Before I jump into my experiences at and preparation for this year’s Wildwood, I wanted to excuse myself for not posting in well over a month. I recently moved and am starting a new job, neither of which has given me much time to sit in front of the computer to blog. Now that I am settled in at my new apartment and have gotten my feet wet in my new job, I can put some time back into blogging. Thank you for your patience and for continuing to visit my blog!
WILDWOOD BEACH ULTIMATE
Wildwood (W2BU) is the word’s “biggest” mixed 4 vs 4 beach tournament and one of the “Ten Tournaments Not to Miss in Your Lifetime” (Leonardo, Ultimate the Greatest Sport Ever Invented by Man). Catering to all player levels, casual pick-up’ers to world champions, the tournament offers four divisions: 3/1 Open (competitive), 3/1 Beer (fun), 2/2 Open and 2/2 Beer, which are then broken into “smaller” pools of about 20 teams. Over the course of the two and a half day event, you are guaranteed 6 games of beach Ultimate, a registration/party on Friday night at the Bolero, and a main party with music and free beer on the beach Saturday night. If that isn’t enough, the boardwalk and ocean offer something to do other than Ultimate. And with close to 6000 Ultimate players no matter where you go, you’re surrounded by cool people.
From what I had heard about the tournament, I knew that this event was huge, but I was still blown away by seeing over 300 teams running down hucked discs, floating toward dozens and dozens of sandy end zones. The games, the beach, the parties, running into old teammates and rivals, everything, was awesome! I would highly recommend being a part of this event!
In preparation for the tournament, the SC team practiced at Jones Beach twice a week, getting used to the sand and wind associated with beach play. We ran some four person drills (give-n-goes, dump-resets and 2 point conversion attempts) and practiced with a shorter stall count. When we had played at FNoF in January, the shortened stall count gave us some issues, so it was really important that we practiced to avoid being stalled. In a beach game, a Stall will most likely turn into a point for the other team.
In addition to the practice, I also made some purchases to prepare for Wildwood. Some I felt were necessary: additional sunscreen, a sun shelter, sand socks; and some items weren’t, but I used this tournament as an excuse to buy them: a 5 Ultimate Replica jersey (white) and red hydro shorts, as well as a hat* that would keep the sun off my face. The hat was a straw cowboy hat, so it was somewhere in between function and fashion. If you are planning to play at Wildwood, I would suggest investing in both a sun shelter and sand socks, and reapply sunscreen often. I’m a pasty white guy with English / Irish roots, which means I am always getting sun-burned, so these items saved my butt. However, if you love getting burned to a crisp… well to each their own.
I looked into a few shelter/tents, but the best one I found was the “Quick Shelter” by LightSpeed Tents. I picked this one because of the price ($65.00 on Amazon, but it is also sold for around that price elsewhere), weight (7 lbs), mobility (you can carry it around like a camping chair) and the wicked fast setup (like 30 seconds, watch the video and you’ll see). A teammate brought one to our practice about a month back so his daughter and wife could hang out on the sidelines in the shade; I thought it was great and had to buy one for myself. I will definitely be bringing it to my next tournament and possibly to practices because of how easy it is to set up. Another one of my teammates brought a Swiss Gear canopy that also protected us between games from the sun. Both are great, so it depends on what you need and want. The picture above shows the inside of the Quick Shelter and the one below is of the Swiss Gear Canopy and Shelter side-by-side. As you can see the Quick Shelter can seat two comfortably with other items, like a cooler and bags. At one point we did have four people in it, but that was a little too cozy for the heat. The tent stood up to the wind well, and when it really picked up we opened the flaps to let the air pass through. The shelter has three sand pockets that you can fill, but once you put items in there it really isn’t moving. I am not sure how well it would do in the rain, but for nice days on the beach or grass it has my thumbs up!
Now, I was a little skeptical about sand socks, but my captain, Michaelangelo, assured me that the sand at Wildwood can get really hot, especially the strip between the fields and the sun bathers by the water. He was right, of course, and anyone who has gone to Wildwood will know all about that dark strip of sand that we are talking about. So when he placed an order through SandSkins, I had him add a pair for me. I ended up buying a pair of black XLs (I wear a 11.5 cleat) and played in them all weekend. The SandSkins have a neoprene, gripy sole and are made of stretchable lycra. They come in three colors: white, black and pink, and select sizes depending on color. They do a good job of keeping sand out, though I did have a small amount of sand build up in the toe after the third game; however, all I had to do was turn them inside out and they were good to go again. They were breathable and offered the perfect protection. I almost wore my Vibram Five Fingers (which a few players did), but decided to try these out. I was cautioned that it might feel a bit weird, but I didn’t think they did. I think if I had gone with a little bit larger of a size, then maybe.
