History of Freestyle
Plastic flying discs first hit the market in 1948. Prior to that it is known that people played with flying discs of all kinds: pie pans; cake tins; cookie, popcorn, and cherry can lids; cardboard ice cream container lids; and just about any other hand held sized disc shaped item that sailed through the air well enough to have fun with.
No one really knows who that very first person it was to fling a disc-like item, and it is basically impossible to find out. However, the earliest known documented instance of anyone undertaking organized activity with a flying disc was uncovered by Victor Malafronte while doing research for his book “The Complete Book of Frisbee”.
In 1926, In Bladworth, Saskatchewan, Canada, Ronald Gibson and a group of his Bladworth Elementary school chums played a game they called “Tin Lid Golf”. They played the game on a fairly regular basis until they finished high school and went their separate ways. Victor’s book gives accounts of similar instances of early cardboard and metal container lid play in the 1930’s, 40’s and 1950s. What we don’t know is how much of this early pre-plastic disc play included fancy “freestyle” type throwing or catching.
We can suppose that among the people involved in early disc play, there were some creative people who showed off their disc flying prowess by flipping a disc behind the back and/or catching a disc between the legs etc. Most likely this happened now and then, perhaps even before 1926, but there is not a lot of documentation about early disc play; we just don’t know much about what went down prior to 1948.
1948 – 1968; The Early Plastic Era
Even after the first plastic flying discs became available, we don’t really have many documented stories of Frisbee players doing “Freestyle” type of play until about 1968. A notable exception is a quite young Dan Roddick and his father, “Papa” Jack Roddick.
Papa Jack gave 5 year old Danny a Pipco Flyin’ Saucer for Christmas in 1953. That Flyin’ Saucer became part of their regular family fun activities.
Papa Jack and Dan became quite proficient with fancy throws and catches, so much so that at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, they were invited to participate with the Wham-O Frisbee Disc demonstration team.
Then three years later at the New York World’s Fair, Dan and Papa Jack again linked up with the Wham-O Frisbee team, and were actually more advanced with their throwing and catching skills than the demo team itself!
circa 1956 1968-1973; The Formative Years:
The IFA Newsletter made its debut in 1968 and brought together previously isolated and undocumented pockets of disc play.
We started to hear about all sorts of Frisbee activity, including stories about people who can throw a Frisbee in different ways and could make fancy trick catches.
There were stories of the legendary Spyder Wills from Laguna Beach, whose floating throws and fancy catches were unlike what anyone else could do with a Frisbee. The Frisbee community found out about Dan Roddick’s Pennsylvania State Championship events, Wham-O’s national Junior Championships, and about the big IFT in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
The November 1969 “All Comers” meet advertised a “Style throwing and catching” activity area and also a “Free exercise” activity area in addition to the other more traditional Frisbee events like guts, distance, and accuracy. Victor Malafronte and John Weyand of the Berkeley Frisbee group raised Frisbee tossing and catching to a delicate art form of flowing throws and receptions. Their contemporary counterparts on the East Coast in Toronto, Ken Westerfield and Jim Kenner, were doing the same thing with elegant flowing routines of high floating throws terminating in fancy foot and knee traps among a plethora of other trick catches. Vaughn Frick, John Sappington, and Scott Dickson were doing creative trick throws and fancy Frisbee catching on the campus of the University of Michigan during that same period of time.
The IFA Newsletter was instrumental in bringing all three of these groups together in one way or another. It led Victor Malafronte to the 1973 Canadian Open where he met Ken Westerfield and Jim Kenner. In response to meeting Victor, Ken trekked out to the West Coast later that year to meet and play Frisbee with the BFG players. They exchanged volumes of information about Frisbee styles, techniques, and activities. The IFA and its Newsletter helped the UM Guys get in contact with the Humblies Guts team and to get involved with the IFT, where they met even more previously isolated Frisbee players like John Connelly, Alan Blake, and Tom Cleworth of the Highland Avenue Aces guts team.
