When Was Ultimate Frisbee Invented?

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Ultimate Frisbee has been a sport for a long time. Most people consider it a lifestyle sport and it has been for many years. With how long ultimate frisbee has been around, you may wonder when was ultimate frisbee invented and how the idea of making it a sport originated. 

When Was Ultimate Frisbee Invented? 

Most Ultimate Frisbee organizations agree that Ultimate Frisbee was invented in 1968. It was introduced by Joel Silver to students from the Columbia High School in Maplewood New Jersey, USA. 

The following year, two teams comprised of students played the first game of Ultimate Frisbee. The students used a Wham-O Master disc and played in a parking lot. They used goal lines for field lines and telephone poles or players’ coats as markers. 

Men's frisbee team in yellow unifrorm

The first and second set of rules were then created in 1970 by Joel Silver, Buzzy Hellring, and Jon Hines. In that same year, the first interscholastic game was played between Columbia High School and Millburn High School playing. Columbia High School won the game with a score of 43 to 10. 

The Development of the Flying Disc

An American inventor by the name of Fred Morrison, with the cooperation of Warren Francioni, created an unpolished prototype flying disc and named it the Arcuate Vane Model. The product was created under the Southern Californian Plastics Company in 1948. It took its inspiration from the growing sightings of UFOs and flying saucers.

In 1951, the second model was released and named Pluto Platter. The Pluto Platter is an important product in Ultimate Frisbee history since it became the blueprint for all Frisbees that followed. 

The Pluto Platter slowly started gaining popularity and by 1954, the first recorded game that used a flying disc happened at Dartmouth University. Students called the game “Guts” and they were also the organizers of it. 

The Rise of Wham-O Frisbee

Rich Knerr and A.K. “Spud” Melin formed a starter toy company named Wham-O. The idea started after they saw Pluto Platters flying around southern California beaches. They soon found Morrison who was selling the Pluto Platters in Southern California and made him a proposition. 

In 1958, mass production of the Pluto Platter started. However, it didn’t have that much success in the national market. This was mainly due to Wham-O’s other product that bought a new trend to the United States, the hula-hoop. 

In order to improve Pluto Platter’s marketability and flying properties, Wham-O sought the help of another inventor named Ed Headrick. By 1967, the “Wham-O Frisbee” was launched to the U.S. market. Knerr coined it after Harvard students told him about throwing pie tins and called it  “Frisbie-ing”. However, it was not the first time Frisbee was heard. An East Coast company named Frisbie Pie Company was what probably inspired the students to use the term. 

Frisbee Football

Frisbee Football was a sport similar to American football only that it uses a flying disc. It is regarded as the inspiration for ultimate frisbee. Recorded games played of frisbee football were held at institutions like Kenyon College, Ohio in 1942. 

Another game similar to it popped up in Amherst College and it involves throwing a plastic or metal serving tray. 

Joel Silver played Frisbee Football at a camp in Mount Herman, Massachusetts in 1967. This was what probably gave him the idea to introduce the game to his school’s student council and develop it.  

Guy playing frisbee

History and Development of Ultimate Frisbee

We all know the history of the development of the frisbee disc and ultimate frisbee. Let’s now see how ultimate frisbee grew and developed into a worldwide sport that is enjoyed by everyone. 

Creating the First Conference

In 1971, the first conference of Ultimate teams was born. It was made up of five high schools in New Jersey. The players of this conference also formed teams as they went to colleges and universities. 

The first collegiate game happened on November 6, 1972, between Rutgers University and Princeton. Rutgers University won the game with a score of 29 to 27. This started the growth of ultimate frisbee in the collegiate scene. 

Ultimate Frisbee at College Level

The first tournament that consisted of college teams was hosted by Yale in 1975. It featured 8 college teams and was won by Rutgers. Ultimate was then introduced at the Second World Frisbee Championships at the Rose Bowl which spread its popularity on the West Coast of the USA. 

This also was the catalyst for the spread of ultimate frisbee to Europe and Asia. There were a number of organizations formed that was outside of the USA at that time. They were:

  • Swedish Frisbee Federation (1974)
  • Japanese Frisbee Disc Association (1975)
  • Australian Frisbee Disc Association (1976)
  • Belgian Frisbee Disc Association (1977)
  • Austrian Frisbee Disc Association (1977)
  • Finnish Flying Disc Association (1978)
  • Danish Frisbee Sport Union (1978)

In the USA, the Ultimate Players Association (UPA) was established in 1979 with Tom Kennedy as its first elected director. The UPA was the governing body for Ultimate sports in the USA at that time. They would host the UPA Nationals in which college teams participate and compete. 

Ultimate Frisbee in the International Scene

In 1984, the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) was founded and is still the international governing body of all disc sports in the present time. 

In 1989, the first World Ultimate Club Championships was held in Cologne, Germany. The USA won both open (Philmore) and women (Lady Condors) brackets. In 1995, the international club Masters championship was won by Seven Sages from the USA. 

Today, Ultimate has around over 100,000 players throughout 30 countries. The Ultimate Players Association (USA) has an estimated 13,000+ members that pay dues. These numbers continue to grow yearly. 

Woman trying to goal for frisbee

Related Questions

How Old is Ultimate Frisbee?

Ultimate Frisbee has been around for over 50 years. It may even be more if you consider the earlier and much-unrefined state of Ultimate Frisbee when it was still not recognized as such. 

What Country Plays Ultimate Frisbee the Most?

The United States of America has the most number of players and events related to ultimate frisbee. They are also consistently the best at the sport since they have a larger following. 

Conclusion

The history of ultimate frisbee and its invention is fascinating. As the sport continues to grow, it’s important to look back to its roots to better understand how and why the game was created. It was just a bunch of high school students who wanted to have fun throwing a disc. 

Tim Frechette is an avid athlete, having played sports like soccer and basketball his entire life. He brings a wealth of athletic knowledge to his writing.