• August 22, 2017
New Zealand's ultimate frisbee season kicks off in Spring. Photo: Carlos Federkeil
Expect to see more frisbees on the soccer field than the beach this summer.
Ultimate frisbee, or "ultimate" as it’s more commonly called, is a sport that mixes netball, touch and rugby, but uses a frisbee instead of a ball.
According to the chief executive of Ultimate New Zealand, Iain Stewart, the growth of the sport is on the up and up.
“When I started out 15 to 20 years ago, you knew everyone because there were only 50 or 60 people playing.
“Now it’s doubled in the last four years. Across the country there are about 3500 people playing.”
Mr Stewart attributed the rise in numbers to youngsters taking up the sport.
“There’s a number of schools in Auckland who play.”
Ultimate has been College Sport-sanctioned and runs a league of about 24 teams.
“That’s again probably doubled in the last three years. As [children] graduate out of school, people are generally sticking with the game.
“And we’re seeing them flow through into universities and that’s where most of our population explosion has come from.”
Mr Stewart believed the increase in popularity was partly due to the sport’s unique “self-refereeing”.
The players referee their own game, often calling penalties on themselves if required.
“It really means that you have to respect your opposition. You can’t go out there with the attitude that you dislike them and you want to crush them.
“There’s a lot more respect between players and so when people discover the sport they tend to really stick with it because of the attitudes of the people they’re playing against and the environment and culture of the sport.”
That does not mean, however, that ultimate is not competitive.
Last year’s world championships featured teams from more than 30 countries and last year the sport was recognised by the International Olympic Committee.
Although full Olympic inclusion is still in the future, New Zealand is in good shape should that happen. Both men’s and women’s teams finished in the top 10 at last year’s world champs.
The beginning of spring is when the New Zealand ultimate season kicks off. If you’re keen to give it a throw, head to ultimate.org.nz and find a team.