the results. The next year, Molson’s used their show exclusively to introduce a new brand of beer called Molson Diamond. In 1975, with Molson’s sponsorship, Westerfield and Kenner moved the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships, from the Canadian National Exhibition to the Toronto Islands. Molson’s would continue to sponsor their Frisbee shows and events for several years. Along with promoting Molson products, this would help Westerfield and Kenner to promote their new sport everywhereMary-Kathron-Toronto-1977

After 1977, as interest in Frisbee and disc sports gained popularity across the U.S. and  Canada. Jim Kenner and Gail McColl moved to London, Ontario and founded their disc manufacturing company called Discraft. Ken Westerfield and Mary Kathron  dividing their time between Toronto and Santa Cruz, California, began a professional Frisbee show called Good Times, performing in Canada and the United States at universities and sporting events. Also, there were several sponsored Frisbee touring shows coordinated by Bob Blakely as IFA Director at Irwin Toy with Orange Crush, Air Canada, Lee Jeans and Labatt’s Breweries. Orange Crush even provided logo painted vans and motorhomes with several touring Frisbee teams to do shows at fairs, sporting events, shopping malls and schools across Canada. Bob Blakely, Ken Westerfield, Mary Kathron, Ron Leithwood, Mike Sullivan, Brian McElwain, Kevin Sparkman, Stuart Godfrey, Pat Chartrand, Peter Turcaj, Gary Auerbach, Jim Brown, Bill King and John Anthony were the touring freestyle performers in the series and became the foundation upon which disc sports grew in Canada.

On the West Coast in 1985, Jim Brown of Vancouver, founded the Westwind Disc Society, which morphed first into the Vancouver Disc Sports Society and later the BC Disc Sports Society. This was the first provincially-recognized disc sports organization.

Disc Golf Pioneers History in Canada and the U.S. 

PDGADisc golf was first invented in Bladworth, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1926. Ronald Gibson and a group of his Bladworth Elementary School buddies played a game of throwing tin lids into 4 foot wide circles drawn into sandy patches on their school grounds. They called the game Tin Lid Golf and played on a fairly regular basis. However, after they grew older and went their separate ways, the game came to an end. It wasn’t until the 1970s that Canadians would be reintroduced to disc golf at the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships in Toronto and the Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships in Vancouver, BC.

Two early coordinators of the sport are George Sappenfield and Kevin Donnelly, who, through similar backgrounds and the help of Wham-O, were able to individually spread the sport in their California cities. Donnelly began playing a form of Frisbee golf in 1959 called Street Frisbee Golf. In 1961, while a recreation leader and then recreation supervisor for the City of Newport Beach, California, he formulated and then began organizing Frisbee golf tournaments at nine of the city’s playgrounds he supervised. This culminated in 1965 with a fully documented, Wham-O sponsored, citywide Frisbee golf tournament. This highly publicized tournament included hula hoops as holes, with published rules, hole lengths, pars, and prizes; an event in which Walter Frederick Morrison, Frisbee inventor, attended.

As of 2017, there are over 7000 disc golf courses. Before 1975 and the invention of the disc golf target called the Disc Pole Hole, there were only a few mapped disc golf “object” courses in the U.S. and Canada. In 1970, you could count the number of  designed courses, using the Frisbee to play golf and objects as holes, on one hand. Toronto, ON, Rochester, NY, Berkeley, CA, these were disc golf’s first designed disc golf courses. All completely unaware of the others existence.

In Canada, beginning in 1970, newly arrived Toronto residents, Ken Westerfield and Jim Kenner, years before the idea of disc golf courses  and the forming of the DGA or the PDGA, played Frisbee golf daily on a 18 object hole course they designed in Queens Park. In 1973, Canadian Gail McColl (co-founder of Discraft and  Women’s World Champion) became a regular player at the park. Westerfield and Kenner added disc golf to their other tournament events at the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships on Toronto Islands and their Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships (NAS sanctioned event) in Stanley Park. Vancouver, BC.  These were the first disc golf tournaments in Canada, beginning as object courses. then later on Toronto’s Wards Island, the Canadian Open used permanently placed Disc Pole Holes .  Through the 1970s and early 80s, Westerfield produced many disc golf tournaments on Toronto Island disc pole hole course. In 1987, Ken Westerfield as Tournament Director with sponsor Irwin Toy and Bob Blakely (Canadian IFA Director), produced the PDGA World Championships on Toronto Islands. This was the first and only time this championship has been held outside of the United States.

