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Oahu

There is this funny thing that happens when you cross the international date line. Besides the floating checkered line, if you are traveling from west to east you actually go “back in time”. When booking your hotel for arrival you need to select the night before your actual departure date not the same day. I made this mistake and arrived on the island without a reservation for that night. Thankfully we were able to call ahead and get a room at the same hostel we would be staying at the following night.

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My first morning on the island started early as headed over to Pearl Harbour which was an hour journey on the local transit. Upon my arrival I was required to check my bag before I was allowed to enter the historical site. I queued up for my free USS Arizona ticket and visited this site first. A short video of the events surrounding the site and the attack on PH was shown before boarding a shuttle boat to the sunken battleship. The USS Arizona memorial is quiet and peaceful place. The memorial is set floating perpendicular to the length of the sunken ship allowing full view of the ship. On this morning the water was flat and easy to see the ship below the surface. One thing I did notice was the oil still leaking from the Arizona and floating on the surface immediately overtop of the wreckage. In the memorial is a dedication wall to all the men aboard the ship that lost their lives the day of the attack. In addition to the main list is a smaller list at the bottom of all the men that survived the attack and have since passed away. Upon their passing, most of the survivors have elected to be interned in the sunken wreckage with their fellow sailors with the dedication wall reflecting their presence. After short ride back to the main tourist centre I purchased tickets to visit the USS Bowfin and the USS Missouri. The USS Bowfin was one of the submarines used during WW2 and is now open to the public for tours. If you have never been on a submarine I recommend taking the opportunity to visit one. The interior has been restored to original condition and truly gives you the sense of being trapped in a floating coffin. My final stop at Pearl Harbour was at the USS Missouri. The Missouri was docked on the day of the attack and sunk. The ship was “refloated”, repaired within two years, and returned to action in the Pacific to fight the final year of conflict in the Pacific. The Missouri is most famous for being the venue of the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender. The USS Arizona and USS Missouri are now parked a couple hundred yards apart with the two ships respectively signifying the beginning and end of WW2 for the American military.

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After finishing my visit I grabbed a bus back into town in search of a Walmart. I was in need of a tent and other related supplies for the upcoming week of camping that I would be doing. After a successful adventure I dropped my purchases back at the hostel and headed for the beach. Waikiki is a popular spot for many tourists to layout in the sun and go for a swim. This beach was almost as busy as Boracay but much more developed off the beach with regards to hotels and business. I met up with Kat for dinner and we caught up on each other’s adventures from the day.

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Friday morning I parted ways with Kat as she was headed home and I was headed out to play another tournament. I picked up my rental car, loaded up all my gear for the week ahead, and began my journey to the east coast of the island. I stopped at almost every lookout and snapped pictures along the way as the vistas were beautiful. I arrived at my destination of Waimanalo Bay well before my estimated time of arrival as the island is much smaller than it appears on a paper map. My destination for the President’s Day weekend was the Kaimana Klassic. There is nothing quite like camping on the beach, drinking beer, and playing ultimate for a long weekend. I setup camp expecting it to be windy and raining on me in the middle of the night. I went for dinner and returned to my site finding my tarp blown out but my tent still holding it’s ground. I took down my tarp because I didn’t want to listen to it flapping in the wind all night. This turned out to be a poor decision because it rained in the middle of the night. My low end tent started to leak in the height of the storm and I got up to remedy the situation. The easiest solution was to wrap my tent with the tarp and hope for the best. The solution worked for the night and through the rain of the next morning. Once the sun came out I was able to bail the water out of my tent that had worked it’s way in the night before. That’s right, there were puddles in my tent. Thankfully the weather took a turn for the better and it didn’t rain for the remainder of my time on the island.

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Once the tournament had finished up on Monday I packed up my gear into my car and headed north along the coast to my next camping spot at Malaekahana State Recreation Area. Even though it was a holiday Monday the grocery store was still open and I picked up some snacks for the evening along the way. I arrived at my destination just before the gate was closed for the night. In Oahu, every night the front gate to the park is locked preventing vehicle traffic from entering or exiting which means if you were locked out it was a 2 km hike into the grounds to find your campsite in the middle of the dark. It was dusk at this point and I setup my tent as quickly as possible in the fading light. I gathered only what I needed for the night and tossed it in the tent before I headed out to the local beach for some star gazing. The stars were bright and unobstructed but the critters on the sand grabbed my attention. As the moon had come out the Ghost Crabs had taken to the shorelines in search of a late night snack. Thankfully they were not interested in me and were peaceful in their hunt for food.

