Ultimate Interviews – Patrick van der Valk – WCBU 2015 (Dubai)

written by Mark Earley 05/03/2014
Ultimate Interviews – Patrick van der Valk – WCBU 2015 (Dubai)

Hi Patrick, how are you? Before we talk about the big news in the world of Beach Ultimate, can you give us a quick rundown of your career thus far – where and when did you start playing? Who have you played with over the years?

It feels like I’ve been playing forever 🙂 I started in 1979 in Holland where I played for a team called Ultimate Stars Leiderdorp. At the end of the 80s I moved to Canada and I started a team called the Zoydz (who later started the infamous Gender Blender tournament). At the end of the 90s I moved Portugal where I’ve been playing with Diz-Cu, the local Lisbon ultimate club. I also play for the international pickup team SeXXXpensive that rocks the beaches of Paganello each year.

What team are you currently with? How is your season going?

Diz-Cu and Gung-Ho recently merged and now I play for the new Lisbon Ultimate Club (LUC). We won the Portuguese indoor championships a month ago and just last weekend we came in fourth at the first international MOW tournament in Lisbon (Interview here! – Marko). Our beach season only starts in June. We do not have a grass ultimate season although we will have a one weekend Grass Championships in the beautiful Euro 2004 stadium of Leiria.

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Patrick and the Portuguese Beach Ultimate team at ECBU 2013

You have had many roles in Portuguese Ultimate, helping it develop over many years. What is the scene like in Portugal at the moment?

It is still small. We only have about 80 active players in 5 clubs (Aveiro, Leiria, Lisbon, Palmela, and Portimao). This year our strategy has really been focused on trying to increase the number of players for each team as well as solidifying the foundation of the Association. At the end of this year I will resign as president. I wear too many different organizing hats and it is time for the Portuguese players to take over 🙂

BULA – the Beach Ultimate Lovers Association – began as a dream in the 1990s and you helped turn it into a reality in 2000. What is BULAs mission? How does it work towards this mission?

BULA’s mission is to assist, educate, and promote the spirit and the game of beach ultimate worldwide. Basically we are trying to help tournament and league director’s to set up good events and give them assistance on how they can promote beach ultimate locally. It is still a small operation but I’m sure we’ve helped many people enjoy the game. We are in the process of upgrading the look and the brand of BULA. We hope to have that done by the summer.

Beach Ultimate is growing year by year with new tournaments, bigger international competition and many more players. What do you make of this growth?

I think that the growth is great! Now what I really would like to see are more beach ultimate leagues. International tournaments are great fun and I travel to many of them, but being capable of playing beach ultimate several times a week and having a local league is something that is great fun and keeps you healthy. I hope that Beach Ultimate becomes a lifestyle, not just a destination.

You’re also heavily involved with WFDF. What is your role with them?

You are uncovering all the hats that I’m wearing 🙂 At the WFDF I’m the chair of the beach ultimate committee. I am also the chair of the spirit of the game committee, as well as a WFDF board member. I am passionate about spirit of the game as well as maintaining the sport self refereed. My voice is frequently heard on the recently assigned WFDF task force to consider WFDF’s position on the Spirit of the Game and on-field officiation issues for Ultimate.

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Recently, rumours led to an article being published on Get Horizontal about WCBU 2015 in Dubai. Is it now 100% official? If so, where can we get more info??

It depends when you publish this interview 😉 But yes it is official and more information can be found at www.wcbu2015.org (EDIT – the official announcement has been published on the WFDF site here).

When did the bid from Dubai come about? How long have you been working on this project?

We were first contacted by somebody in Dubai in May 2013. That got us started thinking about the possibilities and after many e-mails back and forth we felt that a bid from Dubai could actually be viable.

Were there many bids to host the World Championships next year?

There were five bids to host the 2015 BULA & WFDF World Championships of Beach Ultimate (#WCBU2015). Four of the five came from the US and the fifth one was the Dubai bid. Italy had also shown interest, however since the last WCBU was in Italy, and this year the grass ultimate championships (WUCC 2014) are also in Italy, we decided to only ask for a full bid if the other bits were deemed not good enough.

Why did BULA & WFDF choose Dubai as the winning bid?

The bids were great, but when push comes to shove the success of a championships that is based on national teams is dependent on the maximum number of countries that can participate. Dubai is very centrally located for both European as well as Asian teams. There might even be some possibilities for African teams going to Dubai. With that in mind, as well as a great bid, the choice of Dubai was obvious.

A lot of players are surprised that a country known for human rights infringements, not least their stance on homosexuality, would be chosen to host an Ultimate world championships. What do you say to these players?