The exchange of ideas about creative throwing and catching grew geometrically during this 1968-1973 period of time. In 1973, Dan “the Stork” Roddick met Spyder Wills at Laguna Beach for some Frisbee play, and was highly influenced by the graceful and beautiful style that Spyder demonstrated. All this exchange of Frisbee karma helped to influence the nature of Freestyle as it evolved from this point on.
1974; The Origin of Freestyle Competition
Dan Roddick created a big overall event of national scope called the “Octad”. One of the eight events was called “Eastern Trick Catch”, where points were awarded for trick catches.
Ken Westerfield and Jim Kenner included a new event at the third annual Canadian Open Frisbee Championships. The event was called “Freestyle” as promoted on the poster for the tournament, and also called “Free Form” as noted on the trophies that were awarded. This event marked the first ever judged competitive Freestyle competition, August 18th, 1974.
The super Pro had been introduced in test markets, but hadn’t reached the general market yet, so the discs being used were the venerable Wham-O Pro model and the CPI All Star. The winners of the event were Ken Westerfield and Jim Kenner; second place went to Dan Roddick and Bruce Koger; the 3rd place trophy went home with John Connelly and Tom Clewworth.
Then in October of 1974, Dan "Stork" Roddick hosted the first annual Jersey Jam which featured a singles format Freestyle event. The Super Pro Frisbee disc had made its debut and was used by the majority of the competitors. The Stork introduced what he called the "airbrush" to the Frisbee community, and attributes its invention to Kerry Kollmar, who was in the competition also, but ironically did not display an airbrush move during his routine.
Dan was also the first person to use a thimble on his finger during his routine, using it to set the disc up into an airbrushing attitude. Dan got the idea from watching Jose Montalvo’s at the ’74 Canadian open using the “Molina stick” to set up an incoming disc for a behind the back or between the legs catch.
1975; Freestyle Becomes a Sport
The Eastern Trick Catch event of the first Octad in 1974 gave way to a judged singles format at the 1975 Octad. The super Pro became the disc of choice for freestyle competition.
Dan Roddick won, followed in order by Victor Malafronte, Ken Westerfield, Irv Kalb, and Kerry Kollmar. Influenced by the Canadian Open Freestyle for Pairs format, the 1975 AFDO included Freestyle for Pairs as an event in conjunction with its Disc Golf tournament. The event introduced the three category judging system; difficulty, execution, and presentation. Freddie Haft became the first person ever to do a delay in a freestyle competition. Read "The Delay Story" below.
Ken Westerfield introduced the body roll. With their airbrushing co-op moves, Dan Roddick and Irv Kalb won the event; Ken Westerfield and John Kirkland took second; and Doug Corea and Mark Danna got the third place trophy. The 1975 Canadian Open hosted a huge Freestyle for Pairs competition. Dan Roddick and Irv Kalb won that one also. Second place went to John Kirkland and Victor Malafronte. Ken Westerfield and Jim Kenner took third.
The 1975 WFC included two freestyle events, a singles format and a pair’s format. Kerry Kollmar won the singles, and Dan Roddick and Irv Kalb made it a three in a row sweep of all of the 1975 Freestyle for Pairs events to be contested. The 1975 Jersey Jam brought Erwin Velasquez and Krae Van Sickle to the scene for the first time, two of the young and soon-to-be stalwarts of the freestyle movement.
1976; Freestyle Explodes Into Becoming An Integral Component Frisbee Competition.
Dan Roddick in the capacity of his new position as the Sports Promotion director of the Wham-O MFG Company instituted the North American Series, a series of WFC qualifying tournaments held in the biggest Frisbee markets in the USA and Canada.
Each one of these tournaments showcased a freestyle event, effectively introducing the concept of freestyle to many hundreds of new Frisbee players, perhaps even thousands. The new Wham-O World Class “g” series discs started an evolutionary move away from the Super Pro as the standard Freestyle disc.
Controlled tipping became the foundation of most freestyle routines, but at the Ann Arbor Indoor tournament in March of 1976, Richie Smits and his partner, an obscure Ultimate player making his first appearance in a freestyle event, astounded the gathering with their mastery of long controlled delay moves. Richie’s partner, None other than Jens Velasquez, making his Freestyle debut!