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Tuesday morning I packed up my tent and hit the road to travel along the north shore to visit the large waves and warm waters. It would appear that I had just missed a competition that had just wrapped up the day before and I wouldn’t be around long enough to see the beginning of the next competition that would be starting the coming Thursday. I stopped in a few locations watching some of the locals take to the surf and enjoyed many of the views. At this point I opted to head for the west coast as it was the leeward side of the island. It was a scenic journey the whole way with little traffic to speak of. I travelled up the coast until the road ended at a state park and public beach. I parked my car and suited up for a swim in the waves. The shoreline was steep at this location causing the waves to crash onto the beach which made for perfect conditions to play in the waves. The water was crystal clear blue and warmer than the windward side of the island. The waves were powerful and came crashing down from great heights. Here is an idea of the highs and lows of the surf. When standing at your waist the ocean would drop as low as your knees when being sucked into a large wave and could come over the top of your fully extended arms above your head. I had a blast playing around in the surf for over an hour. I showered at the provided facilities and headed south along the coast in search of food before heading back to my campsite on the opposite side of the island for the night.

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Wednesday was my final day on Oahu. I was up early, cruised the coastline one last time before heading into town to return the rental car. I spent my remain hours on the beach of Waikiki enjoying one final sunset before getting on the local bus to the airport. To my benefit I had checked in online before arriving at the airport because the line up for Air Canada was approximately 300 people long. I was able to walk right up to baggage drop and onto security in under 5 minutes.

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My Oahu visit was exactly what I could have hoped for. I didn’t enjoy the crowed and commercialized Waikiki beach and area. I did enjoy the rest of the island including the panoramic views, terrific local food, and the fantastic beaches and state parks. When I return to this island I will likely plan my visit the same way with the majority of it spent outside of the core tourist district.

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Happy Kaimana

The Kaimana Klassik is in it’s 28th year and attracts approximately 32 teams from the USA and nations across the Pacific rim. There are two divisions, Open and Women’s, with a deep talent in both pools of play. The food was great, the weather turned great, and the experience was great-er. Let’s talk about the weekend.

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Let’s talk venue. The camping site is at Waimanalo Bay is just 10 yards from the public beach, a beautiful background to setup your camouflage tent in front of. I brought a tarp for shelter because apparently that is the Canadian thing to do. I looked like a crazed camper for over an hour digging holes to secure my tent and tarp as the winds were forecasted to gust into the evening and overnight. Upon checking in at player registration I was advised to tie my tent to a tree because the winds were going to be even stronger on Saturday. The fields were located at the Waimanalo Polo Fields just across the street from the camping site, a short 10 minute walk from tent to field. Headquarters was a cube van, the multipurpose tent was open sided with a stage at one end and the food at the other. The fields looked and played great throughout the weekend with 8 fields setup in total. The toilet situation was a cluster of 20 port-a-loos with outdoor lighting for evening visits although the entire field was surround by thick bush and it was well watered by the end of the weekend.

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Let’s talk weather. The weather was an animal. It started out just a bit breezy before turning gusty and then downright hurricane like. Then the rain came in the middle of the night soaking everything. The rain only let up long enough to get to the fields and get the first round of games started before it was like being in Seattle in February. The rain fell sideways through the first game and into the second game before a delay was announced. Once the system broke the sun came out for the rest of the weekend with the wind slowly tapering off through Saturday, Sunday, and being rather calm on Monday. It was down right hot Monday morning at 9 A.M. as we played our quarterfinal match up.