gail mccoll

Gail McColl, 1970s Canadian and World Women’s Champion.</p

 

Despite having never heard of the International Frisbee Association (IFA) that Ed Headrick and Wham-O had put together, or ever seeing a copy of the IFA Newsletter, Jim Palmeri, his brother, and a small group of people from Rochester, NY, had been playing disc golf as a competitive sport on a regular basis since August of 1970, including tournaments and weekly league play. By 1973, they had even promoted two City of Rochester Disc Frisbee Championship events which featured disc golf as the main event.  In California, the Berkeley Frisbee Group established a standardized 18 hole object course on the Berkeley campus in 1970. University of Michigan Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor had a mapped out Frisbee golf object course, designed in 1973.

1976, the introduction of the standardized disc golf target and the first players association. Ed Headrick of Wham-O,  introduced the formal disc golf target with chains and a basket called the disc pole hole. Also  in 1976, Headrick formed the Disc Golf Association (DGA), then later the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA).  Headrick abandoned his trademark on the term “Disc Golf,” and turned over control and administration of the PDGA to the growing body of disc golf players.  “Steady Ed” Headrick began thinking about the sport during his time at Wham-O Toys where he designed and patented the modern day Frisbee. Headrick designed and installed the first standardized target course in what was then known as Oak Grove Park in La Cañada Flintridge, California. (Today the park is known as Hahamongna Watershed Park). Ed founded “The International Frisbee Association (IFA)”. Headrick coined and trademarked the term “Disc Golf” when formalizing the sport and patented the Disc Pole Hole, the first disc golf target to incorporate chains and a basket on a pole.

In 1979, Wham-O’s $50,000 Disc Golf Tournament was a significant turning point for disc golf. Held in Huntington Beach, California. The tournament was groundbreaking, first and foremost because of the cash involved, its massive payout right in the title, but also because the competitors had to qualify for an invitation. 72 qualifying events were established around the country, bringing in the best disc golfers from across the United States.

Ted Smethers took over the PDGA in 1982 to be run independently and to officiate the standard rules of play for the sport.

Ultimate Frisbee History 1966-1975

Like Tin Lid Golf, there are accounts of ultimate-like games being played with tin lids as early as the 1940s, much earlier than our recent Frisbee history records. Not hard to imagine since both disc golf and ultimate are cross-overs from very established ball sports. The only thing completely unique is the flying plastic disc, that fly’s much better than tin lids.

The history of ultimate was updated in 2003, after an interview with both Jared Kass and Joel Silver.

‘For years it was thought that Joel Silver and fellow students at CHS invented Ultimate Frisbee, however, more recent and rigorous research has come to light to suggest that the truth may be somewhat different. Silver and his friends did much to record the rules and move to sport to the public and eventual popularity. According to Willie Herndon (2003), after interviewing Silver and Kass, it was found that Silver had learned a Frisbee game from someone named Jared Kass while attending summer camp. Herndon (2003), like many, assumed that Silver had played something like Frisbee football with Jared Kass at camp, and then returned to Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey, and made up and named, a whole new game called Ultimate. However, upon questioning Kass closely it seems that the whole of the Ultimate playing world had been somewhat misled. Upon investigation, Herndon (2003) learned that Kass had taught Silver not some distant relative of Ultimate, but Ultimate in its essence and by name, whilst having no idea that he had had anything to do with its creation. Kass recounts that the game evolved from a variation of touch football whilst at Amherst College where he started as a student in 1965.——–Gerald Griggs – University of Wolverhampton, U.K. The Sport Journal’

jaredkass

Jared Kass, played, taught and named ultimate game, 1966.