Although the use of controlled delay moves didn’t become a staple for other freestylers until the 1977 season, Richie and his regular partner, Joey Hudocklin, displayed a unique brand of delay freestyle that made them contenders throughout the 1976 Freestyle season. They introduced the concept of “slicking” up the disc and the use of fake fingernails to enable more controlled delaying.
The teams of Doug Corea/Dave Marini; and Jens and Erwin Velasquez were the leading pairs for the season. Some of the other freestylers that helped to build the foundation of the sport during this 1976 formative year were Jeff Jorgenson, Tom Kennedy, John Weyand, Victor Malafronte, Tom Shepard, Steve Gottlieb, Johnny Jewell, John Mortimer, Gary Perlberg, Jeff Soto, Tom McRann, Danny McGinnis, Dan Roddick, Irv Kalb, Don Vaughn, Don “Rocket Hoskins, Michael “Muck” Young, John Bird, Cyndi Birch, Michelle Pezzoli, Monika Lou, Bill King, Jim Brown, John Anthony, Tom Wingo, Krae Van Sickle, Mark Dana, Kerry Kollmar, Peter Bloeme, Freddie Haft, John Kirkland, Ken Westerfield, Gail McColl, John Connelly, Tom Clewworth, Bruce Koger, Jose Montalvo, Chou Rottman, Alan Blake, Marie Murphy, John Sappington, Scott Dickson, Vaughn Frick, Jo Cahow, “Igor” Harper, Don Cain, Ronnie Dorn, Jamie Moldt, Bill O’Dell, Tom Monroe, and a few other names that need to be added here to make this list complete. Huge apologies to those we missed!
1977 - 1982; Huge Growth of Freestyle
In 1977, the delay rapidly replaced controlled tipping as the foundation of a freestyle routine. (It was either learn and adopt the delay, or never catch up to Joey and Richie.) The NAS Tournaments expanded and continued to fuel the growth of Freestyle. The WFC Freestyle championship became the de facto world championship of Freestyle; no other competition could match its prestige.
Joey and Richie’s adroit use of the “lid”, as the Wham-O 80 mold 165G disc was affectionately called, began the move that eventually led to the 80 mold becoming the new de facto standard for freestyle. The 80 mold lent itself to longer delay moves due to its larger flight plate and shifted the focus of play away from the direct catch and throw game. Read "The Delay Story" below.
Dave Marini started up the Freestyle Players Association in 1978, and Freestyle became a sport of its own. The sport attracted a new generation of players such as Jeff Felberbaum, John Dwork and Donny Rhodes from New York City, John Jewell, Brian and Matt Roberts from Los Angeles. Also new to the scene was Kevin "Skippy Jammer" Givens who would become highly influential mentoring numerous future champions.
The sport also saw the emergence of the Coloradicals featuring Bill Wright, Doug Brannigan and Rick Castiglia. On the women's side of things, New York's Sue Strait and Jane Engelhart set the standard and were closely rivaled by G Rose and Laura Engel. Seattle's Mary Lowry also began playing around this time and would eventually become one of the most influential women's player of all time. Randy Silvey got his start. Discraft’s introduction of the Sky Styler disc in 1980 presented an option for Freestylers and became extremely popular as a freestyle disc, eventually replacing the 80 mold as the de facto disc of choice. The Sky Styler weighed in at 160 grams, slightly less than the 80 mold. While it had a smaller flight plate and delay surface area, it had a deeper rim which allowed for superior brushing, rolling and wind play. It was also easier to catch than the Wham-O 80 mold.
Tom Schot’s World Disc Games in Santa Cruz got its start during this period and further fueled the growth of
Freestyle.1983-1997; Continued Growth
This was known as the era of mastering play. The veteran players had advanced their play to previously unforeseen levels. New techniques and moves were introduced such as Skids, Connecting the Neurons, Turbo Rolls and Vacations.
