The History of Frisbee and Disc Sports in the U.S. and Canada.

The Counterculture of the 1960s and Frisbee Pioneers

In the 1960s, as numbers of young people became alienated from social norms, they resisted and looked for alternatives. They formed what became known as the counter-culture. The forms of escape and resistance manifest in many ways including social activism, alternative lifestyles, experimental living through foods, dress, music and alternative recreational activities, including that of throwing a Frisbee. The perceptions of the Frisbee being popular within the counter-cultural community probably came from seeing long-hair young people throwing Frisbee’s in the parks, on campus and at music festivals in the 1960s. Also in the early 1970s when new Frisbee sports and events were being invented, it could be perceived that these new sports were being invented as an alternative to traditional ball sports. All of these early perceptions would turn out to be true. The idea that these were non-athletic hippie types that couldn’t play ball sports is false, most were traditional ball athletes that happened to have a certain 60s style look, that usually included long hair and many shared an anti-establishment attitude. The only difference with the athletes that play disc sports and the athletes that play traditional ball sports, is not their athleticism, but disc sports competitors self-regulating attitude towards sportsmanship. With yesterday and today’s disc athlete, winning is not as important as is how you play the game, although you hear that for all sports, you rarely see it in ball sports and when you do, it’s the exception. Disc sports like ultimate, the most competitive team game, actually give awards for it.

“All players are responsible for administering and adhering to the rules. Ultimate relies upon a Spirit of the Game that places the responsibility for fair play on every player. It is trusted that no player will intentionally break the rules; thus there are no harsh penalties for breaches, but rather a method for resuming play in a manner which simulates what would most likely have occurred had there been no breach. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but should never sacrifice the mutual respect between players".----Spirit of the Game

Ultimate Frisbee History

In 2003, after an interview with both Jared Kass and Joel Silver the history of ultimate, as we knew it, changed. 

'For years it was thought that Joel Silver and fellow students at CHS invented Ultimate Frisbee, however, more recent and rigorous research has come to light to suggest that the truth may be somewhat different. Silver and his friends did much to record the rules and move to sport to the public and eventual popularity. According to  Willie Herndon, after interviewing Joel Silver and Jared Kass in 2003, it was discovered that Silver had learned a Frisbee game from someone named Jared Kass while attending summer camp. Herndon (2003), like many, assumed that Silver had played something like Frisbee football with Jared Kass at camp, and then returned to Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey, and made up and named, a whole new game called Ultimate. However, upon questioning Kass closely it seems that the whole of the Ultimate playing world had been somewhat misled. Upon investigation, Herndon (2003) learned that Kass had taught Silver not some distant relative of Ultimate, but Ultimate in its essence and by name, whilst having no idea that he had had anything to do with its creation. Kass recounts that the game evolved from a variation of touch football whilst at Amherst College where he started as a student in 1965.--Gerald Griggs – University of Wolverhampton, U.K. The Sport Journal’

In 1966, Jared Kass and fellow Amherst students evolved a team Frisbee game based on concepts from American football, basketball, and soccer. This game had some of the basics of modern ultimate including scoring by passing over a goal line, advancing the disc by passing, no traveling with the disc, and turnovers on an interception or incomplete pass. Jared, an instructor and dorm advisor, taught this game to high school student Joel Silver during the summer of 1967 or 1968 at Mount Hermon Prep school summer camp. Joel Silver, along with fellow students Jonny Hines, Buzzy Hellring, and others, further developed ultimate beginning in 1968 at Columbia High School, Maplewood, New Jersey, USA (CHS). The first sanctioned game was played at CHS in 1968 between the student council and the student newspaper staff. Beginning the following year evening games were played in the glow of mercury-vapor lights on the school’s student-designated parking lot. Hellring, Silver, and Hines developed the first and second edition of “Rules of Ultimate Frisbee”. In 1970 CHS defeated Millburn High 43-10 in the first interscholastic ultimate game. CHS, Millburn, and three other New Jersey high schools made up the first conference of Ultimate teams beginning in 1971. Although the history of ultimate begins with some summer camp activities and high school students (CHS) in New Jersey,  ultimate, as a sport, didn’t start heading in a serious competitive sports direction, in the U.S. and Canada, until early disc athlete's that played ultimate and organized events got involved. When Jared Kass introduced Joel Silver to ultimate, he wasn’t introducing his idea of a new sport, he was introducing a new fun camp activity. When Joel Silver introduced the game, he learned from Kass to students at CHS, it was probably more of a joke by non-athletes than the beginning of a new sport. Kass and Silver were not known athletes and never competed in ultimate or any other disc sports, outside of camp and high school. After CHS graduation, Silver went to Hollywood for a career in movies. It was the sixties, looking for alternatives  was always a fun option, for CHS students, ultimate was probably played as more of a funny alternative to traditional sports. Whatever the reason, this was the beginning of ultimate play.

