(Rimini, Italy – 17-22 August 2014) From way before we left Austin, the one fixed date in our year-long itinerary was the Paganello Beach Ultimate Tournament in Rimini, Italy. It was many years ago when I first heard other Ultimate players talking about Paganello. Each year a handful of Austin Ultimate players would travel all the way to Italy just for this legendary tournament. Paganello is famous for being the largest (>50 teams) Beach Ultimate Tournament in the World and for having some of the best Ultimate parties ever.
Jessica and I arrived to Rimini by train from Assisi, Italy. I am typically not as demonstrative as Jessica when it comes to showing excitement, but the closer we got to Rimini, the more I started to “light up.” It wasn’t just the chance to play some competitive Ultimate, it was also the anticipation of meeting up with friends from Austin that we hadn’t seen since starting our trip.
Playing in the Sand
The 5th Element
The sand we played on was fine-grained and super soft. Easy on the feet, but it sure made running a chore. Some players complained that their arches were taking a beating. I personally felt more soreness in the front part of my hips, a result of the different stresses put on my leg muscles….from running like a lizard across the sand, I guess.
We played a total of 10 games over four days, 4 on the first day, 3 on day two, then just 2 and 1 on days three and four. Of those 10 games, we won exactly half, but I guess we chose the right ones to win because we ended up with 5th place overall (out of 17 teams in the Mixed division).
One of our games was played in what they were calling The Arena– a pitch of sand surrounded by stadium seating and about six cameras to record the action. If you want to see the game, here is the link:
What I’ve found to be true is that even more important than whether your team wins or loses is how you as a player feel you contributed to your team. After 10 games on TMR, I’m feeling good, but not great. I played very conservatively on offense to the point at which my throws were coming out soft and weak. Not what you want on a windy beach. If you watch the game at the link above, you’ll see me throw a sure backhand score into the sand. Ugh!
The rule of thumb is that if the disc touches your hand, you should catch it. By this standard, I caught all but one pass the whole tournament. I had that going for me, but my lack of quickness in the sand meant that I wasn’t getting open as often as I would have liked.
Defensively, I had a medium-strong tournament. I’m generally better at covering the short cuts and get beat with greater frequency if my opponent cuts long…which they did all too often. I made up for some of the damage with a couple of highly visible and dramatic defenses. It feels good when you find yourself in a crowd of players all scrambling for an errant disc…and you come down with it in your hands. This happened once for me at Paganello and I’ll take it.
My biggest struggle was simply meshing with my team. Every one of my Mustache teammates plays ‘above my level’ so it was my challenge to gain their confidence. I’ve been playing with or against many of them in Austin for years, but being on the same team with so many of them at a competitive tournament is fundamentally different. I was intent on holding my own and I’m not entirely sure I succeeded, but at least I feel I came close.
Paganello’s opening night party featured an Elvis Tribute Band. They rocked that main stage like a 50’s sock hop. The singer (who resembled Kneau Reeves far more than Elvis) couldn’t match Elvis’ moves, but that was okay. His singing was solid and the variety of songs they played (more than just Elvis) had the crowd up and dancing.
The following night’s tournament party was located further away from where we were staying and only one or two from our team ended up going. Our good times were found hanging out and drinking in one of the rooms at the team hostel.
Having a tournament theme not only influences the music played between games, but it also dictates what people wear to the parties. One crazy team from England painted their faces and bodies green and stuck a large fake eye on their foreheads, literally mimicking the aliens from Toy Story– “We are eternally grateful….”
Our team went pure cowboy!
Paganello Tournament. Check!
At nearly 50, I am clearly in the latter stages of my Ultimate “career.” To be invited to play at Paganello with a team from Austin was huge for me. For many years I’ve been carrying around (in my head) a short list of big tournaments that I’d like to play in before the day comes when I can play no more. Paganello was high on that list. I reserve the right to add more tournaments to that docket, but for now, only Poultry Days (annual tournament in Versailles, Ohio) remains.
After saying our good-byes to our Austin friends, Jessica and I turned to each other in quiet acknowledgment that it would just be us again. That’s okay. We’ve been having quite literally the time of our lives and there was no reason to believe that would not continue to be the case. Our next destination is Cinque Terre and one of the world’s most famous hikes that hugs a beautiful portion of the Italy’s northwestern coastline.
From top left to bottom right;
BJ – broke his arm in the first game of the tournament
Joel – currently living in Toronto, Canada
Dave Street – may have played his best tournament yet
Elliot – currently lives in Geneva, Switzerland with Hannah*
Allen – currently lives in Germany with Nat*
Pickens – loves Ultimate as much as anyone else alive (addiction)
Rebecca – great all-around player and more importantly, best dancer on the team!
Michelle – was certainly the leading scorer on the team (don’t get in her way when the disc is in the air)
Emily – always wins the award for fewest turnovers on the team
Gary – got two compliments on “my look” (sunglasses matching hair)
Tina – has better throws than Scotty B.
Steffi – currently lives in Germany and has the cutest little boy
* Hannah and Nat played on a Women’s Team called Super Hot Pot. They won the tournament in that Division.