 

In 1966, Jared Kass and fellow Amherst students evolved a team Frisbee game based on concepts from American football, basketball, and soccer. This game had some of the basics of modern ultimate including scoring by passing over a goal line, advancing the disc by passing, no travelling with the disc, and turnovers on interception or incomplete pass. Jared, an instructor and dorm advisor, taught this game to high school student Joel Silver during the summer of 1967 or 1968 at Mount Hermon Prep school summer camp. Joel Silver, along with fellow students Jonny Hines, Buzzy Hellring, and others, further developed ultimate beginning in 1968 at Columbia High School, Maplewood, New Jersey. The first sanctioned game was played at CHS in 1968 between the student council and the student newspaper staff. Beginning the following year evening games were played in the glow of mercury-vapor lights on the school’s student-designated parking lot. Hellring, Silver, and Hines developed the first and second edition of “Rules of Ultimate Frisbee”. In 1970 CHS defeated Millburn High 43-10 in the first interscholastic ultimate game. CHS, Millburn, and three other New Jersey high schools made up the first conference of Ultimate teams usa ultimatebeginning in 1971. Although the history of ultimate begins with some summer camp activities and high school students (CHS) in New Jersey,  ultimate, as a sport, didn’t start heading in a serious competitive direction in the U.S. and Canada, until introduction and development by early disc athlete’s that played ultimate got involved in organizing in the mid-1970s. When Jared Kass introduced Joel Silver to ultimate, he wasn’t introducing his idea of a new sport, he was introducing a new fun camp activity. When Joel Silver introduced the game, he learned from Kass, to students at CHS, it was probably more as a pseudo counterculture inspired amusement than the beginnings of a new sport. Kass and Silver never competed in ultimate or any other disc sports outside of camp and high school. After CHS graduation, Silver went on to Hollywood for a career in movies. It was the sixties, looking for alternatives  was always a fun option, for Silver and CHS students, ultimate was probably played as more of a joke, a fun alternative to traditional sports for students that didn’t play sports and were not considered athlete’s or even disc athlete’s. Whatever the reason, this was the beginning of ultimate play. A few of the CHS students who played early ultimate at the high school would go on to become excellent disc athlete’s (Johnny Appleseeds) and with other disc athlete’s began promoting the new sport of ultimate around the U.S. and Canada in the 1970s.

Evolving from the counter-culture playing appeal of all the disc sports, ultimate’s  Spirit of the Game (SOTG) came later and was written into the 7th edition of the ultimate rules, in 1978. Spirit of the Game wasn’t invented by any one group or person, it evolved from the type of athlete’s that were attracted to all of  the disc sports of that time, including ultimate.

Beginning In 1975, ultimate was included as a new disc sport exhibition at the big overall (multiple event) Frisbee tournaments of that time, including the World Frisbee Championships, California, the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships, Toronto, the Octad, New Jersey and American Flying Disc Open (AFDO), Rochester, NY. In the late 1970s, the first ultimate leagues began to appear in the US and Canada and in December 1979, the first national player-run ultimate organization was founded in the United States as the Ultimate Players Association (UPA). Tom Kennedy was elected its first director.

 Ultimate Frisbee History in Canada 1975-

Ultimate made it’s first International appearance at the 1975 Canadian Open Frisbee Championships in Toronto. This was the beginning of introducing ultimate Frisbee to Canadians in the way of demonstrations added to the other tournament events.  Canadian Open tournament director Ken Westerfield would organize and play in these early demonstrations with some of the ultimate founders (Johnny Appleseeds) from New Jersey, who were there to compete in the other events at the Canadian Open. In 1979, Ken Westerfield, retiring from competing in U.S. and Canadian national freestyle, disc golf and over-all competitions, continued to organize and produce local disc events in Toronto. Because of Ken’s love of ultimate, playing while competing in the mid-1970s in the US, at NAS events on the East Coast, also touring team and organized league ultimate in California’s NCUFL (1977-78), began organizing disc ultimate events in Toronto. In 1979, Ken Westerfield with the help of Irwin Toy’s Bob Blakely and Chris Lowcock, created the Toronto Ultimate Club.

toronto ultimate clubWesterfield started weekly ultimate pick-up games on Kew Beach, then sent team invitations to Wards Island, West Toronto, North Toronto and his own team Beaches. These were the first four teams with each team taking turns hosting Wednesdays weekly league game nights at their home locations. The league starting night was at Kew Beach. Westerfield, using Bob Blakely’s office copy machine and mailing facility at Irwin Toy, would produce a weekly newsletter highlighting the games and scores for each team as well as their league standings through the playing season. The Toronto Ultimate League developed and was renamed the Toronto Ultimate Club (TUC), that now has 3300 active members and over 250 teams playing the year round. This was the first ultimate league in Canada and now one of the world’s oldest. Ken Westerfield was inducted into the inaugural class of both the 2010 Toronto Ultimate Club Hall of Fame and the Ultimate Canada Hall of Fame.

