What’s so ‘Ultimate’ about the game of Frisbee? Harry Hodge gives the pastime a spin. Photos by Alexandre Garel


You start pumping your legs, trying to elude the defender. A quick nod to show you’ve broken free. The pass is up. Running… running… running. A diving one-handed grab in the end zone! What a play! Who knew throwing the Frisbee could be such fun?

This is a common occurrence at Saigon Ultimate, every weekend at RMIT in District 7. The game incorporates scoring similar to American football, breaking the end zone line to register points. What makes the game interesting in this part of the world is its popularity throughout the region, with players pinballing between ‘hat’ tournaments (entry on an individual rather than team basis) in Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines and, of course, Vietnam.

Put in the simplest terms, you pass the disc to your teammates. Once a catch is made, the ‘handler’ may not advance further. Continue connecting with teammates in this fashion all the way down the field until you’ve tallied a score. An incompletion means a turnover and the other team can take over from the spot of the infraction (some hat tournaments in the US have taken to making players entering wear actual hats, calling turnovers for a loss of hat even on a successful catch).

“I like it because it is a team sport mixing men and women, which makes it rare,” says Trinh-Gin Nguyen Ha, who has played for three years. “People are friendly most of the time, [so] you don’t need a referee, and people are pretty honest about the rules and cooperative in deciding the calls.”

Something For Everyone

A big draw for many of the players is the camaraderie that you find in every team sport. Playing against a lot of the same players from around the region also breeds familiarity. As a novice playing at the 2011 Hat Tournament, I had a number of teammates pointing out “who is who” in the Southeast Asian Ultimate scene… Inexperience aside, we still managed to get a rhythm going during the two-day, eight-game tournament, and lost by a point in the finals.

“Ultimate mixes features like running in soccer, jumping in basketball and the strategic play of American football. Only the throwing comes naturally as part of Ultimate Frisbee,” says Vu Anh Vu, one of the main organizers for the Saigon Ultimate Club.

“As a matter of fact,” he goes on, “I don’t know which skill is the most important. But in order to play Ultimate, you should able to run, catch and [have] basic throwing skills.”

The ultimate game should be the ultimate combination of skills, but it is also a pretty inclusive crowd mixing it up weekends down in District 7. For would-be competitors preparing to try it for the first time, probably the best advice is to remember three words: Never. Stop. Running.

Saigon Ultimate Club plays every Sunday afternoon from 4pm to 6pm at RMIT in District 7. Click on for other days and times the group plays and for further info.


Ultimate Terms

When one team breaks up an advancing team’s offense and throws the disc to nobody on the opposite side of the field. This tactic is used to reset the team’s offense and clear out of your own end zone.


Used to remind a player to stay calm with the disc, so that they do not rush a throw. Ska-hippie slang origins.




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