Freestyle continued to grow in the United States and Canada. The Virginia States, the US Open Overall, the Seniors Overall, the WFDF World Overall Championships, World Disc and the FPA World Freestyle Championships helped maintain and spur the growth of Freestyle during this period of time. The start of this period was also known for the many great teams that were competing at a high level in the sport. The Coloradicals were in full bloom, Bud Light featuring Joey Hudoklin, Chipper "Bro" Bell and Crazy John Brooks were rivaled by Team Sideout featuring Skippy Jammer, Larry Imperiale, John Jewell and a young player would become key for the future growth of the sport and its expansion to Europe, Tommy "Lightning" Leitner.
Other great teams were the Bayou Blasters with Jim Schmall-Benson, Deaton Mitchell and Daryll Allen as well as Art of Disc with Rick Castiglia, Dave Schiller and Joel Rogers. Dave Schiller's original partner Bob Coleman would introduce a series of one hand turnovers called "Connecting the Neurons" in the early 1980's.
Schiller would eventually become one of the greatest jammers of all time as his career progressed. The women's scene was blossoming with top players Carolyn Yabe and Stacey Anderson dominating play. Other great players of the era were Kate Dow, Connie Bond, Margaret Curtis, Mary Jorgenson-Lowry, Gina Sample and Mandy Carreiro.
The US Open replaced the Rose Bowl World Championship as the premier event for Freestyle and Overall play. That event ran from 1982-1990. The WFDF Overall became a high profile event with those events running in 1987 (Fort Collins, CO), 1988 (San Francisco, CA), 1989 (Essex, ENG), 1991 (Santa Cruz, CA), 1993 (San Diego, CA), 1997 (Helsinki, FIN). The Paganello Freestyle event fueled an interest, growth and development of Freestyle in the European community.
1998-Current; The Euro Wave
In 1997, a beach Ultimate event in Italy added Freestyle to the event drawing players from the USA as well as from throughout Europe.
The Americans in attendance at the 1998 Paganello event were Larry Imperiale, Paul Kenney, Rodney Sanchez, Alan Caplain and Bethany Porter-Sanchez. The veteran Europeans were Thomas Finborud, Sune Wentzel, Clay Collera and Reto Zimmerman. From that point forward, freestyle would be profoundly changed.
The numerous young Europeans attending the event were now 'turned-on' to the exciting sport of Freestyle. In 2000 Tom Leitner attended his first Paganello tournament. By 2002 he had moved to Rome, Italy and taken on the role of mentor to the 100's of new freestylers from virtually every country in Europe.
Freestyle interest in the US was waning with only a handful of new players emerging from what was once a hotbed of activity. Even with this low level of growth in the USA, a crop of new players emerged just as talented as their compatriot predecessors. Those new players were Arthur Coddington, Dave Lewis, Paul Kenny and Matt and Jake Gauthier.
In 2002, Nike launched a large European based promotional campaign that featured Freestyle Disc as a central component. This assisted in gaining new players from throughout Europe. The new players merged with the remaining European Freestylers eclipsing the number of players in the USA. The old guard of Euro Jammers featured the aforementioned Clay Collera, Sune Wentzel and Reto Zimmerman along with Joakim Arvskar. The new crop of Euro Jammers featured Fabio Sanna, Claudio Cigna, Matteo Gaddoni as well as a new wave of great Women's players such as Sylvia Caruso, Judith Haas, Eleonora Imazio and Bianca Strunz.
The Hosting of the FPA World Freestyle Championships in Europe sparked a rapid growth and development of Freestyle worldwide. 2003 was an important year for Freestyle; it became a worldwide culture and a model for all disc sports to emulate. Freestyle continues worldwide growth and development as a sport. It may even be headed for Olympic competition in the future.
Freestyle Support Stories
The Tipping Story
Prior to the beginning of the IFA Newsletter in 1968, very little information about the nature of disc play was available to anyone. There is next to nothing about tipping documented before 1968, but no doubt that there was some people doing some tipping somewhere.
After all, an integral component of the Guts game was tipping and bobbling in an attempt to catch the disc before it hit the ground.
After 1968, outside of the guts game, we hear about people tipping, smacking, or slapping the disc up in some manner before making a catch or trick catch. Alan Blake of the Chicago area Highland Avenue Aces guts team is often mentioned as the earliest of the guys at the IFT to do multiple tips; two, maybe three before sealing the disc.