Our team, or I should say the regulars at pick-up and practice, decided to break up into two 3/1 squads — SuperCocks and Rebel Lover (The previous year the team did this too, going as Original and Extra Crispy SuperCocks). As a side note, the names for this tournament were cleaver, hilarious and, well, somewhat derogatory. Even if you didn’t go you should take a look at some of them, especially if you are an Arrested Development fan.
Our captains/ senior players decided to do this because we had close to thirty players initially signed on to go and everyone wanted as much playing time as they could get. Next year, we may break up into three teams. There was also talk of trying out the 2/2 beer league, so who knows.
Even though we were on different teams, we all stayed at the Isle of Palms Motel just minutes from the boardwalk, which was a perfect location and had the basics of what you need. Some of us arrived on Thursday, which gave us time to settle in and enjoy a long-weekend vacation. If you can get off work, I would definitely go this route. Plus, if you want to stay at the Isle of Palms or some of the other Hotel/Motels in the area you may need to register for at least 3 nights.
During pool play on Saturday both squads played well. Rebel Lover racked up some wins, which put them in good standings for the following day. SC had some close ones (11 to 9, and 13 to 10) as well as some blowouts (which I will not give the scores of out of deep, deep shame…), so we ended up in the consolation bracket for Sunday. On day two, however, SC got a win, a forfeit and suffered another close loss (11 to 9)! We also played a beverage-in-hand game to five with some of the players from Team Fatty Dipping and random strangers.
Speaking of which (Team Fatty Dipping and not random strangers), I had posted a comment on Facebook saying that I was heading to Wildwood, hoping I might find out who might be going to New Jersey that weekend as well. From the comments I knew that some friends and old teammates were going to be there, but I was also surprised when I ran into people I recognized. On Saturday, I played some of the guys I matched up against during the spring UltyNY League. Then on Sunday more people kept popping up. A college teammate of mine, Liz, was there with her Rochester-based team (I believe they were called “Chopsticks > Forks”). It took me a good part of the day to finally run into the Keene, NH crew (Team Fatty Dipping) that I played pick up with a few years back. I knew they were there, but couldn’t seem to bump into them until almost the last game of the day. Then as I was walking back to the car to head home from the tournament, I ran into Dima, who I played with on a hat team at FNoF. Another teammate was there from the same hat tournament, but I never got a chance to see him — next year Joel or maybe FNoF 2012?
That is the cool thing about the type community the sport of Ultimate fosters and a tournament of this size provides. Once you start playing in an area for awhile and go to the local, somewhat local and, even, not so local tournaments, you can start to expect to see old friends, past teammates and that guy that lay-out D-blocked what you thought was going to be a game saving throw. I was kind of hoping to see some of my European friends there, too, but I guess that W2BU was a little far. Or maybe there were some and I just didn’t run into them. Possible…?
FINALS BRIEF HIGHLIGHTS: 2/2 Open Winners – O-Pig; 3/1 Beer Winners – Middletown Ultimate
A few of us hung out after our last match to watch the final round of the O-Pig and Hennessy at Half Time game. It was a lot of fun to see top competitors move the disc and make great defensive plays. Some of the players even represented team USA in the 2011 Beach Worlds. For some reason we didn’t play any fantasy Ultimate on the sidelines, I guess we were too into the game. Jen from aVoceBehindtheLens shot some of the final game, as well as throughout the event, and got great pictures.You can also check out highlights of the 3/1 winners, Middletown Ultimate, in a YouTube video posted by EEia89.
I want to thank aVoceBehindtheLens, Beth and Lee for the use of their photos in my blog. Check out aVoceBehindtheLens‘s blog to see more great shots (one of which made the Dominator Friday picture set)!
The next tournament on the Horizon… Zodiac 2011! Sign ups are now closed, so if you are not already going you can check out my recap after the tournament in a few weeks or be a spectator. Cheers!