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Frisbee Rob’s 2017 Year in Review

It’s hard to believe so much happened this past year so this summary will include my top personal highlights along with some of my most significant moments. Although I had less trips this past year, I went on some big trips! France, Poland, the UK, the Maritimes (twice), Virginia, Minnesota and all over Alberta & Saskatchewan.

On a personal note, I had one of the most incredible and challenging years of my life. On the positive side, I met some incredible people and one in particular stands out. On the flip side, I was attacked online for having a controversial opinion and it led to having a job I loved taken away from me. What followed from that was a few of the darkest weeks of my life since I lost my mom. I struggled hard to dig myself out from that darkness but ultimately, I’m definitely better off for going through that.

Without further delay, here is my 2017 Year in Review:

1. Frisbee on Ice 2017

I previously performed at the Silver Skate Festival in 2013 & 2015 so I was excited to be back for my 3rd time to attempt to break my 3 Guinness World Records for Self Caught Flight on Ice Skates. However, this time was different as I had invited two women out to set the women’s records (which didn’t exist). I recruited two ultimate players – one who played hockey and one who was a figure skater – and were both totally on board. It’s important that both boys and girls have role models so it was important for me to support the women’s record as well. Jill and Jennie both put in a lot of time training and learning and we worked very closely to learn the techniques required. In the end, Jill broke 2 Guinness World Records and Jennie broke 1 Guinness World Record. Another really cool that happened was during my training and learning process, I ended up connecting with Kelly Lockwood, who is an expert researcher and trainer in the field of skate technology. With her help, I was able to learn about contours and hollows and get my skates recalibrated for maximum speed, which ultimately led to my success. Although I didn’t break my MTA or SCF record, I was able to break my old TRC (Throw, Run and Catch) on Ice Skates record of 73.2 metres with a throw and catch of 87.8 metres. Watch the video below!

2. Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet Show

Last year, during my training leading up to the 2017 Silver Skate Festival, I was contacted by a producer from Discovery Channel and was asked about doing a segment for Daily Planet on my training and record attempts. This added a new element and focus to my training for sure but this was an incredible opportunity to tell my story, have quality footage of my record attempts and bring more awareness about frisbee and frisbee on ice.

3. Canine MTA World Record with Davy Whippet

Three years ago, Davy Whippet and I broke our second Guinness World Record together as a team, when I threw the frisbee and he caught it 10.56 seconds later in his mouth. The record was for Canine MTA (Maximum Time Aloft) and I always wanted to attempt the record again because it’s fun, doesn’t require a lot of setup and is fairly easy for Davy to attempt as it’s more about tracking than the running.

We attempted the record in Calgary and although the conditions seemed favourable, unfortunately we weren’t able to break our previous mark. I decided that I wanted to try and break the record in Regina, which is where I’ve spent a lot of time speaking in schools, playing frisbee and staying with friends. It’s a familiar place and I’ve always gotten good support from the local news channels in Regina. The plan was to attempt the record two days in Regina and although the first day had insanely high winds which made the record impossible, the second day (3rd day total) was perfect both wind and weather wise, and we broke our record with a throw and catch of 10.59 seconds.

Davy is truly an incredible dog, friend, teammate and athlete and I’m so fortunate to have him by my side in attempting and breaking these records. You can watch the video below of the record breaking throw.

4. The WCBU in France

Over the last few years, I’ve been traveling more and more as a staffer rather as a competitor, due to my work with the WFDF (World Flying Disc Federation) and in my previous role as the Director of Communications. This summer I had the chance of a lifetime when I flew to Royan, France for the World Championships of Beach Ultimate (WCBU). In my role I was managing the social media channels, updating the website, filming videos (interviews and a daily update show), and working with the broadcasting team who was livestreaming 3 fields daily throughout the entire competition. I was working 18 hour days, walking everywhere, hanging out on the beach, and meeting players from all over the world. It was an incredible trip and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity.

As well, on my way home, I spent one night in Paris and I got to visit the Eiffel Tower (and took my first Uber). It was neat to see but really, it’s just a tall iron structure with a TON of tourists and lots of energy. I’m sure it would be a different experience if I had been there with someone, but it was very underwhelming.

By far the highlight of my trip was getting to be there live for the Women’s Gold Medal Game between USA and Russia, with the Russian women coming back to win on universe point. You can watch the final point below!