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Lettuce talk food. Included in the player package was a disc and reusable branded plastic cup, plate and chalice. Kaimana offered easily the best spread I have seen at any sporting tournament that I have participated in to date. There was tin foil to cover your plate to offer a sanitary surface to load your food onto at each meal. Every morning was the typical bread product, spread product, and fresh fruit. The bonus here is the smoothy station that was a blender continuously going producing a never-ending slurry of ice cold fruity beverage. Instead of using ice cubes and diluting the smoothy, frozen fruit was used to chill the cocktail without losing the flavour. Yes, there was an alcoholic version if you so requested. Lunch was catered in at an additional cost but it was worth it. I had some succulent pig and rice for lunch that I won’t soon forget. There was also traditional Poke and other items to enjoy that were fairly priced. Dinner was a theme each night and there was always lots to eat. Seconds were available to all after the buffet had been open for a reasonable amount of time each night. In addition to the scheduled meal times were the snacks that randomly appeared throughout the day. There was pop, juice, fruit, cheese balls, chocolates, and much more. The beer was tapped from dawn to dawn so there was no reason for an empty cup. Each night the liquor bar would open with two featured mixed drinks along with the standard five liquors that were over poured and mixed to your choosing.

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Let’s talk teams. I was part of the Aloha Spirit Team (Hat team) in the open division along with 17 other of my closest stranger friends. We were joined by some of the remaining players of a former team that has played every Kaimana since it’s beginnings, Sarcastic Fringeheads. Thank you to Nathan for the team shirts! On the team were a few residents of the Hawaiian islands, a bunch of west coasters, some east coasters, and 3 Canadians. The talent was deep and nothing says camaraderie like pass the beer jug. I had a blast playing with this team for the weekend with our showcase performance was beating Stanford in a sideways rainstorm. On the championship Monday we managed to win our way into the semi-finals of the beer bracket. We battled the Japanese team, Freaks, with their smooth and disciplined style of play knocking us out of contention. Not to go unnoticed was the women’s bracket. There were more teams in the Women’s bracket than the open division which was a welcome change and offered up some great play throughout the weekend.

Let’s talk volunteers. This tournament was run completely by volunteers and there was no shortage of passion at this tournament. The King of Kaimana, Mondo, was in attendance again this year helping out and playing a few points to extend his streak of playing in every edition of Kaimana to date. I have to extend a big thank you to everyone who contributed to this tournament be it in the planning, execution, or clean up and to all the sponsors. Your work does not go unnoticed and it will be one tournament that I would be excited to return to again in the future.

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The North Island

With only 7 days to see New Zealand, I elected to only visit the north island on this trip flying into Wellington and out of Auckland at the end of my week. I was joined by two fellow frisbee players from Toronto, Kat and Jess. I flew in a few days after them so they already had a car rented and picked me up from the airport upon my arrival.

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In case you are unaware the kiwis drive on the left side of the road compared to the right side I am used to at home. The setup inside the car for the driver has the turn signal and windshield wipers switched. The running joke is you see a tourist coming a mile away because they always turn the wipers on instead of the turn signals. After the first day of driving you get the hang of doing everything opposite while traveling in traffic. The tough part comes when you approach an intersection or parking lot where your natural instincts kick in trying to get you killed. Thankfully I only attempted to kill us all once when leaving a parking lot and turning into the oncoming lane at 11:30 P.M. when there was one car on the road. Whoops.

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The first night in NZ was dedicated to traveling north from Wellington to Porangahau for the Hat Tournament. As it would turn out this weekend was the last long weekend of the NZ summer but traffic was for the most part non-existent. The roads in NZ do not ever follow a straight line. Period. Fact. Every journey you take is an 50 – 70 KPM journey of winding blind corners and hills. It’s like rally car driving to get to the corner store when all you need is a lottery ticket. Don’t get me wrong, driving along the cliff edge with panoramic views was thrilling. After our multi hour journey with multiple stops we arrived at our destination, a working sheep and cattle farm, after 11 P.M. and hunkered down for the night. During our two days on the farm we were treated to some great ultimate, a great Saturday night party, and we were able to visit the longest named place in the world. On the Sunday we headed out after the final awards were handed out and everyone had showered. Our goal was to make it to Cape Kidnappers and catch a glimpse of the golf course before sun down.

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We arrived at Cape Kidnappers Golf Course with only an hour of light left. We arrived at the perimeter gate to find out that it was another 20 minute drive to the clubhouse. We finally arrived at the clubhouse to discover that the club was closed for the day. I didn’t fly all the way to NZ and drive an hour out of our way to not see the course. With no one around but the three of us, we walked to the coast line where the course and cliffs meet. This view was completely worth the trip and I doubt I would have been able to enjoy the course as much as I did had it been “open” when we arrived. Once the sun had set we all jumped back in the car and set out to find a place to stay for the night. We chose to try for the town of Rotorua as it was recommend to us based on our plans for the next couple of days. After driving until the early hours of the morning I discovered that I had just piloted us about 2 hours past our planned adventure for the Monday. I was more than a little displeased at this point because I like being accurate and sticking to the laid out plan. I requested a road map from the hotel front desk to avoid running into this type of boondoggle again.

