Coordinated by @SimonCocking
Ireland has good links to Barcelona, with a number of Irish players having gone to play Poron and or live in Barca over the past 2 decades, Dominic Smyth, Kevin Timony, Raymond Stephens, and most recently and with an ongoing impact Rory Kavanagh among others. Culturally Spain and Ireland have a lot in common and so it made sense to have a chat with some of their founding fathers about their experiences of growing ultimate in Barcelona.
This article was great fun to write, much like herding cats, but in a good, fun, way. Maybe herding meerkats perhaps? It was a 3 hander, with memory prompting contributions from Kaleen, Rocky Beach (such a great name) and Peter.
Hey Rocky and Peter! Shit, I totally forgot to do this! So, here I have a structure, but I haven’t had a chance to write much. I just started with bullet points and we can figure out how we might want to do this.
Kaleen …do you think we would have started the team if we hadn’t had a crush on each other? I doubt it 🙂
Peter, I would have tried, but I think the crush part definitely added motivation!
Who we are/where we played before
Kaleen played ultimate in the states and moved to Spain in 1994, hoping to find some ultimate to play there as well. Tried via the internet to find some contacts–pretty much failed. One was in Germany and one was in the Canary Islands
Rocky played pick-up in college at UNCW The ultimate team was winning national championships at the time but their spirit and sportsmanship were crap, so I thrived and enjoyed what people called the “hippy” frisbee league. My first “official” team was the Bravas.
Peter, the only one of the founders who is actually from Barcelona went to College in Germany and played for Mir San Mir.
(They were a great team, with those twin brothers who seemed almost telepathic in the throws and catches they pulled off. The Germans called them the warthog brothers, and the English called them the Messerschmitt twins).
Kaleen pretty much resigned herself to not playing ultimate, but kept trying. She went to a hat tournament in Portugal in 1997 and found out that there was a lot of ultimate happening in Europe, just not Spain yet.
How Bravas got started:
Peter moved back to Spain in 1996.
The original player that Kaleen had contacted years before in Germany, Thomas Griesbaum, gave Peter, Kaleen’s email address.
They met, had beer, had a crush on each other, and decided to try to start a team.
The universe conspired to help by sending Rocky Beach, Stratton Murphy, and Pablo Martinez to Barcelona at about the same time. Serendipity caused Rocky to contact Kaleen randomly by email looking for ultimate at the same time she, Peter, and others were about to meet for pick-up in Castelldefels for the first time. Rocky tried to come to the first pick-up game but got off at the wrong stop, walked 30 minutes to the beach, waited for an hour with disc in hand, then returned to BCN…only to make it to the right place the next week after emailing Kaleen again.
One of the backbones of the early Bravas practice was the post-practice beers together. The team drank many “jarras” together, laughed, sang, and became a close set of friends. The team befriended the bar owners at Bar Banosca and the restaurant has been part of the Bravas lore since.
The team name came from the many plates of Patatas Bravas that we ate together after practice.
Peter and Kaleen spearheaded the team attending our first tournament in Munich, Germany for the Octoberfest tournament. We don’t remember much but the photos show that we had a good time.
The challenges of starting a team in Spain
Couldn’t find fields to play on, but quickly came to the conclusion that the beaches of Platja Castelldefels would be perfect.
Tried on a Saturday morning, then realized that nobody was willing to get out of bed before 2 in the afternoon, so that plan had to be revised.
Started gathering everybody they could to play on Sunday evenings,
Also a few people from Kaleen’s work (Hewlett Packard) who had played a little bit and would come out to join.
…..it meant that most people didn’t know how to play. Many, many, many beginners and expats came through the team. This helped build the Bravas family but the core continued to stay similar and strong.
What did you know about Spanish Ultimate before Bravas?
The first known ultimate team in Spain was in Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands. I think it was around 1994 when they went to some European Championship. But the team dissolved shortly after that.
Editors note. At this time we were playing in Madrid, and contacted Las Palmas about going to Europeans as combined Spanish team. They went by themselves. Legend reports they could only throw backhands, and some messed up scoobers. Other teams realized they had no flick, forced them to throw flicks and they got killed…
The role of Don Manuel and Bar Bañosca
The early days of going to Bañosca after practice and having the owners not want to serve us. We kept coming week after week, they were grumpy and wanted to close. After a few weeks, they looked at us and thought, “Wait, here are 14 people that want to eat, drink, and generally spend money.” They started being much nicer to us, and eventually Bañosca felt like our home.
The story about how the team name was made.
First day, after practice, we were at what would be our official bar (Bañosca), thinking about a name for the team. At this moment Don Manuel came with patatas bravas, so we had the name.
Bañosca was kind of our club house since the first days, being Don Manuel (together with Carmen) our president and beer supplier. Today, in the remainings of Bañosca (its not the big restaurant anymore, just a small chinringuito, and it will definitely close at the end of 2015) there are all the trophies and souvenirs that Bravas won in the last 17 years.
The first Porron (and recruiting in various other hat tournaments and Geneva):
First Porron was in 1998, with 120 players. We weren’t even sure if we would fill the tournament, but we did. We went to “Talampaya in Geneva” and passed out little pieces of paper that said, “Come to our tournament. Much to our surprise, 120 players signed up!
The tournament was such a big success that the next year we increased the players up to 160 and had like a 100 player waiting list to get in. We had one of our players work on the website to get automated registration working……within 3 minutes the tournament was filled and people were getting messages telling them they were on the wait list. Kaleen got LOTS of phone calls, and we all thought there was a bug in the software. No bug, our frisbee roots were taking hold.
Traveling to tournaments: Rimini, Worlds and playing in Open division as a mixed team
Our first tournament was the Octoberfest Tournament in Munich, in 1998. We lost all games, had one player in the hospital (drunkenwagen), one huge snorer, and a lot of fun.
Bravas ultimate today
Bravas today has 60 members, 30 of them play actively.
How Ultimate has grown in Spain?
In Spain there are 24 teams subscribed to the Spanish Ultimate Federation.
Did the team succeed because we (expats) remained there for longer ?
The team succeed because of leadership and timing. The right people were there at the right time. We were all in our mid-20s and 30s and ready for a great experience together. We came to practice for the company as much as we came for the ultimate. We were all friends and loved hanging out together. Every post-practice beer session felt like a party. The beaches were also perfect for a weekend afternoon. How can you go wrong with spending time on the beach every afternoon?
Traditionally we didn’t see Spain in the open division often, was that a numbers thing, or a preference for mixed?
We played against Rocky & co in 2000, some fantastic layout bids by rocky, lost by 1 or 2 points. Overall a great game, though our guys dropped a ton of endzone catches, a real kicker.
Early on, the Bravas played in the open division most of the time because we didn’t have enough women to field a co-ed team (plus, the co-ed division was just starting) so the female players played in open with the men players.