‘Gnarly Nines’ Ultimate Frisbee tournament, Jeju, South Korea
April sees the arrival of the fourth International ‘Gnarly Nines’ Ultimate Frisbee tournament on Jeju, taking place at the Gangchanghak Athletic Stadium in Seogwipo. Jeju Life talks to Craig Kulyk from the Korea Ultimate Players Association and gets his take on the forthcoming event, including the spirit of ultimate, the best grass fields in Asia and what the tournament hopes to achieve.
“From my understanding, ‘Gnarly Nines’ is actually a common term used in Frisbee when you only have nine on a team,” he says. “About three or four months before we were sitting around a bunch of us, [thinking about] how we could make the tournament unique and attract players to come to Jeju… attract competitive players and attract players from countries that are far away… nine players and twenty two teams, allows the tournament to be more competitive on all levels.”
“For example a team that wants to come, have fun and party… can play against teams that are similar to their level. Teams that are middle of the road and teams that are really competitive can play against each other too.”
This year there are even players attending from Idaho in the US. “The format has definitely allowed for a deeper pool of teams and a much more international, broader tournament,” Kulyk notes.
Seeding is based on previous tournament performance in Asian ultimate – on how teams have done in Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong. “We want them to be fair because you don’t want to play a game where you get blown out. It’s not good for the team that’s winning… it’s not a challenge… and it’s not for the team that’s losing because it lowers the spirit.”
And spirit is something that is central to the game of Ultimate Frisbee, “Ultimate in general is more about spirit, than anything else,” Kulyk says. “[and] healthy competition… there are no referees, unlike any other competitive sport.”
According to Kulyk, it is the field that is one of the factors that keeps bringing the tournament and players back to Jeju. “[It is] pristine,” he says. “In Korea, especially in Seoul… grass is something we don’t see very much. To go to Jeju and see this lush green grass […] is a big treat for us.”
Then there’s the location too: “if you look on one side [the] land drops off. You have the ocean. And then on the other side you have Korea’s tallest mountain, Mount Halla. [The] panoramic view when you’re at the stadium is… really impressive. Something that sticks in your mind.”
Local involvement has brought many positive benefits. For example, the Jeju government provides sponsorship for players which has helped students and people from other countries to attend who (I think) wouldn’t necessarily be able to otherwise.
Last year the tournament also ran a Frisbee clinic with the Jeju Association for the Blind, which was “really amazing,” says Kulyk. “Considering these people were visually impaired. They were able to able to use their other senses to accurately throw the disc about ten metres through a ring.”
Looking to build on the successes of last year, Kulyk hopes that the tournament will help the sport of ultimate continue to grow in Korea.
This year’s tournament will be held on April 26th and 27th. If you’re interested in finding out more about the tournament then visit: http://www.koreaultimate.net/jeju/index.htm. Or playing Ultimate Frisbee on Jeju http://jejulife.net/frisbee/. The Jeju community is currently forming teams for the tournament and it’s still not too late to join.