2004 Puerto Rico Winter Jam
Jamming In The Fountain of Youth
By Steve Scannell
There’s something about chasing a flying disc that makes you feel young. Maybe it’s the triviality of the exercise of chasing something that bounces around in the wind, catching it and then sending it off into space again. Could it be the precision needed to make the plastic do special maneuvers while under your ultimate control? Whatever it is, “It” makes me young.
When I was in elementary school, I had a friend who lived on the main street in town and my friend, Cliff, owned a German-Shepherd-sized mutt named Skip that chased cars incessantly. Skip would spend all day long waiting for another car to come by the house, and he’d crouch down hiding as if ready to pounce, and he’d suddenly take off on a full gallop as the car passed and he’d race it until it pulled away. No sooner would that car get away, and then Skip would get in position to do it again. He wouldn’t bark he’d simply race the car for fifteen or twenty yards before losing the race.
I’m a bit like Skip, since no matter how many times I throw a disc and chase it again or try to maneuver the outcome of the flight, to master its flight, I have to do it again. Compulsive behavior maybe but, as with much compulsive behavior, there’s great pleasure. Especially if after a while you’re gaining on that car, or in my case learning another way to master the disc’s magic and it’s path as it resists gravity. There are so many variables to pursue when developing one’s talent with freestyle Frisbee, just as there was an endless number of cars for Skip to chase. The reason I mentioned Skip, the dog, is that years later after I returned from college and the military, I’d pass Skip on the main street when I went back home. I’d wonder to myself how old he must have been as he continued to race each car that passed. I tried to do the math in my head. What was more amazing was that he had not lost a step. I asked my brother if it were a different but similar looking dog, but he’d attest that it was still Skip, and he was still racing each car he’d see. Several years later, I’d return home and this dog, in his twenties by now, was still chasing cars. I suppose all that exercise kept him young, even though he was elderly as described in dog years.
Woof! Woof! There’s nothing like a flying gitis on the seashore to keep this old dog going. Recently I visited one of the fountains of youth, the beach at Isla Verde in Puerto Rico. There’s nothing I love more than to go on a pilgrimage to some of the many shrines around the world where wind and water frame the practice area we refer to as the beach. Whether it’s La Jolla Shores, Rimini, Jacksonville, Newport, or even the ‘cement beach’ in Chicago, they’re all beaches, and it’s where one escapes time. I turn back the clock and retain the youth of freestyle every time I play with my disc and friends along the shore.
This shrine located just a few miles east of the timeless walled city of ‘Old San Juan’ is the domain of Carlos ‘Pipo’ Lopez, a freestyle missionary, who has visibly preached and demonstrated the concept to many followers. Some of his local jamming disciples consist of Tito ‘Mex’, Cuqui, Mario, and Abraham. Each of these Puerto Rican jammers can hold his own in any tournament around the world, but they rarely get a chance to get off the island. Under Pipo’s tutelage they have developed their own personal tricks, as well as a full array of more popular standard freestyle moves while they stay young. One Puerto Rico alumni, Tito Andino, has carried me to the finals two years consecutively in Paul Kenny’s Jacksonville competition. Tito came home for this particular weekend after a ten-year hiatus away since he heard there’d be a number of jammers coming in from all over. Bill Dubillier came in from New York, and Toddy Brodeur from New England. Rumors of Pat Marron, John Titcomb, and some other mystery jammers sweetened the prospect of jamming for an extended weekend, like coming back to home cooking. And he did frolic for hours like a teenager. We all did. We played for hours on the beach, day and night. Each evening, starting Wednesday when I arrived at dusk with my trusty flying-ring bearer, Anne Goh, we’d end up playing with Pipo till a full moon came up. Each night the moon would come up an hour later, and we would play an hour later by the additional radiance of the moon rising out on the sea. By Saturday night there was jamming going on two hours after the sun had set. It was magical.
Sunday was the climax of an incredible crescendo of four full days of jamming, as each player got hotter as players got more used to the unique beach conditions. There was talk about a competition, but no one wanted to deal with that hassle, since this was play of the highest order and we were having too much fun playing, like a bunch of little kids. On Sunday the beach came alive and there was a constant parade of onlookers passing by. People of all ages would stop and stare, since they were in awe of the childish delight being celebrated by these Frisbeeterians.
If Ponce de Leon had waited for an extra five hundred years he would have found the “Fountain of Youth” he sought while exploring Puerto Rico and Florida. Pipo Lopez has it in San Juan, and that is why I have visited Pipo on five different occasions. In 1994, after knee surgery, I first came to visit Senor Lopez in February as a form of spring training and escape from the ravages of a cold New England winter. (We have been known to jam on the beach in Newport even in January). When I returned home I was rejuvenated and my freestyle batteries charged. I recommend it to anyone who needs a charge, but please be aware this is definitely Pipo’s beach and a visit can be habit forming. The things he does on his beach are astonishing, as he has mastered the dips in the beach, the power of the wind, and the ability to show visitors phenomenal hospitality. Pipo does things on his beach that he does nowhere else in the world. So if you are one of numerous freestylers who admire Pipo’s game, you ‘aint seen nothing’ till you see him on his beach. Each visitor who played while I was there had fantastic jams, inspired by his talent.
Bill Dubillier, who has been tending to the art of parenting recently, played better than I’ve ever seen him jam on Sheep’s Meadow or anywhere else. Toddy couldn’t sit down even with blisters on his feet, since he knew his play was inspired. His wife, Sammy, was worn out just watching him. Even the novice jammer, Anne Goh, was inspired and learned how to brush and flow with the disc on the beach. A new woman player might be in the making here. I couldn’t sit down, even on Monday night as most everyone was on his or her way home; I had to play solo with the wind for two more hours. They don’t call me Viejo in Puerto Rico any more; they call me ‘The Machine’. Even twenty years ago, I never remembered being able to jam six days in a row without hurting myself. I simply have to chalk it up to freestyle and jamming with Pipo in the Fountain of Youth.
From Tito Andino:
This has had to be one of the best jams I’ve been in
so far. Perfect weather, a great group of people, all
in all a GREAT time. No one wanted to stop playing at
any point, so the idea of a tournament was put aside
and we all shredded it to pieces. Dusk did not
stoppped us from playing well into the night with a
full moon as bright as ever. Some people will consider
this a “religious experience” , I am just thrilled to
have shared this weekend with Toddy, Steve
Scannel,Bill Dubalier,Pipo, Tito Mex, Cuqui, Mario and
everyone else that showed up.(Few other local freinds
came to share this moment with us as well). Pipo was
the perfect host not only providing the lodging for
some of us, but also the night time entertainment.
Great food, great partying, looking forward to next
winter. Pipo, Thanks for putting this together for us.
Hope everyone has a save trip back. See You all soon.
From Toddy Brodeur:
Mark this one on next years calendar, The weekend after the superbowl go to Puerto Rico. Pipo takes care of you and you will have a blast. Also he will show you why he is “King of the Beach”
This was truly a frisbee beach lovers dream. Warm breezes were non stop, same direction. The sand is rather coarse so it hardly sticks to the disc. The beach has a slope and high tide is barely noticeable. All the locals have a similar style. Everybody jams barefoot and the disc is always wet and cleaned in the warm ocean waves. Truly beach jammin. The jam spot was less than 25 steps from our hotel room. Ok they were big steps because I was always running to the shore.The jams lasted well past sunset. The folks at the hotel were very friendly. The one thing I learned is when you go to PR, do what Pipo does. Follow him, eat what he eats, hang out with him, watch how he handles the disc and the beach and you will do fine. Thank you for a wonderful time Pipo.
See u all soon