Scott Dickson said that he, Vaughn Frick, and John Sappington were doing some of that kind of tipping as part of their Frisbee play in the early seventies at the University of Michigan; maybe in response to seeing Alan Blake at the IFT, or maybe just as part of their creative way of playing with a Frisbee. But nowhere in the period from 1968 to August of 1974 was there any evidence and documentation of the multiple controlled tipping as displayed by Irv Kalb and Tom Cleworth in the very first freestyle for pairs event at the 1974 Canadian open.
And certainly not the way it has been used in Freestyle competition since then. In 1974, some of the very top leaders in Frisbee gathered at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, for at the first Octad. Berkeley Frisbee Group guys Victor Malafronte and Roger Barrett were in attendance and so were John Kirkland and Dave Johnson from the Boston area. Doug Corea and Jim Palmeri were there from Rochester NY, and of course Gary Seubert, Dan "Stork" Roddick and Bob “Flash” Kingsley, the originators and promoters of the Octad, were there.
Another notable Frisbee name in attendance was JC Cohn, a Cornell Ultimate star from nearby Maplewood NJ, the birthplace of Ultimate.
Rounding out the field was a guy from Philadelphia, a guy from North Carolina, and a whole slew of Frisbee players from the Rutgers Ultimate team, most notably, Irv Kalb.
Basically, the forefront of Frisbee play from the full range of the country was there, and their styles of play accurately represented a good cross section of the state of the art of Frisbee at that point in time.
The jamming that these guys were doing in-between the events indicated clearly just what was going down in the various regions of the country. Notably absent from the play was fancy controlled tipping.
Despite the fact that the Eastern Trick Catch event to be contested awarded a bonus point for each tip a person completed before doing a trick catch, no one was doing any multiple tipping at all. Occasionally you one, maybe two tips at most when the guys were warming up for their Eastern Trick Catch match, but not often even then. Because of the strong guts like throws being used as a strategy in the Eastern Trick Catch event, it wasn’t conducive to try for tipping bonus points.
Eastern Trick Catch event had been conceived by Dan Roddick as a way to showcase fancy trick catching skills along with accurate throwing skills. It was the primordial ancestor of the competitive freestyle that subsequently came onto the Frisbee scene.
The ETC format consisted of two players standing in twelve foot diameter circles set 30 yards from each other. Each player in turn would throw the Frisbee to their opponent, such that it would pass through the circle. If the throw was short or outside the 12 foot diameter marking, the thrower would lose a point. If the throw successfully passed through the circle, the receiver would score one point for a trick catch, and get a bonus point for each time the disc was tipped before making the trick catch. Well, it didn’t take long for the strong accurate throwers like Victor Malafronte, Dave Johnson and John Kirkland to figure out that a blazing hard throw would be difficult to catch, and even more difficult to tip for the bonus points.
This strategy went completely against the concept of what Dan Roddick intended for the event, which he duly noticed before that inaugural ETC competition commenced. Guts already existed, and Dan was looking for a kinder-gentler type of game to showcase fancy catching skills, sort of a counterpoint to the guts game.
The attempted solution was to lengthen the distance between the circles to 40 feet, figuring that would take the steam of the fast throws and allow the fancy stuff to commence. It helped somewhat, but it didn’t deter the strategy of throwing hard and fast. The bottom line was that the tipping part of the game was almost nonexistent, and the game failed to be an incentive to learn multiple tipping type moves. So the fact of the matter was that as of the first weekend of May 1974, controlled consecutive tipping was definitively not part of overall Frisbee play in general. Apparently no one had seen it being done, and no one was trying to do it. Everyone who knows Victor Malafronte and John Kirkland know that if these two guys had ever seen anything like controlled multiple tipping; they would have immediately sucked it up into their repertoire of Frisbee moves faster than a dry sponge could suck up warm water.
