Once a sport marginalized as just for hippies, Ultimate Frisbee is evolving into a face-paced, competitive activity that's growing in Juneau.
Since its inception in 2001, the Juneau-based Ultimate Players of Southeast Alaska has experienced growth in its league as more people discover the game.
"Ultimate players, in general, seem to be friendly and nice to one another," UPSEA president Peter van Tamelen said. "There's very good camaraderie and good sportsmanship. People generally don't fight, but the reputation of it being a hippie sport is going away because it's getting very competitive. It's turning into a sport more than anything else."
Ultimate Frisbee takes elements of football, basketball and soccer to create an exhausting game of strategy, skill and stamina.
With seven players on each side, the object of the game is to pass the Frisbee forward until a player makes it to the end zone for a point. Players cannot move with the disc, so the ability to find free space is emphasized.
"It's co-ed, men and women play at the same time," van Tamelen said. "It's self-refereed, we call our own fouls and that's on all levels, even in national and international competitions. It's non-contact and it's great exercise and there's a lot of strategy involved."
Van Tamelen, 43, has played in competitions and pick-up games throughout the country.
He praises the sport's grassroots nature and its versatility. All players need is a Frisbee (a registered trademark) and open space for a game.
"I can travel anywhere in the U.S. or world and find a game," van Tamelen said. "I've done that. I've played by the Washington Monument, in Michigan, California, Washington State, Colorado. All you need is space."
The UPSEA plays its games on the Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park football field and starts league play this Wednesday.
Van Tamelen is also trying to start up a travel team and compete against other teams in Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.