Chimney Sweep

Frisbee freaks to show up for hat event

Hold on to your Frisbees – Siem Reap’s first hat tournament to be held this month in conjunction with Halloween, will attract flying disc fanatics from around the world.

For those not in the know, hat tournaments are where Ultimate Frisbee team players sign up as individuals and are randomly assigned to new teams. Ultimate is frisbee throwing turned into a sport between mixed gender teams which, unlike most team sports, are self-officiating without referees.

“Hat tournaments are the same version of Ultimate Frisbee played at any level, the same rules etc. It’s just the style of how teams are assigned,” says Siem Reap Ultimate tour director Becca Smith.

“Rather than joining the tournament as a team you sign up as an individual. Then the organisers will assign mixed ability teams, effectively ‘picking names out a hat’. That’s why it’s called a hat tournament.

“But there’s more planning that goes into it to make sure teams are well balanced. For example, people who play club or national level are mixed amongst all teams, likewise first time players are all mixed up to make teams more fair and even.”

Being open to players of all abilities to mix in and play together is the main reason for the popularity of hat tournaments.

“We have players signed up who play on national clubs and who have played Worlds,” Becca says. “Masters players enjoy hats as they are less competitive and easier on the muscles.

“They’re also great for inexperienced players to get a feel for competitive play in a no-pressure environment while becoming part of the global ultimate community. Basically, it’s social and fun – no pressure and great for player growth.”

The Siem Reap tournament, to be held on October 28-29, has space for 150 players and as of publication time well over half that number had registered.

Ultimate Frisbee players in action. Paul Creane

“We have sign ups from Bali, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, America as well as locally across Cambodia,” Becca says.

Ultimate started as a counter-culture activity in the US in the 1970s. It’s now played in over 100 countries and is recognised as an official sport by the International Olympic Committee. Adherents hope it will be added to the Summer Olympics but it failed to make the cut for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics so its next chance will be with the 2032 Brisbane Summer Olympics.

Siem Reap is home to a lively Ultimate scene which was started in 2019 by Jared Cahners, former anthropologist, former president of the Cambodia Flying Disc Association and now Cambodia Ultimate Frisbee Prime Minister. He’s also not averse to a round or two of disc golf.

The local Ultimate scene also sets a fast pace and Becca Smith says, “We play three times a week, Mondays and Wednesdays at 6pm and Sundays at 10am always at Wat Bo Football Centre.

“We have hosted inter-city friendly matches, the last one against Reach Chsey Ultimate in 2022. We also sent a mixed team of locals and expats to play in the Cambodian Ultimate open in Phnom Penh in April.

“Plus we enjoy working with the other athletic organisations in town. In August we had an inter-sport event, hosting both GAA Gaelic Football and Temple Tigers Touch Rugby to come and learn how to play our sport and teach us how to play theirs.”

The group has also started up Srey Day which is a women’s only night held once a month and Becca says, “This is to help the growth with women in the sport overall and hopefully getting more Khmer women coming to join us too.”

Becca herself started playing Ultimate in 2020 when she first moved to Siem Reap and was instantly captivated by the sport and its supportive community.

“I come from a solo sports background and something that put me off from team sports was that if I play badly then I’d be letting my team down,” she says.

“Luckily for me that hasn’t been the case at all. Everyone is so encouraging. If you drop the disc, that’s fine. If you throw in the wrong direction, that’s fine. It really is a sport for everyone, any age, and any ability.

“I feel our community captures that. We have around 50% female players, 50% male with ages ranging from 8 years to 60 years and older sometimes. Half our players are international and half are local Khmer. Even if somebody has never even touched a frisbee, that’s great, they’re welcome. It’s a place where the Siem Reap community can come together. We’re all from different backgrounds, countries and professions but we all enjoy throwing things around and having a cheeky drink afterwards.”

Meanwhile, another of Siem Reap’s Frisbee features, Cambodia’s only disc golf course is gearing up to run a number of tournaments when it reopens – the course is unplayable during the wet season. The sport follows rules similar to golf and players throw a Frisbee at a target, usually a type of basket.

Former American chimney sweep Jacob Neff opened the Siem Reap Disc Golf Course in 2018 after inspiration provided by attending the Hyzenbrownie Open disc golf tournament on Koh Samui.

His course also has accommodation with The Basket Homestay and is gearing up for its own Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) sanctioned C-tier singles tournament on December 26 titled Boxed Out 2023 “powered” by Innova, a leading Frisbee manufacturer.

C-Tier tournaments generally run for one day and have large amateur fields making them attractive for beginners and players wanting to notch up their first tournament-level disc golf experience. PDGA membership is not required to compete.

Registrations also close on November 1 for the fifth annual Khmer Cup singles tournament slated for February 16-18, 2024.

“Our pinnacle event is the Khmer Cup and last year we had a famous disc golfer play it and we hope to bring more players and make it a bit bigger,” Jacob says. “In March we also have an event called ‘A Holiday in Cambodia’ that takes place in and around an ancient temple site.”

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