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We woke up on the later side of things and used Monday as a recovery day. Rotorua is a volcanic town surrounded by many hot springs that were very active. We plotted some places to visit around town and along the way to our next overnight in Turangi. First was the local park which had some smelly, muddy, bubbly hot springs for us to sniff and gag at. Next up was a short ride to Waiotapu Themeral Wonderland. This place is what I expect mars will be like once colonized. There are craters, extreme colours in the water pools, barren landscapes, and a random forest in the middle of it all. All in all an interesting spot to visit and a nice leisurely paced attraction. After the thermals we headed for lake Taupo to try and catch an afternoon cruise to see the Maori Rock Carvings. We made the journey with minutes to spare and were able to book a trip on a yacht take us out on a nice cruise across rather choppy waters. A short 30 minute ride out to the carvings gave us great light to view the piece and enjoy a nice leisurely cruise back to port. We enjoyed dinner in town before heading out to Turangi and our accommodations for the evening.

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Turangi is the town closest to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. We arrived at our hostel for the night and we were given advice on crossing by the owner. We agreed that we would split up for the 19.4 KM journey and complete the hike in opposite directions. The reason we split up was to ensure we would not have to pay any shuttle fees to get back to the car at the end of the hike. I would complete the hike from west to east and the ladies would stick together completing the hike east to west as recommended by the hostel owner. The most important part of this plan was the hand off of the car key and I almost forgot to pick up the car key from the ladies. Thankfully Jess was paying attention and handed over the prized key during our meeting around the 11 KM marker. I completed the journey in about 5 hours and 15 minutes with all of my up hill climbs out of the way in the first 9 KM of my hike. The reverse hike for the ladies was much more difficult as their journey was an uphill fight for a longer period of time and across tougher terrain. I met the girls with car back where I had started my day and we were all tired from our hikes. We headed into Turangi to get some wifi and plan our next day’s adventure and find a place to sleep for the night. We agreed to return to the town of Rotorua for the night and stay in a hostel there before heading out to Matamata and Auckland the next day. Our journey to our Rotorua hostel was uneventful with the hostel almost uninhabited upon our arrival with only two other cars in the parking lot.

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Our last final full day on the north island began with a short journey to the outskirts of the town of Matamata, also know as Hobbiton. The girls had signed up for a tour of the hobbit village, grounds, and working farm. I dropped them off for their tour and headed to the opposite side of town to catch a glimpse of the highest waterfall in NZ, Wairere Falls. This set of falls is 153M and a different style of waterfall than I am used. Niagara Falls is a horseshoe style falls with a high water flow crashing over the edge every minute. Wairere is a skinny cascading waterfall with the water following many different paths down to the bottom. I spent a short amount of time at the falls before returning to pick up the girls from their Hobbiton adventure. They raved about being whisked away into an alternate universe and loved the adventure. We piled into our trusty car and headed into Matamata for lunch before making the trek up to Auckland. The journey from lunch to Auckland was smooth until we hit our first bit of NZ traffic entering the Auckland city limits. It would appear that NZ does have traffic every now and then. We hacked our way into town and found our accommodation for the night. After dropping off our bags, we parked the car for the night, and headed out to the Sky Tower to catch the sunset from the 60th floor. We were treated to a lovely colourful sky and were able to see the city night lights come up before heading down to the wharf for an evening stroll that led us back to our hostel. We packed our bags for our upcoming flight before calling it a night.

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Our final morning in NZ only required us to return the rental car before checking in for our flight to Hawaii. Kat and myself were continuing on to Oahu and Jess was on her way to Thailand. What should have been an uneventful drive got way too interesting way too fast. On the way to the drop off location the car starting making a loud squealing sound whenever the wheels were turning. And to our relief the sound disappeared without warning just as it appeared. I still have no idea what that noise was and I’m glad that it stopped before we got anywhere near the drop off location because it was as loud as someone using a stone cutting saw. A short shuttle to the airport and a quick check in process left me with enough time to embrace my inner hobbit before I left with a second breakfast.