If John and Victor weren’t doing a particular Frisbee move, there was a good chance that no one else was doing it either. At the first American Flying Disc Open event three months later, August, 1974, the same general group of players from the Octad gathered to try to win the brand new car that was being offered as first prize. Other Frisbee notables that hadn’t attended the Octad also showed up. There was a contingent from NYC that included Kerry Kolmar and Mark Dana. From the Chicago area were John Connelly, Tom Cleworth, and Bruce Koger. The University of Michigan guys, Scott Dickson and John Sappington showed up along with some of their Humbly Magnificent Champions of the Universe guts team members, including John and Jo Cahow.
There were also many new faces to the Frisbee scene; it was Dave Marini’s and Doug Corea’s first Frisbee competition. Kerry Kolmar, and Mark Dana sort of set the scene for the incessant jamming that took place all weekend. They induced many of the other players to partake in such jamming. It was a cool scene that included attempts at multiple tipping as a matter of course throughout the play, quite unlike the dearth of tipping at the Octad three months earlier.
By the end of the Saturday of that weekend, some of the guys were smitten with trying to outdo each other in seeing how many times they could tip the disc before catching it. Some of the guys were even doing 4 and 5 tips before attempting to catch the disc. The start of the final round the next day got postponed by a heavy rain storm.
Everyone crowded into the St. John Fisher College gymnasium to wait out the rain, and of course jammed to their hearts content. You could barely find a spot in the small gym to throw. John Kirkland introduced an amazing air-bounce throw, which when done well would set the disc to hovering slowly right above the recipient, just begging to be tipped. Virtually everyone was trying their hand at this newfangled throw, and virtually every time one a person received an air-bounce throw, the recipient took advantage of it and tried for a record number of multiple tips. Each new record lasted only minutes as the total number of tips climbed from 5 to 6; then 7, 8, 9 and 10 in short order. The only thing that kept the record from going over ten consecutive tips in a row was that the rain stopped and the disc golfing and DDC commenced.
With golf and DDC occupying the players for the rest of the day, no time was left for jamming, and that was the end of the informal tipping contests. Then two weeks later, at Jim Kenner’s and Ken Westerfield’ s Canadian Open Freestyle for Pairs event in Toronto, it became crystal clear that some of the guys had taken multiple tipping to the next level. In their respective routines, Irv Kalb and Tom Clewworth both showed absolute mastery and control over multiple tipping. They both went from struggling two weeks earlier to get 9 or 10 consecutive tips at the AFDO, to having the number of tips not even being a factor.
They could tip the disc until the spin ran out if they wanted to. They limited themselves to maybe 20 or so tips per reception, opting for form and control over raw quantity. They both demonstrated that they could pop in an elbow tip or two in the middle of a consecutive string of finger tips.
They used their total control to set the disc just in the right position to seal the sequence with a flowing trick catch. It was mind blowing at the time, and a foreshadowing of things to come. Significant to note, that at this time John Kirkland had still not developed this kind of control in his tipping. But that condition was soon to be rectified. John never settled for second fiddle to anyone for long. Based on these observations, it seems clear that unlike most facets of disc play, which were often created and developed by two or more people independently of one another and slowly evolved into moves we know of today, the art of multiple controlled tipping had a finite seed of beginning, which can be historically pinpointed in history. Then with the catalyst of Cleworth and Kalb demonstrating the worth of multiple tipping in a freestyle routine, tipping burst onto the scene in one fell swoop of a revolution, needing no evolutionary process or development for it to catch on.
Virtually overnight every Frisbee player who played on a regularly basis incorporated tipping into their mode of play. Contrast that with DDC. It started in 1970, and did not get adopted into regular play until 1978. Or disc golf, the first historically known record of the game shows it being played in 1926, but it was not adopted into regular play by the whole Frisbee community until 1974, some 48 years later!
Even tipping’s closest counterpart, the delay, did not catch on immediately. The delay was first publicly demonstrated in August of 1975, (St. John Fisher College again), but did not become widely used until the 1977 competitive Freestyle season. Case in point, neither of the number one and two place finishing teams in the 1976 WFC freestyle finals used the delay as part of their routines, they both still used controlled multiple tipping as the connector between moves, a full year after Freddie Haft first displayed the delay move in competition.