5. The World Games in Poland

Shortly after getting home from France, I flew to Wroclaw, Poland for the 2017 World Games which is the equivalent of the Olympics, but it’s only for sports that aren’t in the Olympic Games so there are sports like Fistball, Speed Climbing, Indoor Rowing, and Ultimate Frisbee. My role in Poland was similar to my role in France in that I was updating social media, filming interviews and a daily updates show and also writing press releases. There was only 3 days of competition and 6 teams so it was a much smaller event than the WCBU but certainly a more high profile event. It was amazing to be there and to have the opportunity to promote the sport of ultimate but unfortunately my trip was overshadowed by a discussion that happened on Twitter regarding some comments I made and essentially one side of the political spectrum attacking me and ultimately causing me to resign from my role at WFDF. It was super unfortunate and was definitely one of the lowest moments of my life. The period following this once I returned home was some of the darkest days of my life, certainly the darkest in recent memory, but through it all, it taught me what was important to me, what I truly believed in, the type of person that I am, and it renewed my focus and my path forward. It helped me realize that at the end of the day, I love frisbee, I’m happy that I’m able to have a voice, to share my opinion and that I have a great support network of friends and family. I have actually been much less active online and have been focusing more time, energy and efforts offline to grow my brand, to grow frisbee, and to build and foster relationships in my personal and professional life.

Enjoy the Gold Medal game between USA and Colombia below!

7. The WOC in Basingstoke, UK

Immediately after Poland, I flew to London for the 2017 World Overall Flying Disc Championships (WOC), which marks my 4 WOC (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017). My goals heading into the WOC were to repeat as World Champion in Disc Golf and Self Caught Flight. Although since I arrived two days late to Basingstoke, I didn’t get to check out the disc golf course as much as I would have liked so I was essentially going into the disc golf event blind.

I didn’t have much money and I didn’t do a good job of planning for accommodations so luckily Robb and Rick Rick, the event directors, helped me out by hooking me up with a tent and sleeping gear. Without them, I don’t know what I would have done so I am forever thankful to their help and support.

With my late arrival, I unfortunately missed the DDC and Discathon events. I really enjoy both of those but it gave my legs and arm a bit of extra rest which was nice especially given the fact I was sleeping in a tent at the fields.

The tournament itself was run quite scattered compared to the past few world championships I’ve been to, but as is the standard at Overall competitions, the players ultimately come together and help run the events since volunteers are typically tough to find or inexperienced compared to the players. It wasn’t a big deal as we are all like family but the constant rain didn’t help things so it definitely led to lots of cold bodies, delays in the schedule and lack of spectators.

Ultimately though, we were all there to play frisbee and hang out with our frisbee family, which is what I did as much as possible!

7a. World Self Caught Flight Champion

As I mentioned earlier, one of my goals was to repeat as the World Self Caught Flight Champion. I had previously won in 2013, 2014 and 2015 (no World Championship title was awarded in 2016) so this would be for a 4-peat, which would be amazing since this is my favourite event.

The way the competition works is that we have two rounds of MTA and two rounds of TRC and the top 5 advance to the finals. My first round was actually incredible as I had a 89.6 metre TRC, which is a new Canadian Record and was only 5 metres off the World Record! Combined with my MTA score, it also gave me a SCF score of 159.01, which is the 3rd best ever and only 7 metres off the world record! The second round I had a lower MTA and TRC but after two rounds, I was the top qualifier heading into the finals, a position I’m well accustomed to and expecting because of how hard I work at my SCF. The finals saw lots of rain which meant that keeping the disc dry would be crucial to getting a good throw and catch. After the MTA round, I was trailing by about .5 seconds which is roughly 2.75 metres (MTA * 5.5) so I knew that in order to win, I’d have to have a TRC of 3 metres longer than Jonas. I ended up dropping my longest TRC, which was around 60 metres and would have cemented my win, but fortunately I still managed to catch a 51 metres, which was 4 metres better than Jonas’ 47, and gave me the win by about 0.50 metres, far too close for comfort, but it was enough!

7b. World Distance Champion

The big surprise came in the Distance event. Although I’ve always been near the top, I’ve never won a World Distance title, with my best finish being 3rd place in 2013 in Sweden. This year though, I was feeling confident and was getting in a lot of practice. But I would be up against some great distance throwers including the defending champion from 2015, Anton Lindh, who ended up winning Disc Golf. Heading into the finals, we were again hit with a lot of rain, so staying warm and keeping the discs dry was crucial. An advantage I did have is that I was wearing cleats while some of the other competitors, including Anton, chose to wear golf shoes, which can definitely slip in the wet grass. Anton had some good throws, but fortunately I caught one of my throws super clean and got one out to right around 550 feet, which was 3 metres further than Anton, giving me the Gold Medal in Distance as well!

It’s hard to express how proud I am of what I was able to achieve, given what had happened the week before in Poland, the fact that I was sleeping in a tent in the cold wet weather, and that I was the only Canadian there. I really wanted to do well for myself but also to represent my country and I’m happy to say that I did just that!

