History of Ultimate

In History & Statistics, History of Sports by WFDF

In 1968 Joel Silver introduced his idea of Ultimate Frisbee to the Columbia High School student council in Maplewood New Jersey, USA. The next year, the first game was played between two groups of students. They used a Wham-O Master disc.

In 1969 a team had been formed at the school and they played in a parking lot. The only lines that existed were the goal lines, usually marked by the telephone poles or piles of the players’ coats.

The first and second set of rules were written in 1970 by Joel Silver, Buzzy Hellring and Jon Hines. On Nov 7th, CHS played the first interscholastic game. They won over Millburn High School by a score of 43 to 10.

The first college ultimate game was played between Rutgers and Princeton on November 6, 1972. Rutgers won the game 29-27. The two universities had played the first intercollegiate football game on the same ground exactly 103 years earlier. Rutgers also won that game by 2.

The first organised tournament, The National Collegiate Championships, was played on April 25th in 1975. Eight teams took part in a tournament in Yale. Rutgers University won the final against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with 28-24. In 1976 the Yale tournament was expanded and renamed into the National Ultimate Frisbee Championship. Rutgers won again.

Ultimate was also in 1975 introduced into the World Frisbee Championships.

In 1983, the first true World Ultimate Championship was held in Gothenburg, Sweden. Two club teams, representing USA, won open and womens divisions. The European countries were represented by national teams.

In 1989, ultimate was shown as an exhibition sport during the World Games in Karlsruhe, West Germany. That year also saw the first World Club Ultimate Championship, in Cologne, West Germany.

In 2001, ultimate was included as a medal sport in the World Games in Akita, Japan along with disc golf. Six countries were invited ta compete based on their finishes in the WFDF 2000 World Ultimate Champioship in Germany. Canada won the World Games gold medal with an overtime victory over the United States. In 2009 the World Games in Kaohsiung, Chinese Taipei, Ultimate outdrew all other sports with more than 50,000 paid attendance.

Ultimate is now played by an estimated 100,000 players in over 50 countries, with USA Ultimate having over 31,000 members. The 2010 WUCC in Prague, Czech Republic was the largest ultlmate meet to date, with over 2800 players and 136 teams from 36 countries participating.

An Abbreviated History of Ultimate Compiled by Michael E. Iacovella

Ultimate, as with all disc sports, would not exist without the invention of the flying disc, or “Frisbee,” as it is commonly known. The first known contemporary tossing of a “disc” was by Yale University (USA) undergrads in the early 20th century. The Yale campus was in close proximity to Connecticut’s Frisbie Pie Company, whose pies while being a popular treat in themselves were sold in metal tins that would hold flight when thrown over a very short distance. The now-popular pastime of “tossing the disc” remained in obscurity until the invention of a plastic flying disc by Fred Morrison in 1948, which was much more durable and flight-worthy than anything made of wood or metal. This invention led to the first mass-produced disc, called the “Pluto Platter,” made by the Wham-O toy company beginning in 1951. The year 1954 saw the first recorded competition using a flying disc when Dartmouth University (USA) students organized a tournament for the disc sport known as “Guts.” A year after the Frisbie Pie Company’s closing in 1958, Wham-O, based in California, USA, registered the name “Frisbee” as a name for its flying disc products. This trademark was reportedly the result of the predictable nickname that students at Yale and Harvard had given to the new toys.

