First things first: this tournament is much bigger and will be much more competitive than WCBU2007 in Brazil. There are several reasons for this: location, the passage of time and growing acceptance of beach ultimate, and more support from major governing organizations like WFDF and USAU.
But that being said it’s timing is—unfortunately—still a hindrance to some top competition. Two weeks ago the biennial European Ultimate Championships—Europe’s most prestigious high-level tournament—concluded in Maribor, Slovenia. Last week the European Youth Ultimate Championships tournament was held over five days in Poland. And now finally here is the six-day WCBU outside Venice.
Simply put, many European players and teams are not able to make three major tournaments in a row. There are 30 countries represented at WCBU which is impressive but a country like the Czech Republic is only sending one team, Masters, and not because they don’t have plenty of talented Open players. Sweden won the EUC over Great Britain two weeks ago and you won’t see any of those players here—Sweden isn’t even sending a team (despite a proven track record of success at Paganello) and the GB open team has no crossover with the squad at EUC.
So at the outset the tournament would seem to favor countries that are outside Europe, saved talent from EUC, or otherwise prioritized Beach Worlds. And that, in part, is where the Americans and Australians come in.
The American teams competing in Maceio 2007 were not supported or selected by USA Ultimate (at the time, the UPA). But at the 2010 World Championships in Prague, BULA President Patrick van der Valk pitched BULA to be included in WFDF and succeeded. USA Ultimate’s President Tom Crawford not only supported BULA but vowed to start a USAU beach division.
USAU then heavily marketed WCBU2011 by seeking applications over the course of five months for the full complement of divisions—six altogether—in putting together a slew of coast-to-coast all-star beach teams.
With the American club season still a good month away from hitting stride, many elite players were able to commit to WCBU. It’s safe to say that the American team pulled no punches in picking their teams and bringing talent.
The same cannot be said for North American counterparts Canada. The Canadian Ultimate Championships, the pinnacle of competition in the Great White North, was held just this past weekend with berths to 2012 Worlds in Japan on the line.
With a date so close to WCBU it’s safe to say that many if not most of the athletes on those elite club teams in all four major divisions will not be in Lignano Sabbiadoro. It’s simple too difficult to commit.
Next up is the Australians. With a relatively limited base of 5000 ultimate players, expensive flight arrangements and a scene still more concentrated on grass ultimate, the powers-that-be have chosen to begin a campaign to focus on building strong Australian teams for the closer-to-home 2012 Worlds in Japan.
The 2007 Aussie Open team that won WCBU was able to knock off the Philippines (aka the Boracay Dragons) with some help from a huge height advantage. With weakened competition from the States and European countries it wasn’t much of a playing field.
So it will be interesting to see what kind of teams the Australians will bring to this tournament. In some ways, they are like the Europeans here: hit or miss. The mixed team is rumored to be strong and seeded third, the women’s team is seeded way down at 7.
It’s similar for Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain, Holland and others: the talent is stretched thin from EYUC and EUC so which division will they concentrate on?
And finally there’s this interesting twist. Plenty of beach talent calls Italy home after so much success at Paganello. The last edition featured two Italian teams in the Open semifinals, in fact. So how is it that even here outside Venice the Italians are only bringing two teams, Open and Mixed?
To further compound the peculiar problem the Italians stacked their Open team only to find themselves in the same pool as the under seeded Americans, the always-savvy Germans and the beach specialists from the Philippines who are undoubtedly looking to win this tournament.
We won’t have long to find out what Italy and the Philippines will be bringing as they will square off for the opening evening 5pm (Sunday) in the beach arena in front of thousands for the first live webstreamed game from WCBU.
All this being said one cannot forget how BULA-style beach ultimate works: games are short (45 minutes), the field is small and one or two dominant players can wreak havoc.
And let’s not forget that the beach is an intersection of vacation-time, breezy evenings and the gentle reminders of oceans and seas that dwarf human scale. It can be a wonderful place in the conscious and one where frolicsome fun is expected.
In other words, everyone here at Beach Worlds is going to have a damn good time of it.
See you on the beach!
The main image features the French women’s team striding at Grenoble beach (Grenoble is a town in the French Alps. The image behind is a painted wall on the beach. The photo was taken by Mathieu Chessel (http://mcphotographie.blogspot.com/)