Evolving from its counter-culture playing appeal, Spirit of the Game (SOTG) came later and was written into the 7th edition of the ultimate rules, in 1978.

Beginning In 1975, ultimate is included as an exhibition with other Frisbee events at the big overall (multiple events) Frisbee tournaments of that time. The Canadian Open Frisbee Championships, Toronto, Ontario, the Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships, Vancouver, BC, the Octad, New Brunswick, New Jersey, the Wham-O World Frisbee Championships (WFC), Pasadena, CA, and the American Flying Disc Open (AFDO), Rochester, NY. These were the earliest Frisbee competitions that treated the Frisbee as a new disc sport, up until these tournaments, the Frisbee was considered a toy.

 In late December 1979, the first national player-run ultimate organization was founded in the United States as the Ultimate Players Association (UPA). Tom Kennedy was elected its first director.


Ultimate Frisbee History in Canada

Ultimate made its first International appearance at the 1975 Canadian Open Frisbee Championships in Toronto. This was the beginning of introducing ultimate Frisbee to Canadians in the way of demonstrations added to the other tournament events.  In 1979, Ken Westerfield, retiring from competing in U.S. and Canadian national freestyle, disc golf and over-all competitions, continued to organize and produce local disc events in Toronto. Because of Ken's love of ultimate, playing touring team and organized league ultimate in California (1977-78), began organizing disc ultimate events in Toronto. In 1979, Ken Westerfield with the help of Irwin Toy’s Bob Blakely and Chris Lowcock created the Toronto Ultimate Club.

Westerfield started weekly ultimate pick-up games on Kew Beach, then sent team invitations to Wards Island, West Toronto, North Toronto and his own team, The Beaches. These were the first four teams with each team taking turns hosting Wednesdays weekly league game nights at their home locations. The league starting night was at Kew Beach. Westerfield, using Bob Blakely’s office copy machine and mailing facility at Irwin Toy, would produce a weekly newsletter highlighting the games and scores for each team as well as their league standings through the playing season. The Toronto Ultimate League developed and was renamed the Toronto Ultimate Club (TUC), that now has 3300 active members and over 250 teams playing the year round. This was the first ultimate league in Canada and now one of the world’s oldest. Ken Westerfield was inducted into the inaugural class of both the 2010 Toronto Ultimate Club Hall of Fame and the Ultimate Canada Hall of Fame.

Discraft, founded in the late 1970s by Jim Kenner in London, Ontario, later moved the company from Canada to its present location in Wixom, Michigan. Discraft introduced the Ultra-star 175 gram disc in 1981, with an updated mold in 1983. This disc was adopted as the standard for ultimate during the 1980s. In 1991 the Ultra-star was specified as the official disc for UPA tournament play and remains in wide use. In 2011, the Discraft Ultra-star was inducted into the USA Ultimate Hall of Fame for Special Merit.