The Delay Story
Until controlled multiple tipping and the delay were introduced to Frisbee players, hot dogging and jamming with a Frisbee consisted mainly of fancy trick catches and creative throwing. Tipping the disc got started early in the history of Frisbee play and got incorporated into the play of the hot doggers, and preceded the origin of freestyle competition.
The delay, however, came into being only after Freestyle competition was born and on its way to becoming a sport. There is no known historical information on anyone doing the delay move before 1975.
It was invented specifically by a creative person trying to enhance his freestyle repartee. But it is very controversial as to which of two people first invented the delay move. Freddie Haft and Kerry Kollmar were among the early freestylers that came out of NYC in the mid 70’s, and they jammed together along with Peter Bloeme, Mark Danna, and several others of that era.
Neither Kerry nor Freddie were at the very first competitive judged Freestyle event at the1974 Canadian open. Kerry did attend the 1974 American Flying Disc Open event as per the tipping story, and also competed in the 1974 Jersey Jam freestyle event. No one, including Kerry, did a delay move at any of those three above mentioned events. But Jose Montalvo’s use of his Molina Stick to set up an incoming throw for a trick catch while jamming at the 1974 Canadian Open freestyle event was a foreshadowing of things to come, and gave rise to Dan Roddick’s use of a thimble at the Jersey Jam to set up an air brush move.
The Molina Stick and thimble usage were the early precursors to the delay move, which was first displayed in competition by Freddie Haft at the 1975 American Flying Disc Open Freestyle event.
It is interesting to note, that amidst the constant jamming during the whole weekend of that 1975 AFDO event, no one was observed doing or attempting a delay move, even from Freddie Haft or Kerry Kollmar. This includes Kerry Kollmar’s actual routine in the Freestyle event. However, Freddie Haft did attempt to hold a delay a few times during his routine, and succeeding to hold one for slightly over 3 seconds on several of the attempts. Since a delay type move had never been seen before, the response from the spectators was enormous. We all were aware that something new was being displayed for the first time, and were all anxious to get out there and try this new thing.
The huge controversy surrounding the delay was that both Kerry Kollmar and Freddie Haft claim that they invented the move. They each adamantly claim that they were the one who showed the other one the new move. So nobody knows for sure who really came up with it first, but we do know for sure that is was Freddie Haft who first displayed the delay in a competitively judged freestyle event. On that particular day, Sunday, August 3rd, 1975, Freddie did do a delay during his routine. No one seems to remember either Freddie or Kerry attempting a delay move during the warm-up period for that 1975 freestyled event in Rochester.
Perhaps Freddie was purposely trying to keep it a secret to be unveiled only during his routine. If that was the case, he succeeded in surprising the spectators that day.
Although the delay move sparked great interest in the other players, it didn’t come into wide spread use until near the latter part of 1976. In the beginning, it appeared that holding delay over 3 to four seconds in duration was nearly impossible, and perhaps this discouraged the veteran freestylers and newcomers alike from spending too much time on trying to developing the move. Most everyone except for Richie Smits however.
Richie was determined to master the delay, and master it he did. Richie wasn’t at the 1975 Jersey Jam Freestyle event, and nobody else there did any delay stuff. Everyone was working hard on multiple tipping, and everyone was in awe of a new young kid named Erwin Velasquez who had total and complete control of multiple tipping, not only from the usual over the head position, but he was doing something new that we had not seen, multiple underhand tips below the waist line, all with complete control.
That appeared to be the direction Freestyle was headed at that time. The Freddie haft delay move seemed almost forgotten. But Richie did attend the 1976 Ann Arbor indoor NAS event, and he brought along with him two new wrinkles, a container of Armor All, with which he coated the underside of his disc, and a thimble on his finger.
Between the friction reducing slick on the disc and the further friction reducing thimble, everyone got a renewed look at the delay, which Richie, and Richie alone, was able to do with complete control.
He seemed able to delay the disc for as long as it had spin. His move was to receive a high spin throw and let it set down on his finger and delay it for 10 to 15 seconds. Everyone was amazed at this new development in freestyle, and ogled Richie’s display. In retrospective irony, an obscure ultimate player showed up at the 1976 Ann Arbor tournament. Being somewhat of a newcomer to the Frisbee scene and not knowing too many players, he needed to find a freestyle partner, and hooked up with Richie Smits. This newcomer turned out to have considerable Frisbee skills.