Discraft, founded in the late 1970s by Jim Kenner in London, Ontario, later moved the company from Canada to its present location in Wixom, Michigan. Discraft introduced the Ultra-star 175 gram disc in 1981, with an updated mold in 1983. This disc was adopted as the standard for ultimate during the 1980s. In 1991 the Ultra-star was specified as the official disc for UPA tournament play and remains in wide use. In 2011, the Discraft Ultra-star was inducted into the USA Ultimate Hall of Fame for Special Merit.

In 1986, the Vancouver League and Ottawa League formed. The first Canadian Ultimate Championships (CUC) were held, for the open division, in Ottawa 1987, produced by Marcus Brady and Brian Guthrie. OCUA subsequently hosted 1993, 1999, 2002 and 2011 Canadian Ultimate Championships.

Players from Darkside and Cynics

Canadian Ultimate, 1980s. Toronto Darkside and Calgary Cynics.</

 

In 1987, at the Canadian Ultimate Championships (CUC), Ottawa, team Darkside of Toronto, won Canada’s first national ultimate championships in a close final against the Calgary Cynics. The Cynics would come back to win against Darkside in the 1988 Championships.

Ultimate Canada founded in 1993, serves as the governing body of the sport of Ultimate in Canada. It runs the Canadian Ultimate Championships (CUC) and Canadian University Ultimate Championship (CUUC) series.

Furious George, based in Vancouver, British Columbia and Goat from Toronto, Ontario are two of the best ultimate teams to ever come out of Canada. Furious George formed in 1995, were the open champions at the 2002, 2003 and 2005 UPA Club Championships. They have also won ten Canadian Ultimate Championships: in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Furious won gold for Canada in 1998, 2004 and 2008 at the WFDF World Ultimate Championships, as well as comprising half of the gold medal co-ed Canadian National Team at the 2001 World Games in Akita, Japan. In 2011, Furious George was inducted into the Canadian Ultimate Hall of Fame. Canada has been ranked number one in the Ultimate World Rankings several times since 1998 in all the Ultimate Divisions (including Open and Women’s) according to the World Flying Disc Federation.Ultimate Canada

In 2013, as a founding partner, the Toronto Ultimate Club presented Canada’s first semi-professional ultimate team, the Toronto Rush, to the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL). They went undefeated 18-0 for the season and won the AUDL Championships. In 2015, AUDL added the Ottawa Outlaws. Disc Ultimate has become one of today’s fastest growing sports.

In 2015, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted full recognition to the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) for flying disc sports, including ultimate.

Note: This information was referenced and time-lined from several disc sport historical and biographical articles including U.S. and Canadian Disc Sports Hall of Fame inductions, Disc Sports Player Federations and Wikipedia. This article was researched, written and compiled by Frisbee and disc sports historians. Republication of this information in part or whole is permitted. Contact information: ifafw@hotmail.com 

35 Frisbee World Magazines on DVD 1976-1982 (See sample pages and more information below)

$11.95

This DVD contains a complete set of 35 Frisbee World Magazines covering the early years of Frisbee and disc sports from 1976-1982. Over a thousand pages, Includes articles, competition information, finishes and early photo’s of the disc sport pioneers. If you were there, reading these magazines will be reliving a great Frisbee moment in time, if you weren’t there and love playing a disc sport, this is your chance to learn about the history of your sport. Articles written by some of disc sports earliest founders and competitors. See how it all began with ultimate, guts, freestyle, disc golf, DDC, over-all individual events like distance, MTA, TRC and accuracy. The beginning formation of such organizations as the IFA, WFDF, GPA, FPA, UPA, PDGA, NAS, WFC, including profile articles and photo’s of early disc sport champions from all over the world. $9.95 includes DVD shipping in the U.S. and Canada. Orders for the rest of the world will be sent as a pdf. download. The photo’s below are from the covers and pages of  Frisbee World Magazines on the DVD. These sample pages are for example only. The pages on the DVD and PDF. download are clear and easy to read.      Contact and more info at:  ifafw@hotmail.com