As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t get to play the disc golf course much in practice due to arriving late so unfortunately I was never able to get into a groove and took far too many pars and bogeys and not enough birdies. I ended up finishing 7th and improved every round, but in the end I was definitely disappointed with not doing better, but you can’t win them all!

I really would love to get more Canadians into the Overall but for now, I’m going to keep doing my best, keep pushing, and keep challenging myself to raise the bar everytime.

8. Cross Canada Trip

I hadn’t been home for Christmas in 11 years, the last time being December 2006, so I decided to make a trip home this year. I decided to drive and book schools in Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia leading up to Christmas. Then I’d enjoy some time off at Christmas before starting the drive home, speaking in Ontario on the way back.

To say that my trip was unexpected would be a gross understatement, although definitely in the best way possible.

I was booked to speak at two schools in North Bay and fortunately there was a snow day the day before one of my schools, so I was able to make that one work, but unfortunately there was a snow day the following day, which meant that one of my bookings would have to be postponed until the way home in January.

I was definitely nervous to be speaking in the maritimes in winter because you never know what can happen with the weather. Fortunately, I was able to fit in all of my bookings over the two weeks leading up to Christmas, which was truly unexpected but also so amazing. One of my top highlights was doing a frisbee demo in front of 600+ kids at Hammonds Plains School in Halifax and throwing a full court shot into the basketball net with a frisbee on my first throw! The kids went wild and it will be a moment I’ll never forget!

I also got to spend an incredible amount of time with my friends and family. I visited my grandma, whom I haven’t seen in two years, I got to catch up with cousins, old friends from high school, family friends from church and when I was just a kid, my parents and sister, and a few friends I haven’t seen in a long time. I also got to visit my mom’s grave in NS, which was really hard but also so good for my soul. I know that she’s always there with me in spirit, but physically, that’s the closest I can get to her, so I always have a hard time emotionally being there, but it’s really good for me to have that time with her.

Thank you Trina, Steven and Melanie, Danielle, Amy and Julie, Jenn, Nick, Natalie, Sue and Richard, Margo and Shawn, Amy and Dad, Neil and Bernadean, Paul and Mindy, Ashley and Drew, Simon, Michelle and Susan, Ruth, Ella and Brian, Scott and Tracy.

I also filmed a few videos on literacy, ran some frisbee workshops at the local rec centre for kids, played a lot of board games, ate too much sugar and junk food, and really just lived and loved and was super present everyday. It was absolutely a life changing trip for me in so many ways and it has further reinforced that I am on the right path and that I just need to keep going, keep learning, keep growing, keep creating, keep connecting, and keep taking chances.

9. Growth Mindset at Monroe Elementary School

A few months ago, I was contacted by a school in Minneapolis, Minnesota about coming to speak, teach frisbee, speak to parents and be a witness to a Guinness World Records attempt for the Number of Fidget Spinners Simultaneously Spinning for a Minute. I spoke to Lisa and Kristin and we came up with a plan in a very short amount of time, and from that first phone call, I knew that we were going to work really well together. I ended up driving through Minneapolis on my way to the maritimes and stopped in to visit Monroe School and meeting Lisa and Kristin. We filmed a promotional video for the upcoming GWR attempt, where they had me doing a trick with a frisbee and talked about “Being Amazing”.

We talked about the big day and what the schedule was going to look like. They wanted me to run two frisbee workshops, do two presentations, be a witness for the GWR attempt and talk to the parents in the evening. The theme for the day (and really for the last few months) is “Growth Mindset”. They’ve been working with the students on perseverance, resiliency, practice, goals, teamwork and commitment.

The plan was for me to fly Halifax >  Montreal > Chicago > Minneapolis on Wed, Dec 20. I would then head to Monroe School early in the morning on Thurs, Dec 21, spend the day and then fly Minneapolis > Toronto > Halifax.

There was some snow in the weather forecast, but all 3 flights went smoothly without much delay. My friend Paul picked me up at the airport and I made some last minute adjustments to my presentations to make sure that I had the desired messaging.

When I arrived at the school Thursday morning, you could feel the excitement in the air but I truly had no idea what I was in store for. I got setup in the gym and spent some time hanging out with Marcy, the PE teacher, talking about the plan for the morning and making sure that I’d have time to get lunch before my afternoon sessions. The frisbee sessions went so well and the kids had so much fun! Each session only had about 30 kids since they had the choice to sign up for either frisbee or a few other choices of activities related to S.T.E.M., since Monroe is a STEM school.

The presentations also went really well and compared to the frisbee sessions, I had about 330 students in each session! I talked to the students about kindness, determination, acceptance and ended the presentation with my Unplugg’d Challenge. I then did a frisbee demo for the entire group since only a handful of kids got to do frisbee with me in the morning.