The invention of Ultimate, also known as “Ultimate Frisbee,” occurred within a year of the first mechanical patent on a flying disc, by Ed Headrick in 1966. Joel Silver and others at Columbia High School (CHS), Maplewood, NJ, USA, introduced their idea of an “ultimate” Frisbee game to the student council in 1967, and the first known game was played in 1968 between the student council and the staff of the school newspaper. The newspaper staff was victorious in a game where the only boundaries were the goal lines and other natural side boundaries (eg., railroad tracks, river, fence). The games continued the following year, with matches being played in the evening under the glow of the mercury-vapor lights in the school’s new parking lot. The first and second edition rules were drawn up by CHS student Buzzy Hellring, and were later refined by Silver and John Hines. The very first interscholastic Ultimate game was played between CHS and Milburn High in 1970; CHS won, 43-10. The first conference of Ultimate teams was created in 1971, which consisted of five New Jersey high schools, including CHS and Milburn. Some ultimate-playing graduates of the league formed teams at their respective colleges and universities. On November 6, 1972, Rutgers University (NJ, USA) defeated Princeton (NJ, USA), 29-27, in the first intercollegiate game. [Note: The game was played exactly 103 years after the first intercollegiate American football game, on the same exact site, which had since been turned into a parking lot. The same team won by the same margin of victory.] Yale hosted the first Ultimate tournament (8 college teams in attendance) in 1975, which was won by Rutgers. That summer, Ultimate was introduced at the Second World Frisbee Championships at the Rose Bowl, aiding in the development of Ultimate on the West Coast of the USA.

Disc sports began to spread to Europe and Asia at about the same time, as is evident by the formation of the Swedish Frisbee Federation (SFF) in 1974, the Japanese Frisbee Disc Association in 1975, and the Australian FDA in 1976. Belgium and Austria each organized FDAs in 1977, with Finland’s FDA and the Danish Frisbee Sport Union to follow in 1978. The Ultimate Players Association (UPA) was formed in 1979; Tom Kennedy was elected the first director. The UPA, the national governing body for the sport of Ultimate in the USA, was the first national, player-run US Ultimate organization. Prior to this juncture, events were sponsored and/or run by the International Frisbee Association (IFA), which was a former promotional arm of the Wham-O toy company. At the first UPA Nationals in 1979, Glassboro State College was victorious over the Santa Barbara Condors, 19-18. The first Ultimate European Championship was in Paris, France, in 1980; Finland, England and Sweden finished one, two, and three, respectively.

The World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF), the international governing body of all disc sports, was founded in 1984, a year after the close of the IFA [Note: at the IFA’s closure, membership was reported to be 100,000 members in 30 countries]. Flying Circus (open), USA, Lady Condors (women), USA, and Sweden (juniors) win the first WFDF-sponsored World Ultimate Championships (for national teams) in Colchester, United Kingdom (1986). The first World Ultimate Club Championships (WUCC) was held in Cologne, Germany, in 1989. Philmore (open, USA) and Lady Condors (women, USA) win their respective divisions. Seven Sages (masters, USA) become the first international club Masters champions at Millfield, UK, in 1995, and Red Fish, Blue Fish is the first Mixed champion at St. Andrews, Scotland, in 1999. Currently, Ultimate is played by an estimated 100,000+ players in over 30 countries. The Ultimate Players Association (USA) reports an overall membership of 13,000+ dues-paying members. Membership in the UPA and other national organizations is growing yearly at a startling rate. Thirty-five years have elapsed since the first disc was tossed for a goal under the mercury-vapor lights of the Columbia High parking lot. As you bask in the warmth of the Hawaiian sun at the largest Ultimate tournament in history, reflect on the growth of a spectacular sport within which the deepest-seeded value is sportsmanship. Concentration on this value has brought – and will bring – our “ultimate sport” before your eyes for

Click here to go to the WFDF rules for ultimate.