With some of Richie’s Armor All and a little coaching, he soon got the hang of the delay as well. But it was his superb throwing, catching and multiple tipping skills that caught the eyes of the crowd, many of who were exclaiming “Who is this guy”.
Little did we know of what was going to be coming from this new guy, competing in his first ever freestyle event. The new guy? None other than Jens Velasquez!
Throughout the 1976 season, the delay became more and more used during freestyle routines, with Richie and his regular partner Joey Hudoklin leading the way. Despite this growth of the delay move, it was not universally used by freestylers, and the top two teams of the 1976 WFC Freestyle event were evidence of this; Jen’s and Erwin took first, nosing out Doug Corea and Dave Marini for the title, and neither of those top two finishers used the delay move as part of their freestyle routines.
But by 1977 the delay became an integral part of virtually everyone’s freestyle activity. I doubt that you could watch a freestyle routine at any event and not see delaying for at least part of the play. After Freddie Haft displayed the delay for the first time, it was inevitable that it would eventually become part of freestyle, but it was Richie Smits who sparked its development and really
1974 Canadian Open Freestyle Event
There is absolutely no question that the freestyle for pair’s event at the 1974 Canadian Open represents the origin of freestyle competition as we know it today. It had it all; the current state of the art players in the game; pairs playing to music for a timed routine; and controversy over the best way to judge. But there was no real doubt after the fact about who won the competition that day.
There were only eight teams in the event. We can’t remember all of them, but here are the top six teams as they finished in the competition. Sixth place went to Irv Kalb and the late Dave “Buddha” Meyers. Irv put on an awesome display of multiple tipping disc control coupled with the smoothest flowing trick throws the planet had yet seen. Buddha introduced the infamous under-the-shirt catch that was destined to become a trademark for the future Dave Johnson-Chuck Schultz type of the “we’re going to have fun even though we can’t freestyle” routines that were an integral part of the early freestyle scene.
Fifth place went to Doug Corea and Jim Palmeri, (Dave Marini hadn’t learned anything fancy yet). Because Jim could manage a catch or two behind the back or between the legs, Doug settled for him as his partner. They placed fifth on the strength of Doug’s huge leaping catches and smooth flowing re-throws. John Kirkland teamed up with Jose Montalvo to bring home 4th place. John’s dynamic style of play and Jose’s use of a device called the “Moilna Stick” foreshadowed things to come in freestyle. Third place went to Tom Cleworth and John Connelly of the guts powerhouse Highland Avenue Aces. They showed the disc world that guts was not their only disc talent. Tom and John displayed mastery of multiple tipping and trick throwing that was indeed Irv Kalbian in nature. (Read The Tipping Story).
Dan the Stork Roddick teamed up with Chicagoan Bruce Koger. Their routine introduced and set the stage for co-op moves. They did a fabulous job of working together, and settled for second only because the pair ahead of them also did an incredible job. Somebody had to be second. Jim Kenner and Ken Westerfield were absolutely awesome.
They set the early standard for flow, presentation, continuity, and execution with a series of long, high curving flights terminating with foot traps, knee traps and other trick catches. Their transitions from catch to flowing re-throw were as silky smooth as any of the modern day flow artists.
As good as the second and third place routines turned out, Kenner and Westerfield left no doubt as to who had the overall winning routine. The primordial first ever judging system wasn’t overly stressed because the good, better and best of the top three routines were obvious enough for the simple ranking system that was used that day. Westerfield and Kenner were sandbaggers though. They were no neophytes that had gotten their taste of freestyle moves just two weeks earlier like most of other players in this event. They had been doing shows and freestyle type demos for several years together, and they clearly demonstrated their experience and expertise.
The Competitive freestyle art form, which began its gestation at Berkeley, Michigan, and in Toronto, was born at the Canadian Open on Sunday, August 18, 1974 at approximately 3:00 PM Eastern Daylight Savings Time. Ken Westerfield and Jim Kenner