I had a short break before the GWR was set to begin. I got some photos of the kids entering the gym and getting into place. It was truly incredible to be a witness to the energy, focus, determination and excitement before, during and after the attempts. After all of the stewards tallied the results, the unofficial count was 549 students successfully spinning for one minute. We’re waiting to hear back from Guinness to have the record approved but I’m confident that all of the guidelines were followed, and we’ll be getting good news in the next few months!

After the GWR attempt, I had a few hours break to eat dinner, hang out with the teachers, say goodbye to the students and get ready for the parents session. I was told that around 100 parents had signed up for the session but I think in the end, we had around 25-30 show up, which is a really good turnout! Nate had created an highlight video from the day’s events and Lisa talked to the parents about the GWR attempt. I talked to the parents about Growth Mindset and shared lots of messages about failure, determination and unplugging. Most of the parents also brought their kids so it was really nice to see them again, get some photos and finish the day sharing such positive and useful messages.

I spent the evening catching up with Paul and Mindy, which was super nice. I’ve known them for about 5 years and it’s always good times getting to hang out with my frisbee family.

The next morning, I flew back to Halifax and had a lot of time to think back on the day at Monroe, which has definitely had a huge impact on me and I’m sure as well on the staff and students. I’m looking forward to spending more time at Monroe and having more opportunities like this!

10. 41st Annual Virginia State Frisbee Tournament

Always a highlight of my year, I competed at the 2017 Virginia State Frisbee Tournament for the 6th year in a row. This is a tournament that is permanently in my calendar and is one event that I want to be at every year. The frisbee family is strong with this tournament but it’s also getting to be at Laszlo’s and the Lost Weekend of all you can eat vegan food, playing frisbee at Pratt Park, more recently playing mini disc golf at Riverby Books and eating Thai food at Sam’s.

This year, I repeated as Distance champion and won a super cool custom made pizza serving paddle. So awesome!

Each year, I also try to get as much video as I can of the ambassadors and long time frisbeeings who have given so much to the sport of frisbee. This year I was honoured to meet and film Larry Schindel, John Pickerill and Flash Kingsley and also get my good friend Phil Pollack and Bob Cannon on camera talking about their passions.

As well, I ran a clinic for the Mothers, the ultimate team from the University of Mary Washington, which was a lot of fun and I hope they continue to play ultimate and their throwing keeps improving! I also showed them what MTA was all about and spent some time throwing Self Caught with them.

I hope to get some friends to come with me eventually but until then, I’ll continue to make this trip no matter what!

11. Joined Innova’s Ambassador Team

I started playing disc golf in 2010 and one of my first golf discs was the Innova Valkyrie, an understable driver. I didn’t know much about discs back then other than being familiar with Discraft from playing ultimate for 9 years prior to getting into disc golf. As I started playing more disc golf and started learning about discs, I started getting more Innova discs. My first overall competition was the 2011 World Overall Championships in Fort Collins, Colorado where I threw Innova R-Pro Bosses in the Distance event (which was my first ever Distance competition and I ended up finishing 4th!). I also threw the Innova Zephyr in the Accuracy and Discathon events and used the Innova Condor in the Self Caught Flight event (where I finished 3rd). By that time, I had a few more golf discs in my bag and my main driver was the Innova Viper. Over the years, I started getting more and more golf discs and was definitely preferring Innova, mainly because I found the numbering system super easy to understand and it was easy to move up and down and learn different discs based on the ones I already had.

I approached Innova a few times to discuss a partnership but they weren’t interested mainly because I wasn’t very well known or highly rated in disc golf. Although 5 of my 6 Guinness World Records were set with an Innova disc, they seemed more interested in bringing on disc golfers who were either top ranked players or were doing a lot to grow the sport from a tournament or disc sales perspective.

In early 2016, a few Innova sponsored pros approached Innova about adding me to the team and there was some discussion about adding me to the Ambassador team but other priorities came up so the conversation fell off over the next few months.

The following year, January 2017, another Innova sponsored player, this time from the Ambassador team, approached Innova about adding me to the team, and this time I was contacted by Bobby about whether or not that was something I would be interested in. It really is all about timing and this time, the timing was just right! I was extremely honoured to have been approached and didn’t hesitate in accepting their invite to the Innova Ambassador team.

It’s been a great first year and having their support has been huge! I love representing Innova, getting to throw team stamped discs, growing the sport using discs that I trust, and having a team of passionate, talented and supportive people in my corner. I’m looking forward to continuing to grow the sport, developing relationships and pushing my competitive limits in the sport of disc golf and frisbee.

If you made it this far, I appreciate you taking the time to read my 2017 Year in Review. I have some huge goals and plans for 2018 and I cannot wait to put in the time, the steps, the focus, the habits, and the process to get there.

I’d love to hear what your favourite moment was from your 2017 and what you’re looking forward to in 2018!