I must admit to this being the biggest hurdle to accepting Dubai’s bid. We asked around – did our research, and in the end we concluded that although some of their laws and traditions are clearly not in line with what we believe to be correct, there are way worse countries in the region and that sports should not be political. As ultimate players we are generally very tolerant and I hope that players will show that when entering a different culture.

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The culture differences are many, including tighter alcohol consumption laws and public behaviour guidelines, which for a WCBU will be quite a change. Has this been thought of?

Absolutely yes! Personally speaking, I like my beer and my public behavior is not always appreciated even in the Western world :-) However, the opportunity to play at such a prestigious event, in a location that is so exotic, should be appealing enough to put aside some western behavior and enjoy the moment. For people looking for more information I suggest they go to this webpage: http://www.wcbu2015.org/about-wcbu-2015/local-customs-and-laws/

The timing of the tournament is unusual with very few ‘big’ beach events happening until late spring/early summer. What influenced the dates? And, what will players do for warm up events?

As you probably know, the ultimate and beach ultimate calendar is filling up quickly each year. There are so many events to go to. BULA and the WFDF are working together to avoid any overlap of large events. As such Dubai was a good option because in March their average temperature is like a nice summer’s day in Western Europe.

As for your question about warm up events, it is the right question to ask. Again I think this opens possibilities for some new events outside of the regular season. These should be events in regions where the weather is acceptable. Once the announcement of Dubai has been made we will start to talk to some groups about possibly having a warm-up tournament in December, January, February etc. I know that there is talk in Portugal about doing this and I could see things pop up in Spain, Mexico, Southern US, and in many other places as well. It is an opportunity! 🙂

The location will no doubt open participation to a lot of nations who struggled to make it to Brazil or to Europe, however on the flip side a lot of the traditional attendees may be priced out of attendance as traveling to Dubai isn’t cheap (from Europe anyway!). Do you expect a big attendance?

Actually you will be surprised with the cost of flights to Dubai. There are several low-cost airlines flying there and it still beats the price of flying to the US. Yes, it will not be the cheapest event you have gone to but I think people’s fears are much worse than the reality. Especially if you book in advance. For more information people can always check out this page: http://www.wcbu2015.org/player-and-team-info/will-it-be-suuuper-expensive/

How many players play in Dubai? Is there a local scene? Are there any local tournaments?

In the whole of the UAE, there is a thriving local Ultimate scene, with about 200 regular players in the two largest emirates – Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In addition to those 6 to 8 teams that play in a for-profit social league, there are teams that play pickup at least once a week in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It’s a pretty diverse group, with more than 20 nationalities represented.

Each year, there are at least six tournaments – two on the beach in Dubai (in fact, the Dubai Team Beach Tournament is this Friday). The oldest regular Ultimate sport event is the Dubai Ultimate Charity Event (DUCE), which has taken place every year since 2007. All the money raised goes to charity and it is the biggest event on the local calendar. (Learn more here – Dubai UPA – Marko).

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Local players playing on the sand in Dubai

What are you most excited about for WCBU 2015?

The whole package. It is a new location that will likely bring a very diverse mix of countries participating. The players themselves – the last European championships were such a great success primarily because the players were so amazing. I can just see this being taken to the next level in Dubai.

How much have the Beach championships series (European and World) grown over the last decade or so?

In 2007 we had 350 players at the World Championships in Brazil. In 2011 we had 1,000 players at the World Championships in Italy, and 2013 we had 1,100 players at the European championships in Spain. Clearly the sport has been accepted by many more players and countries and I think it will continue to grow.

What is the next big step for BULA and Beach Ultimate?

As I said earlier, we are planning an overhaul of the BULA lifestyle brand and continue to focus on getting beach ultimate leagues set up in cities worldwide. We are also investing in a casual clothing brand, called  LOVE by BULA  that we would like to show off at the WCBU 2015. But small steps first. Because even though I am involved in so many things, I also have a regular job and a family!

And for WFDF?

That is a much larger conversation and something that I will let others to talk about 🙂

Finally, which three beach tournaments are unmissable in your eyes and why?

1.       Bar do Peixe in Portugal (please note that as a founder I am extremely biased here) Just 4 days and 6 nights of physical abuse. Tough sand, tough weather (very hot or windy), lots of sangria and caipirinhas, and parties that last until sunrise. Even the smiles start to hurt!

2.       Boracay tournament. An amazing location and great Beach Ultimate. True paradise.

3.       The last one I can’t chose. There are so many great events out there: Sandslash in Poland, Kiev Hat, Paganello, Burla Beach Cup, Lei-out, etc… And then there are events I want to go to because they just sound amazing, like Wildwood with 6,000+ players and 430 teams. Insanity! 🙂