I had a Grade 5 student ask me this question during the assembly at St Philip Elementary School in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada this week.
I love this question and it’s a huge part of my success in frisbee. It also inspired me to come up with the slogan “Let the Wind Guide You” when I was competing in the 2013 WFDF World Overall Flying Disc Championships in Sweden during the Self-Caught Flight event, which I would go on to win.
A: The wind is the single biggest factor in affecting how a frisbee flies. Understanding the affect wind has will help you be more confident and have more fun when throwing and catching.
Before we understand how the wind affects how a frisbee flies, we first have to determine the direction of the wind.
One of the easiest ways to figure out the direction of the wind is to grab a handful of grass and either toss it straight up in the air or hold your hand up high and drop it. Whichever way the grass blows, you will consider that 12 o’clock (it’s easiest to describe the wind in terms of a clock).
If you don’t have access to grass (on turf, cement, on ice, or any other surface without grass) then you can try to use objects around you like trees, flags, or smoke.
If you are throwing into the wind (12 o’clock), we call it a headwind. If you are throwing downwind (6 o’clock), we call it a tailwind.
Throwing a frisbee into the wind will cause the disc to lift so this is especially helpful for slower throws, or if we’re doing self-caught flight and we want the wind to keep the disc up in the air.
Throwing a frisbee downwind will cause the disc to drop but will also give the disc push, so this is useful for maximum distance, keeping the disc low, and getting the disc to a spot quickly (for example in dog disc).
Example: When I set the Guinness World Record for Longest Flying Disc Throw Caught by a Dog with Davy Whippet, I was throwing downwind. Before we attempted the record, I determined the direction of the wind, and we specifically set up the field to maximize the distance by letting the wind guide us.
Example: Same thing when I performed at the Calgary Stampeders halftime show with Sailor. We chose the end of the field when the tailwind, so I’d get maximum distance on my throw.
Example: When I set the Guinness World Record for Longest Flying Disc Time Aloft on Ice Skates, I was throwing into the wind, so that the disc would get maximum lift and maximal time in the air.
If you are a disc golfer, we can also use this knowledge to adjust how we putt, depending on the wind.
- Putting into the wind (headwind) will cause the disc to lift, so we should aim a bit lower and try to keep the nose-to-tail more flat
- Putting with the wind (tailwind) will cause the disc to drop, so we should aim a bit higher and try to keep the nose slightly tilted up
- Putting across the wind (crosswind) will cause the disc to push in the direction of the wind (6 o’clock) so we should try and make sure that the underside of the disc isn’t showing too much towards the wind direction (coming from 12 o’clock).
This is the first in my newly created series titled “Young Disc-Coverers: A Frisbee Q&A With Kids”. If you have a question or know a kid who has a question, please share it with me on my socials or using the form below.