The Story Of Currier Island

written by Johan Bommie 27/02/2015
The Story Of Currier Island

The year is 2004 and the very first World Championships of Beach Ultimate are open for registration. Ivan Cestero, US citizen, and his friend Minh are eager to play at this championship but for multiple reasons feel like they shouldn’t participate as a member of their own respective national team.

Solution? Invent a country.

IVAN CESTERO: “In 2003 or 2004, whenever the call for WCBU 2004 first came out, I conceived the idea of a fake nation to compete at the world championships in Figueira,  Portugal. I did this because I noticed that only 12 countries were competing, and I thought it would be great and very much in the spirit of Ultimate (especially beach Ultimate) to have a sort of international team that would provide an opportunity for players from countries not represented.
 
I shared my idea with old college teammates, and my new frisbee friends from Budapest, where I was living.  My good friend Minh Le responded positively to the concept and, after a phone call in which we agreed on a tropical island theme and sordid history, invented the name of the team. “Currier Island” was based on the house that Dartmouth Ultimate players lived in during our senior year (2000-2001). Minh also designed our flag, sewed the original version, and wrote a fantastic letter to Patrick explaining our team history and reason for applying to worlds. Together we sent in the bid, which eventually was accepted with the slight caveat of wanting clarification of whether CI was a real country. We answered ambiguously and were admitted!”

“This letter is to certify that the Currier Island government wishes to be represented at the World Beach Ultimate Championships by the petitioning party led by Ivan Zoltan Cestero.  The Currier Island chain, while not a large nation has a long and proud athletic tradition of playing Ultimate…”

Currier Island 8

Like often in the history of Ultimate, where much (or should we say anything?) goes, a crazy idea was actually executed and still lives on today.
The original Currier Island team consisted of two core groups: one were a bunch of Dartmouth college graduates, and the other part was a group of players from Budapest, Hungary. Both the USA and Hungary fielded teams for this event, but none of these players felt like playing for their own country as they preferred playing alongside their good friends from all around.

“WTF? Where is Currier Island?”

WCBU tournament director and BULA (Beach Ultimate Lovers Association) president Patrick van der Valck was amazed after receiving this letter, googled Currier Island without any results, went “what the f*ck” and replied to the letter. The Currier Island crew managed to convince Patrick by explaining him that “Currier Island lives in the heart of people”. Couldn’t be any cheesier, but in a way it is the truth, something Patrick realised pretty soon as well.

Excitedly and with Patrick’s help, Ivan and Minh recruited frisbee players from France, England, US, Canada, Italy, France, and other countries.
The entire team got together about a week before the actual tournament for some sightseeing, wild camping and learning how to throw 140meter scoobers (“which came pretty handy when playing Germany later”, says Ivan).

The team had a great time on the beach in Portugal, played some very tight and exciting games and built a solid foundation for Currier Island’s future to be built upon. CI may look like your regular pickup team but don’t be fooled, under the supervision of BULA, CI has grown into a solid competitor at Beach Ultimate championships. Attention to geographical equality among the players is what sets them apart from your regular let’s-all-play-together-this-weekend-bunch.
There was a women’s Currier island team at WCBU 2007 in Brazil, and in 2011 in Lignano, Italy. Currier Island featured a Mixed, Open, Masters, and Mixed Masters team. In Dubai in 2015 CI will have Women, Open Masters, Mixed Masters, Women Masters, and Grandmaster Currier Island. An impressive expansion to 5 teams for the most beautiful country in the world.

Currier Island 10

Evolution

IVAN CESTERO: “Despite that unforgettable experience in Portugal, Minh and I were unable to organize or control CI to the extent required to build it out. Patrick worked with others to send a CI team to Brazil. Unfortunately due to logistics original CI’ers had close to nothing to do with this.
 
We did return, spectacularly, for Lignano Sabbiadoro 2011 Beach Worlds. We sent 4 teams. Patrick and I identified captains for each of the teams, and I worked with teammates new and old on uniforms, flags, spirit, and logistics. This was a pretty great time– certainly one of the best ever frisbee tournaments I have been to. I think CI had a real presence at the tournament as we were highly spirited, always up for a party, and played competitively. As I recall, we were among the most enthusiastic viewers of each of the finals. It was a rewarding experience to see friends from Hungary, NYC, old CI alums, and many new islanders come together– in our fun new jerseys, which by the way were highly sought after for trading!. It was amazing to see CI represent at a larger level at what had become a much, much bigger tournament. I got the sense that CI could be a regular fixture at such events.

Destiny

IVAN CESTERO: “It’s not easy to organize CI teams, because while we all come from the same fictional island paradise, we also come from far-flung spots around the world, which makes logistics and true team chemistry a challenge. You want to be more than a pickup team, and you want to compete at the highest level on the field, but in my experience, that wasn’t always the case. There was a vast range of skill and athleticism that sometimes created tension for simple things like calling lines or strategy. That didn’t bother all players, and certainly wasn’t a game-breaker in terms of the overall experience, but it is something that we would want to iron out for the future. Ideally, as international interest grows for wearing the CI jersey, our spirit will remain at CI-level while the caliber of player will improve, which I think is important for Worlds. From another perspective, again I think that CI has brought a lot and can continue to enrich the Worlds experience. There is something exciting and fresh and very Ultimate about a “pickup team” embracing a fake history and coming together over the course of the week.  While you would never see this in other sports, it makes perfect sense in ultimate and I think that’s a testament to our love of the game and embrace of spirit– both spirit of the game and spirit of camaraderie and community.
 
It means a lot to me to have conceived the team and shared in so much of our semi-glory. I suppose the glory simply lies in our existence . We are a new country and thus have had trouble remaining organized and developing a functional bureaucracy, but I hope that with each Worlds we will grow stronger. I am still actively playing ultimate, now at Masters level, and I hope to be able to put on the CI jersey again at a future Worlds.”
If you wish to know more about this heavenly paradise, or if you’d like to visit them (that is if you can find it on a map), have a look at their homepage.
Currier Island will proudly be representing their colors on the Dubai beaches, so if you come across any of its players or have the privilege to play against them, just give them a high five or a pat on the back. Currier Island inhabitants are what separates us Ultimate players from other sports. We all do, but the inspiring story of Currier Island is one that tells the tale of creativity, and believing in the power of humans to connect in a positive way.
Currier Island 1
See you on the beach in Dubai!
#WCBU2015
#THEULTIMATELIFE