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My trip to New Zealand was great. I think I enjoy driving on the left side of the road better than the right, the terrain really dictates how fast you can make a journey between each city, the landscapes are beautiful, the ocean is cold but clean, the sun is extremely powerful, and the positives go on. The biggest downside for me was the price point of many items but that can easily be overlooked. I would like to return one day with more time and have a chance to visit the south island as I hear it is even more beautiful than the north.

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Porangahau Hat

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.

Campsite

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Wild Things - Monsters 2015

Big Phat Phnom Penh Hat 2015

Quick recap: I have been playing Ultimate Frisbee for about fifteen months and quite enjoy the sport almost enough to drop the “L” word.

This was my first international tournament and the first of four tournaments on the #ultimateasiantour2015. I first heard about this tournament from a friend of friend in the ultimate community. I signed up as it fit perfectly into my travel schedule and it was also within my ability range as it’s a hat tournament. I arrived Friday night at the registration party that was being hosted on two boats, one parked and one doing a thirty minute loop on the river in Phnom Penh, to pay my tournament fee and to meet some of the other players that had come from across the globe for this tournament. This was a great first introduction to Asian ultimate and what’s in store for the rest of my tour.

Saturday morning began with a hilarious start. The tournament had arranged “Cattle Carts” to transport all players to the fields located outside the city centre. Foreigners attraction attention, but put thirty to forty of them in the back of a high walled pickup truck and you can turn heads until they cramp. We did our best to keep our cover and “Mooed” upon arrival at our destination. The first morning of the tournament was off to a slow start but that was welcomed as a proper warmup could be complete before the first game. I was assigned to the “Wild Things – Monsters” roster and we had a decent amount of raw talent on our team. We were able to communicated and use that talent to go undefeated in pool play, taking the number one ranking into Sunday morning.

Before the Sunday games could be played there was a party to attend. The Diggs from Toronto had flown into play for the BPPPH party and they rocked it. The party also had a costume party element that was aligned with the tournament theme of “I have a dream”. Dress up as someone with dream or anyway you can work dream into the sentence. At the party there was the “American dream”, the Jamaican bobsled team, Ghandi, Pam Anderson in drag, and so on.

Sunday play was double elimination bracket play with games starting at nine o’clock. My team was able to grind out a win to start the day and keep on pushing through the next game to earn a spot in the finals! The tournament finals had a halftime show with the Diggs performing, all teams competing in a “Tally Wacker” competition, and of course a game of Ultimate. In the end our streak came to an end with “Pam Anderson” taking the title.

And the day doesn’t end there. This tournament is known for its Slip and Slide Layout competition after all play is done on the Sunday. The organizers rolled out a thirty foot branded tarp and waxed it down for competition. After a long two days everyone got in line and took their opportunity to layout and cool off. I was fortunate enough to be selected to move onto the semi finals where it was down to the top ten. After another round of elimination I had made it to the finals with three other contenders. The first competitor put on a blind fold and ran full tilt for the slide, he narrowly missed the catch and received marks reflecting a drop. I was second with no props and only the intention to fly high. I was able to catch my disc and posted twenty seven of thirty possible points. Next up was Ghandi, the dude was escorted to the line by two guards before shoving them away, breaking a set of toy hand cuffs and flying through the air. With a two handed grab on his bid, his score fell one point short of tying my score. The final contender, a local and favourite, took flight with a strong bid but was unable to come down with the disc. That was it, I somehow won the layout competition at the BPPPH against some really strong bids and props. I was ecstatic and went for a showcase encore with another finalist. We both made huge bids and earned the crowd’s applause for one last time. There is a video floating out there of the competition runs and I have a short video of my encore run >> HERE << After that, the Diggs played another set for us and awards were handed out for the weekend.

An overall outstanding experience for my first international tournament. I want to say thank you to the organizers who worked for many months to plan and pull this event off. Also need to thank my fellow players and participants for always bringing a high level of spirit to the game and all the events going on all weekend. I definitely have added incentive to return next year to this tournament as there is a title on the line to defend. Something about having O Canada sung to you after being awarded your prize just tickles my fancy.

Flying high

Layout Link: http://youtu.be/Koz7dAqiLj4