Major Ultimate Event Results History (rev. 3/9/10)
WFDF World Ultimate Championships for National Teams (WUC)
Year Host Open Women Junior Open Junior Women Master   Mixed
1983 Gothenburg, Sweden Rude Boys (USA) Melting Pot (USA) Finland        
1984 Luzern, Switzerland Windy City (USA) Finland Sweden        
1986 Colchester, UK Flying Circus (USA) Lady Condors (USA) Sweden        
1988 Leuven, Belgium New Your (USA) Lady Condors (USA) Sweden   Sweden    
1990 Oslo, Norway New York (USA) Lady Condors (USA) Sweden   USA    
1992 Utsunomiya, Japan Sweden Japan Chinese Taipei   USA    
1994 Colchester, UK USA Sweden USA        
1996 Jonkoping, Sweden USA Sweden Sweden   Sweden    
1998 Blaine, MN, USA Canada USA USA   Canada   Canada
2000 Heilbronn, Germany USA Canada Sweden USA USA   USA
2004 Turku, Finland Canada Canada USA Canada USA   USA
2008 Vancouver, Canada Canada USA USA Japan USA   Canada
WFDF World Ultimate Championships for Club Teams (WUCC)
Year Host Site Open Women Masters   Mixed    
1989 Cologne, Germany Philmore (USA) Lady Condors (USA)          
1991 Toronto, Canada New York (USA) Lady Godiva (USA) Seven Sages (USA)        
1993 Madison, USA New York (USA) Maine-iacs (USA) Seven Sages (USA)        
1995 Millfield, UK Double Happiness (USA) Women on the Verge (USA) Seven Sages (USA)        
1997 Vancouver, Canada Sockeye (USA) Women on the Verge (USA) Beyonders (USA)        
1999 St. Andrews, Scotland Death or Glory (USA) Women on the Verge (USA) Cigar (USA)   Red Fish, Blue Fish (USA)    
2002 Honolulu, USA Condors (USA) Riot (USA) Keg Workers (USA)   Donner Party (USA)    
2006 Perth, Australia Buzz Bullets (Japan) MUD (Japan) Vigi (Japan)   Team Fisher Price (Canada)    
2010 Prague, Czech Republic Revolver (USA) Fury (USA) Troubled Past (USA)   Chad Larson Experience (USA)    
WFDF World Junior Ultimate Championships
Year Host Site Boys Girls          
2002 Latvia Canada Canada          
2006 Devens, MA, USA USA USA          
2010 Heilbronn, Germany USA Colombia          

WFDF World Ultimate U23 Championships

Year Host Site Open Women Mixed        
2010 Florence, Italy Canada Australia Great Britain        
World Games Ultimate
Year Host Site Mixed            
2001 Akita, Japan Canada            
2005 Duisburg, Germany USA            
2009 Kaohsiung, Taiwan USA            
European National Ultimate Championships:
Year Host Site Open Women Junior Open Mixed Masters Junior Women U17 Open
1980 Paris, France Finland            
1981 Milano, Italy Sweden            
1982 Obertraun, Austria Sweden Finland Sweden        
1985 Obertraun, Austria Sweden Sweden Austria        
1987 Colone, Germany Sweden Finland Sweden        
1989 Vejle, Denmark Sweden Sweden Sweden        
1991 Colchester, UK Sweden Sweden Sweden        
1993 Arnhem, Holland Sweden Sweden Sweden        
1995 Fontenay-le-Comte, France Sweden Sweden Sweden        
1997 Millfield, UK Finland Finland Sweden        
2003 Fontenay-le-Ccomte, France United Kingdom Finland Sweden United Kingdom United Kingdom    
2007 Southampton, UK Great Britain Finland Germany Great Britain Great Britain Great Britain Finland
European Ultimate Club Championships:
Year Host Site Open Women Juniors Mixed Masters    
1992 Rotenburg, Germany SFMSC (SWE) Redlights (NETH)          
1994 Eching, Germany KFUM ├Ěrebro (SWE) Red Lights (NETH) Amsterdam (NETH)        
2001 Prague, Czech Republic Skogshyddans (SWE) Bliss (UK) Sweden Stenungsunds (SWE)      
2005 Rostock, Germany Clapham (UK) Jinx (GER) ? ? Red Lights (NED)    
US Ultimate Championships:
Year Open
1973 Rutgers University
1974 Rutgers University
1975 Rutgers University
1976 Rutgers University
1977 Santa Barbara Condors
1978 Santa Barbara Condors
Beginning in 1979, the Ultimate Players Association began to sponsor US National Championships.
For complete detail on those results, go to:

UPA Club Championship History

UPA College Championship History

UPA Junior Championship History