Delighted to be chatting with Patrick van der Valk, heavily involved with BULA since 2000, and a real driving force and inspiration in the growth of Beach Ultimate worldwide. I spent a few days with him and family, at the Bar Do Pexie, on an Irish Arts council grant studying the Lisboa mosaic pavements and playing ultimate!
BULA it’s come a long way since those early days, you must be really pleased with what’s happened?
I am really pleased with how the sport of beach ultimate has developed. I think there is a great community where people have a passion for the sport, and are lots of places to play. Beach ultimate stands for healthy competition, both physically as well as mentally. Players are exhausted after playing their best but then have a drink with the opponent irrespective of the final results. People practice hard but in the end it is still a (top) amateur sport. I think BULA has helped shape this but it is the contribution of many individuals that grew the sport.
Taking the big view, what are you most happy about?
That I still have my sanity 🙂 But seriously, I think the fact that we’ve had a role in growing the sport in traditionally non-ultimate countries is what I’m most happy about. It is still the merit of the locals that set things up but I believe that BULA’s influence has helped them.
Our attitude has always been to “teach people how to fish”. That is why a part of our new website is dedicated to the leaders. Actually, the new website (www.beachultimate.org) is something I am really pleased with. I feel it represents the community, and caters to their needs.
Anything you would have done differently?
That is hard to say. Everything we did took a cue from what was happening in the community while at the same time we nudged the community in a certain direction. There were never times we had to make a real black-and-white decision. As such I find it hard to go back and think, oh I should’ve done that.
Absolutely! The community really came together again and the players are ready to give it their all. One thing I am really looking forward to is the live coverage of the event. At the European championships in 2013 we already had a fairly good system set up. We have learned from it. Justin Palmer, Beach Ultimate lover and WCBU webmaster, created some Olympics-worthy scoring modules. He integrated it with content that will be generated by the score keepers on the beach as well as professional content creators such as Get Horizontal, Ultiphotos, Skyd magazine, and possibly Dubai Sports TV. Player/fan generated content will also be incorporated. It is all based on using the right hashtags in picture, tweets and videos and will all be ready by March 8 at: http://live.wcbu2015.org.
It’s fantastic to have teams coming from non traditional countries, Kenya, India, and all the rest! Well done, any thoughts on how to have more like this?
Beach ultimate is especially good for nontraditional ultimate countries. First of all a team does not need to be that large. Countries can register with 9 players or more. That lowers the barriers to entry and helps a lot with costs. For many new countries it is hard for players to have money to travel abroad.
The other advantage of beach is that it is usually freely available for people to play/practice on. Grass in many countries is either expensive, or not much available unless you call hardened soil with the occasional piece of grass to be a grass field 🙂
Other goals for 2015 and beyond?
After the World Championships are over we are going to focus on a BULA Circle program where we aim to teach people how to further develop the sport in their beach town/city or even country (http://beachultimate.org/bula-circle/). We will also further develop BULA Beach Fitness to improve the level of play for the players in coastal towns/cities.
Then we want to focus on the next World Championships. Those will take place in 2017 as we are changing the cadence to better align with other WFDF events. In 2019 there will be another European championships, in 2021 the World Championships again.
WCBU takes place in March due to Dubai summer heat. Is it hard to find the right balance in terms of when to schedule it in the year?
We deliberately selected March to hold the world championships in Dubai to have the best chance of warm but not too hot weather. The start date (March 8) was actually selected because it is the international women’s day and allowed us to showcase the opening game to be in the women’s division.
In general selecting a date for championship is not easy. The summer months are usually very full with lots of (Beach) ultimate events. Personally I think June is usually a good time to host beach ultimate championships, but that of course also depends on the location.
BULA / beach / WFDF grass, is this 2 different sports? Currently performances in one affect rankings in the other sport, should there be a separation or is it all just ultimate?
Actually, since 2010 beach ultimate has been recognized by the WFDF as a separate sport from grass/field ultimate. Of course there is still a large overlap between the two sports and beach ultimate profits from all the development work that is going into promoting grass ultimate.
However, in the long run, I can see beach ultimate develop more in countries where there is an actual beach culture. I am thinking of the Mediterranean countries, but also places such as India, Philippines, Latin America, or even Africa. I also think that the Beach Ultimate scene will be a bit older. There are not many schools/universities that use a beach to develop sports on, and grass ultimate players end up prolonging their ultimate career playing beach ultimate (like myself)
Predictions for WCBU?
The US is seeded first in each division. I know that the Philippine open team will come out strong to try to take the gold medal and in the mixed division there could be an upset from possibly Sweden or Canada. But if I were a betting man, the US is still favorite. It is hard to compete with a country where there is so a large choice of players.
What would you like to add? / I should have asked you?
Ask if I am playing in Dubai 🙂 And yes I am. The Portuguese team that I used to play with finally has enough stronger men that they do not need a 51-year-old in their team, so now I’m playing for Currier island Grandmasters 🙂 I still play Beach Ultimate at least once a week. It keeps me young 🙂