The journey to the inaugural Porangahau Hat began the day before in Boracay at 4:30 A.M. It would take a trike, a boat, a twin prop plane, a twin jet plane, an overnight flight, and one more twin jet plane to arrive in Wellington. Upon my arrival I was the lucky recipient of a “random” search of my luggage just steps before leaving baggage claim. I say random because the only people being searched at this point were other solo travellers with backpacks similar to mine. After a friendly encounter and determining that even border agents play ultimate frisbee I was able to meet up with my ride that had now been waiting over two hours since my scheduled arrival. For the first time in my travels I would have some partners in crime and someone to share the days with. Kat and Jess are fellow ultimate players from Toronto, always up for an adventure, and are road trip dj masters. After a quick bite at the airport it was time to tackle the four hour drive to the registration party. We took our time and enjoyed the sites along the way arriving just after 11 P.M. Although we were the last to arrive, the welcome was still warm and our player packages were waiting for us. Although this tournament was planned as a camping event, all the international players were assigned a bed and linens for the event.
The campsite and headquarters for the tournament was a working beef and sheep farm set among the rolling hills the south east corner of the north island. The roads leading to the venue are windy, windy, and narrow with the common sighting of live stock crossing and the occasional herd blocking your way. The beach (fields) is about 20 minutes from the farm with the sand firm and dark in colour. These conditions were the complete opposite from the past tournament and a welcome change as it setup the tournament for a different style of play from the previous weekend. Another element to this tournament that was different was the tides. Everyday the fields would need to be setup and taken down as the hight of the tide would completely cover the playing surface each complete cycle. This was a first edition of the Porangahau Hat and with new beginnings are the inevitable bumps in the road.
The Saturday play began later than expected, only two fields were able to be setup, the wind was up and the sun was strong. You’ve got to hand it to the Tournament Director because you wouldn’t know that anything was behind because of all the side games setup and the well packaged lunches delivered to each team in handy clear side tubs. Hat tournaments always harbour great team structure because you get matched up with many different personalities, skill levels, and people from around the world. I was assigned to the “Black Ice” squad comprised of 8 kiwis and 2 Canadians(Kat and myself). The kiwi talent ranged from a soon to be proud father to a world’s player to a junior player with unlimited potential. This was a fun group to play with and they all brought some amazing throws to every game. Fast forward to the Saturday night party held in a sheep sheering barn. Themed in the style of the 80’s, many were dressed for the occasion and the music was anthem after anthem. One of the party games was a playing card found in your player package. When you found your matching card at the party you could head to the bar and claim a shot of your choice. There was also a beer pong tournament and other mini games to play. Partying in the barn was pretty awesome but I’m a little disappointed there wasn’t a sheep racing contest.
Back to the sports aspect of this story. Black Ice went on a good run for the weekend earning a birth in to the semis and then the finals. “Pink Thunder” came out and won the final with strong play and a fearless attitude laying out on the firm sand multiple times. Although I went 0/2 at hat tournaments on my journey, it was a blast to be playing in another final. The awards were handed out immediately after the final point with Black Ice winning the spirit award! It was smiles all around for all teams as almost everyone walked home with swag from the tournament. With the awards finished up it was time for a dip in the ocean which I affectionately call the Antarctic Ocean due to its cold temperature compared to the China Sea I was splashing around in only days before.
Thank you to Gore D and all of the volunteers from this tournament. The hospitality of the entire crew was second to none. The overall tournament experience was fantastic and something I will cherish for a long time to come. Thank you again!