In 1986, the Vancouver League and Ottawa League formed. The first Canadian Ultimate Championships were held, for the open division, in Ottawa 1987, produced by Marcus Brady and Brian Guthrie. OCUA subsequently hosted the 1993, 1999, 2002 and 2011 Canadian Ultimate Championships. Team Darkside of Toronto won Canada’s first national ultimate championships in a close final against the Calgary Cynics. The Cynics would come back to win against Darkside in the 1988 Championships.

Furious George, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. is one of the best ultimate teams to ever come out of Canada. Formed in 1995, they were the open champions at the 2002, 2003 and 2005 UPA Club Championships. They have also won ten Canadian Ultimate Championships: in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Furious won gold for Canada in 1998, 2004 and 2008 at the WFDF World Ultimate Championships, as well as comprising half of the gold medal co-ed Canadian National Team at the 2001 World Games in Akita, Japan. In 2011, Furious George was inducted into the Canadian Ultimate Hall of Fame. Canada has been ranked number one in the Ultimate World Rankings several times since 1998 in all the Ultimate Divisions (including Open and Women’s) according to the World Flying Disc Federation.

In 2013, as a founding partner, the Toronto Ultimate Club presented Canada’s first semi-professional ultimate team, the Toronto Rush, to the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL). They went undefeated 18-0 for the season and won the AUDL Championships. In 2015, AUDL added the Ottawa Outlaws. Disc Ultimate has become one of today’s fastest growing sports. In 2015, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted full recognition to the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) for flying disc sports, including ultimate.

Disc Golf History in the US and Canada

Disc golf was first invented in Bladworth, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1926. Ronald Gibson and a group of his Bladworth Elementary School buddies played a game of throwing tin lids into 4 foot wide circles drawn into sandy patches on their school grounds. They called the game Tin Lid Golf and played on a fairly regular basis. However, after they grew older and went their separate ways, the game came to an end. It wasn't until the 1970s that Canadians would be reintroduced to disc golf at the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships in Toronto and the Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships, Vancouver, BC,  Canada. Before 1975 and the invention of the disc golf target called the disc pole hole, there were only a few disc golf object courses in the U.S. and Canada. Despite having never heard of the International Frisbee Association (IFA) that Ed and Wham-O had put together, or ever seeing a copy of the IFA Newsletter, Jim Palmeri, his brother, and a small group of people from Rochester, NY, had been playing disc golf as a competitive sport on a regular basis since August of 1970, including tournaments and weekly league play. By 1973, they had even promoted two City of Rochester Disc Frisbee Championship events which featured disc golf as the main event. In Canada, beginning in 1970, newly arrived Toronto residents, Ken Westerfield and Jim Kenner (Discraft) never hearing about Wham-O, the IFA or seeing anything to do with playing golf with a Frisbee, played Frisbee golf daily on an 18 object hole course they designed in Queens Park. In 1973, Gail McColl (co-founder of Discraft) became a regular player at the park. Westerfield and Kenner added disc golf to their other tournament events at the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships on Toronto Islands and the Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships (NAS event) in Stanley Park. These were the first disc golf tournaments in Canada, beginning with using objects as holes then using permanently placed disc pole holes. In California, the Berkeley Frisbee Group established a standardized 18 hole object course on the Berkeley campus in 1970. University of Michigan, Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor had an object Frisbee golf course designed in 1973.

Ed Headrick introduced the formal disc golf target with chains and a basket called disc pole hole. In 1976, Headrick formed the Disc Golf Association (DGA), then later the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA).  Headrick abandoned his trademark on the term “Disc Golf,” and turned over control and administration of the PDGA to the growing body of disc golf players.  “Steady Ed” Headrick began thinking about the sport during his time at Wham-O Toys where he designed and patented the modern day Frisbee. Headrick designed and installed the first standardized target course in what was then known as Oak Grove Park in La Cañada Flintridge, California. (Today the park is known as Hahamongna Watershed Park). Ed founded “The International Frisbee Association (IFA)”. Headrick coined and trademarked the term “Disc Golf” when formalizing the sport and patented the Disc Pole Hole, the first disc golf target to incorporate chains and a basket on a pole. Ted Smethers took over the PDGA in 1982 to be run independently and to officiate the standard rules of play for the sport.

