You might've seen it pop up on your WeChat moments. Heck, you may have even played a few games back in the day. Whatever the case, ultimate frisbee is seeing a resurgence in China as of late.
This high-cardio that takes elements from Rugby and American football and throws a frisbee in the mix has a history dating back to American universities in the 1960s, so why is it suddenly having its moment here? We spoke with three members from F1 Frisbee Club to learn more.
Hillary Wang, the club's current events organizer, recalled that it was about ten years ago when she first laid fingers on a frisbee after a group of Americans attending a summer camp at her university introduced the sport to her. Since then, Wang never actually played Ultimate much as the sport remained highly niche in China until about last year, when she noticed that there was a sudden explosion of interest.
“When F1 Frisbee Club was first founded in 2021, there were only four or five members who would play regularly, and most were boys, but it didn't take too long for the club to attract more than 300 people. With about 30 active members today, and there are even a few more women than men who play today,” Wang told us.
Lyndon Cura, a veteran Ultimate player hailing from New Zealand who also helps with the training of the F1 Frisbee Club, attributes the soaring interest in the sport to two things.
“The pandemic has definitely led to an uptick in the sport's popularity,” he said. “During March or April, there were restrictions on indoor stadiums or football stadiums, which drove more people to buy a frisbee and to play with their friends.”
Another thing Lyndon pointed out is that many influencers actually find ultimate frisbee to be a fashion sport. “A lot of girls participate in the sport because they think it's trendy and their social media accounts will get more likes or views if they post frisbee-related content.”
Hopping on to Xiaohongshu, China's answer to Instagram, it's not hard to find pages flooded with influencers in trendy clothes posting pictures of themselves chasing each other and throwing colorful frisbees across bright green fields. Data shows searches related to frisbee on Xiaohongshu increased about 44 times in the first half of 2022 compared to the same period last year. Chinese social media platforms like Weibo and Xiaohongshu have capitalized on the popularity of ultimate frisbee and have been actively promoting frisbee-related content.
According to Disc Circle, a frisbee-centric platform, as of May 2022, there are about 206 Frisbee clubs in China. Among them, Beijing is one of the top three cities with the most clubs, boasting roughly 150 clubs as of 2022.
Unlike other trendy outdoor sports, ultimate frisbee has a lower barrier to entry and is more beginner friendly.
Jessica J, a new member to F1, shared with us about why she was drawn to ultimate frisbee after playing it once. “I also play ping pong and do regular gym workouts, but for me, frisbee is not a sport that is as physically demanding as the other sports, and it doesn't require you to have a high level of performance skills to be able to catch up with your teammates. Because of the low threshold of the sport, playing Frisbee also gives me the chance to socialize and make friends from all over the world.”
When F1 was first founded, the goal was quite simple: to create a club where people could build friendships and have fun. However, as time went on and more people joined later, things are getting a little bit more serious now. The club even recently bought uniforms and jerseys.
“I actually never learned to play Ultimate Frisbee professionally before. However, in this club, there are people from other countries who started playing frisbee from a very young age and they taught me a lot of techniques I've never learned before.” Wang said.
“We even have professional coaches who will instruct us on tips to play frisbee better,” Jessica said.
One big question remains: Will the ultimate frisbee craze, like any other fashion fad, slowly fade away? Or will the sport continue to gain more popularity and become more competitive in China over time?
“I can still see frisbee, in the next year or two, still being popular in China. But in terms of it being trendy, I think that will eventually die down a bit. Once the pandemic is over, I think the fashion aspect of the sport will slowly decrease while the competitive aspect will increase. I hope in the future it'll be regarded as an Olympic sport or commonwealth sport" Lyndon says.
In April, the Ministry of Education issued a notice on ultimate frisbee as a new sport, officially including in the curriculum of compulsory education. China even launched its first national frisbee league in August. All that official support and recognition for this niche sport seems to indicate that frisbee will have a bright future in China.
Images courtesy of F1 Frisbee Club