Sports: Ultimate in Sportsmanship, Community, and Fun

Words and shots by Judith Ann Clancy

The inexpensive alternative sport rounds up all types for a fast-paced and friendly game on Korean fields.

Going ho? Check feet? Watch your marker? What does it all mean? Ultimate Frisbee.

I first heard about ultimate a little over five years ago. A friend had started playing on a university team. Now, living in Korea, I find that I’m always around someone who played the game back home or plays it here. Do I attract the “ultimate Frisbee” type? After a quick survey of friends and acquaintances, I realize that there is no “ultimate” type of person. Tall, short, jacked, flabby, male or female – anyone can play. That’s the beauty of the sport and why so many people have gotten into it. It’s cheap, it’s easy to learn, and players instantly become part of a community.

Read on to get involved in this up-and-coming unconventional sport in Korea.

 

LOW COST, HIGH VALUE

A Frisbee. That’s it. An entire season of play can cost as little as a frugal night out. The standard for ultimate Frisbee games, tournaments, or pick-up games are 175g flying discs. Ultimate brands vary, so it just comes down to personal preference.

If you would like to be part of a league, matching uniforms are required. This past season the Seoul league went for one design and each team chose a different color. Non-metal cleats can prevent mucking up that butterfly cut as you try to intercept a pass. The terrain here can get slippery in the wet season, so good treads can be helpful. Hats can keep the sun out of your eyes as you go for that alligator catch in game play. Sweatbands in the summer can help with Korea’s blazing heat, but other than a Frisbee everything is optional. If you are looking for gear, Five Ultimate is the biggest brand represented in Korea, but for specifics you may have to do some online shopping.

 

FIND GAMES ON FACEBOOK

For all your ultimate needs, turn to the Korea Ultimate Players Association, or KUPA as its members refer to it. They also have a website (koreaultimate.net), but the Facebook group (simply search for “Korea Ultimate Players Association”) is updated more often. Links, highlight reels, maps to games, and general ultimate banter are all available on the group page.

If you’re looking to get started and don’t want to fumble around in your first pick-up game, read up on the rules and regulations. The USA Ultimate website (usaultimate.org) has short and long versions that can get you started. Once you have a little knowledge of the game, get out there! The wonderful thing about the sport is that anyone can play. It helps to have some athletic background, but in the spirit of the game, ultimately the only thing required to send the Frisbee gliding is a sense of fun and fair play.

 

TOURNAMENTS

Fun or competitive, Korea has ultimate tournaments for any type of player. There are “hat” tournaments that mix newbies with the vets for a weekend of Frisbee fun. Players’ names are thrown in a “hat” and names are pulled out at random to form teams. Each player must also bring a hat to wear during the tournament. If a veteran is fast, their hat is likely to fall off. If it does, the play returns to the point when the hat was last on. It gives the newbies on the field a fair chance, and the veterans can still have fun. The tournament atmosphere is relaxed and fun. The main goal is to provide a way to get involved in the Korean ultimate scene.

If you are looking to get serious, try out for a club team. The best way to start is to go to pick-up games or join a city team. The best players in the city leagues make up the club traveling teams. Past Korean club team members have participated in tournaments in China, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Philippines.

Last but not least, there is one international tournament that brings club teams from all over the world here to Korea. The Jeju Dirty Dozens (April 14th – 15th, 2012) is said to be one of the best tournaments in Asia. It’s a rad weekend with big-name sponsors and an immense amount of international talent. If there is one Korean tournament to take part in, it’s this one. Check the KUPA website for details or send an email to jejutournament@gmail.com.

 

COMMUNITY IN KOREA

Ultimate is a relatively new sport in Korea. This means fewer players, smaller city leagues, and a limited number of tournaments. Players in Korea are working toward getting more people involved (Korean and foreign) by coaching college teams, creating training material, and holding training clinics in English and Korean. Most players would love to see the sport grow, as a greater number of players would create more playing opportunities. But for now, they will have to be satisfied with the plus side of a small but supportive community.

More Stories
Exploring Haeundae: Food and Fun Beyond the Beach