Frisbee Freestyle Competition History in Canada and the US

Freestyle is an event where teams of two or three players perform a routine that consists of a series of creative throwing and catching techniques set to music. The routine is judged on the basis of difficulty, execution and presentation. The team with the best total score is declared the winner. Freestyle play prior to 1975, before the invention of the nail-delay, was a fast- moving and flowing routine of many throwing variations with spinning and leaping stylized catches off the throw. Early freestyle play was intense and commonly compared to martial arts and dance. In 1973, Ken Westerfield and Jim Kenner, wanting to see if there were other Frisbee freestylers, decided to add their idea of a Frisbee freestyle competition to their 2nd Canadian Open Frisbee Championships in Toronto, but due to a lack of competitors, the freestyle event was canceled. Unknown to them at the time, there was the beginning of a growing Frisbee freestyle swell in the United States, Berkeley, New York, Ann Arbor, New Jersey and Chicago. Next year newly energized freestylers assembled in Toronto, to compete in this new freestyle event. In 1974, at the 3rd annual Canadian Open Frisbee Championships, Westerfield and Kenner would introduce this event called freestyle and they won it.

The Decade Awards 1970-75 Top Freestyle Routine: Ken Westerfield/Jim Kenner Canadian Open 1974:

"Considered the greatest speed flow game of all time. Ken and Jim put on a clinic to cap off a blistering hot final by all of the teams. They featured a rhythmic and dynamic style with concise catch and throw combinations. These two gentlemen are credited with creating formal disc freestyle competition. The 1973 Canadian Open did not have freestyle as an event, the end result made history."

Among the competing freestyle pairing were such Frisbee notable's as Doug Corea/Jim Palmeri, John Kirkland/Jose Montalvo, Irv Kalb/Dave "Buddha" Meyers, Dan "Stork" Roddick /Bruce Koger, Tom Cleworth/John Connelly. This was the first freestyle competition. Westerfield and Kenner having won, as the world's first Freestyle Frisbee Champions, that same year hosted the second freestyle competition, along with other Frisbee events, at their Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships, Kitsilano Beach, Vancouver, British Columbia. This is where Bill King, Jim Brown and John Anthony of early freestyle fame, made their first competitive appearance. A year later, the American Flying Disc Open (AFDO) in Rochester, New York, the Octad, in New Brunswick, New Jersey and the 1975 World Frisbee Championships, held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, adopted Westerfield and Kenner's freestyle competition format as one of their new events. Today that same freestyle event is accepted as one of the premier events in flying disc tournaments worldwide.

Jim Kenner and Ken Westerfield were inducted into the Inaugural Pioneer Class of the FPA Freestyle Disc Hall of Fame:

"Their play, innovation and influence began in the formative years prior to competition, and was critical to the origin of the competitive sport of Freestyle"

Note: This information was researched from historical articles as well as Wikipedia.

35 Frisbee World Magazines on DVD

The historical photo's and pages shown below are from Frisbee World Magazines (1976-1982) that are now available on DVD for $12.95. The  pages below are just a few examples of over 1000 informative pages. The DVD pages are clear and easy to read. 


35 Frisbee World Magazines on a DVD, 1976 -1982.


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This DVD contains a set of 35 Frisbee World Magazines covering the early years of Ultimate Frisbee and disc sports from 1976 -1982. Over a thousand pages, Includes articles, competition information, finishes and early photo’s of the disc sport pioneers. If you love playing a disc sport, this is your chance to learn about the history of your sport. Articles written by some of disc sports earliest founders and competitors. See how it all began with ultimate, guts, freestyle, disc golf and DDC. $12.95 includes shipping in the U.S. and Canada. Orders for the rest of the world will be sent as a pdf. download.

See Photo Gallery at the bottom of the page to view Frisbee World Magazine cover photo's and sample pages. Pages below are sample only. The pages on the DVD are clear and easy to read.

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