By Travis Myburgh
COVID has been the worst and my feelings toward the actions taken worldwide are ambivalent. On the one hand, it is a pandemic and it was necessary to implement social distancing in an attempt to reduce the infection rates. On the other hand, the restrictions felt like the “no fun” policy that we used to joke about whenever our head of discipline would make a new rule at school. What hurt even more was the fact that we weren’t allowed to play Ultimate for most of 2020. Ultimate is a mainly outdoors sport that improves cardiovascular fitness, yet we weren’t allowed to play. We had to cancel our Nationals after perhaps the most exciting Regionals tournaments ever. Even after the hard lockdown no organised ultimate was possible and perhaps my favourite tournament in the South African calendar – Swinburne – had to be cancelled as we went into another lockdown at the time when the tournament was set to occur.
In March we were moved back to lockdown level 1. We had started playing pickup again but it wasn’t motivating me like ultimate used to. I was out of shape and becoming a rounder one. However, some proactive players also fed up with the lack of organised ultimate decided to host Swinburne in April and I was jovial – finally we would have our first tournament in over 13 months!
For those who don’t know about the Swinburne tournament, let me tell you some history and why it’s the best tournament ever. Swinburne was organised because it was right in the middle of the trip from Durban to Joburg, on the edge of the Drakensburg. This meant that it took the same amount of time for the Durbanites and Jozi cats to get to. Additionally, there is close to nothing else there and towns like Harrismith and Van Reenen are too far to stay in, meaning that everyone stays at the venue – either in tents or in the chalets. This results in there being a proper vibe at the tournament, which is lacking at other South African tournaments. Everyone socialises on the Friday night, goes to bed and gets up to play on the Saturday morning. Rinse and repeat for Saturday evening and Sunday morning. There is only one field which means that of the four teams, only two play at a time. This allows for pretty great scheduling (except if you were the unfortunate team who had to play at 08h30 on both days) and the other two teams can heckle while they rest. You also play amongst a spectacular backdrop of Swinburne mountain (pictured), which really helps you appreciate the beauty of our country. And last but not least, there are LIONS! Seriously. There is a lion sanctuary on the property and their roars are heard through the night while you contemplate how important fence manufacturers are in society. The lions feature in this brilliant video of the 2017 tournament, filmed and edited by Devin Norman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Np1TQ06SS1g.
The competitiveness of the tournament has also picked up in the last few years. It started as a very social tournament, with beginners outnumbering their experienced counterparts. However, looking at the team lists for this year was quite an intimidating feat. Four evenly-matched yet really high quality teams. My team only won one out of our three games yet I felt we could easily have made the final had a point or two gone our way. And speaking of the final – what a game that was! Ending on universe point with two turnovers in each endzone was just crazy and it epitomised what frisbee is all about really – playing hard on and off the field. Also, playing “social” for the first time in my life was great fun. Being pelted with hucks from Arno in limited light while holding a beer in my hand will never be forgotten (one disc to the head and it might have been).
My feelings toward frisbee are not ambivalent. I love it with my soul and I love the people who love it with me. I have made many friends and many memories playing the sport and am grateful every day that we get to play it.