The following article is sponsored by Spikeball
Waking up to a land line ringing at the exact same time as an elderly woman pounding on the door is something few have ever experienced. However, in this place, a place that might be more of a state of mind, the unexpected has always been the norm. Blurry, sleep deprived eyes scan the maroon themed hotel room from the doorway.
Water. Backpack full of supplies. Room key. Sunglasses. Cleats. Cleats!? Wait, right, don’t need cleats. Brain’s mush right now. Tank top. Hat. Is that everything? If not, it’s close enough. Here we go.
The infamous Jersey Shore Boardwalk stores are starting to open their bay doors. Bright yellows, greens, and pinks dominate nearly every store front and continue to grow in number with each thrown open door. The Hot Spot is already open for business, and a breakfast sandwich sounds amazing, but something keeps forcing the feet forward. The excitement is palpable, or is that the salty ocean breeze? Nope, sand, better get used to it.
Once on the Wildwood beach, the 45-minute games slip by seemingly in seconds, but the game-play is hardly the story here. The story is about the players. Rather, the story is about the stories those players create throughout the weekend. It’s about the largest collection of inspiring, like-minded, fun-loving, and typically neon-wearing people on the planet growing the tradition of the game they play. And for the first time, I would be joining them. Here are a few of the instances I experienced personally that really sum up what Wildwood Beach Ultimate (W2BU) is all about.
At the top, the tournament directors spoke of wanting more. More players, more vendors, more beach space, more Spikeball, at this tournament it truly was the more, the merrier. A philosophy even MLU President Jeff Snader could get behind, and it trickled — nay flooded — down to each and every Wildwood participant. W2BU was already the largest beach ultimate tournament five years ago, but that was no place to stop, this year ballooning to three times as many participants as back then. Despite the unbelievably large numbers, the W2BU team still ensures every division feels like a winner by handing out 57 different
trophies to the respective divisions. Beaming volunteers helped with everything from selling tournament swag, to handing out box-loads of tournament food, all before rushing off to play on teams of their own. At the player level, pick-up players were commonplace, and were always met with an all-familiar welcoming smile, and probably a hug, too. This allowed first-timers like myself to let go of the trepidation that can come with meeting teammates the Saturday of a tournament. There is no expectation of skill here, just an expectation of a deep desire to make lasting memories, and hopefully a few lasting friendships along with them.
Over the years, Wildwood has continually grown at what seems to be an exponential rate. Similarly, the amount of charity Wildwood provides with its annual tournament has continued to expand. And I’m not just talking about the “many thousands of dollars,” as Owner Len Dagit phrased it, Wildwood has earned and presented to everything from high school development around the east coast, to the Wounded Warrior program. Wildwood also provides an opportunity to give back to itself, by constantly growing the ultimate community that provides for it. The message I’m attempting to get across here can maybe be better explained from this little tidbit. This year, at Wildwood XXI, there was a team in 2/2 Beer from Phoenixville, PA. Not much of a story there. Until you learn that Phoenixville, PA has never seen or known ultimate in their community. This year, for the first time, a random group of college-aged individuals caught wind of the infamous beach bash and put a team together solely for the purpose of checking out what this game known as ultimate was all about. It only took until after the first game on Saturday before this random collection of athletes had decided that ultimate was their new sport of choice, and that they would be starting ultimate in their hometown community because it was just too much fun not to. Just your extremely typical heartwarming and inspirational story coming out of Wildwood, because inspiration is the whole goal of the tournament. Come to Wildwood, and leave with a (often renewed) sense of inspiration and love for ultimate.
For teams that had already discovered why the ultimate community was truly awesome, Wildwood provided a new way to settle their competitive nature via Wildwood’s sponsor product, Spikeball. Ever growing in popularity around the U.S. as well as on the Wildwood beach, Spikeball was quite literally everywhere at Wildwood 2013. A group of younger ultimate lads discovered the game for the first time over the Wildwood weekend, and while passing by, kindly asked if I would like to play with them (what’s up, fellas). The beauty of W2BU shined through two-fold! Not many athletic groups would invite random passers by to join in a game they just recently learned to play, in fear of being judged by the invitee. Thank you, Wildwood, and thank you, Spikeball for continuing to grow this wonderful community that is ultimate.
During the 3/1 Open final, something amazing happened. Yes, both games of the best-of-three series came down to double game point which is exciting in itself, but it was a small gesture off the field that really put a perfect bow on the weekend. Hennessy at Halftime had already taken the first game 7-6 and seemed to have the momentum in the second game, gaining a 6-2 lead over Interrobang!?. This didn’t last, however, as Hennessy squandered four straight points to bring the score to 6-6, double game point. Before the final pull, a player from Hennessy, still spitting out sand from his athletic layout score a few points earlier, walked over to tournament heads Mike Adlis and Len Dagit as well as MLU President Jeff Snader, who were watching the final from the sideline. Calmly the Hennessy player presented his hand to shake to the Wildwood big-wigs, and simply said, “No matter what happens on this point, thank you guys, for everything.”
And that’s it, right there. The reason why everyone loves Wildwood. It’s the camaraderie, the appreciation that, although you are one of literally thousands, everyone right here, right now, is in it together, no matter what the competition level. Something that seems to be waning at many other ultimate competitions around the nation. It’s the reason W2BU continues to garner respect and participation year after year, the reason why Major League Ultimate decided to partner with the tournament, and the reason why each and every player will come back home this week ranting and raving about their time on the beach (and at the Bolero, as well, I imagine). At the end of the day, we are all one community, and the more we give to and include that community, the more the sport of ultimate gets out of it in return. This is what makes Wildwood the biggest and best beach tournament in the world.