After starting out playing at his high school's Spring Fever Festival and later for Dartmouth College, Paul has been playing Ultimate in Asia for over 20 years. He plays hard and lays out for the disc... some of the time it's not gratuitous. He recently was given Lifetime Achievement Award by Hong Kong Ultimate Player Association (HKUPA) for his 20 years of passion and contribution.
I was very surprised to receive the final award at the Tosscars last weekend. I did not expect it and was not prepared to make any speech. Inebriated as I was, I mumbled a few words and tried to thank and include as many people as possible. That was difficult as I feel that everyone in HKUPA is my family. So many people have contributed in their own way to make HKUPA an inclusive, enjoyable and thriving association that it was and is impossible to mention everyone.
What started on the Peak with a few friends playing pick up ultimate has grown to become a 100+ member strong sports association which sends competitive teams to tournaments throughout Asia and around the world. While we used to spend a few hours on a Saturday afternoon tossing the disc, top players in HK today may dedicate up to 5 days a week to league games, coaching younger players and grueling team practices.
In 1995, Robert Kushner and Craig Hartenstine among others were the first to start playing on a small field that is about a 10 minute hike up Mount Austin Road from the Peak Tram station. The field on one side has a slope at the end of the end zone so that if you did a layout to score, you would often disappear over the edge and tumble down through bushes getting seriously scraped along the way.
In 1996, Trevor Daughney got the bright idea to set up HKUPA as an officially recognized sports association so that we could book real fields from the LCSD. Natalie Hawkins, Tom Nunan, Steven Lee joined Trevor as the original founding members of HKUPA.
That same year, I played my first Hat Tournament ever in Taipei along with Gui Raynaud, Natalie Ackerman, Chris Battersby and Anu Parekh. Also in 1996. HK organized its first beach hat competition in Disco Bay which I remember winning with Steven Lee. 1997 saw the first international competition in Hong Kong -- the Handover Tournament...better known as the Turnover Tournament. Teams from Korea, Singapore and Taipei came over while Hong Kong split up into two teams including the one I was on -- Tommy's Commies.
I have been extremely lucky to have avoided major injuries despite throwing my body around the field so often. Mostly I just get scratched and bleed a bit. Touch wood nothing serious. I did overextend my shoulder laying out for a disc thrown by Robert Halili against the Japanese team at the Kaohsiung Games in 2007. I had to rest and stop playing for about 6 months until I felt the shoulder was strong enough to start playing again. What I tell younger players about injuries is to make sure they rest their bodies sufficiently in order to fully recover. You should not risk another quick injury while your body may still be weak. There will always be another season and there will always be another tournament. Where there may have been only one or two tourneys a year 20 years ago, there are now tourneys practically every weekend in the Asian region. Don't risk more serious long term issues...take some time out to get strong again!
I also took a break from the game for over a year in 1999 as I felt a bit frustrated at not improving very much. During that time, I played other sports and stayed in shape. When I came back to start playing just before the 2000 tournament in King's Park, I felt fully refreshed mentally and I think my game improved quickly for the next few years. We are now spoiled to have so many opportunities to play ultimate, that mental exhaustion may become a problem for some people. It's OK if you need to step back and perhaps not play league for a season but still play either pickup or on a club team for tournaments. It's also OK to stop playing any disc for a period of time. Like me, you will be more focused when you start up again and your passion will return.
After so many years I am losing the memory of specific tournaments and leagues. What I don't forget are all the wonderful times I have had and all the great people I have played with and partied with along the way.
There is no need to give me any award. The fun I have had and the friendships I have made over the past 20 years are more than enough reward for playing a sport I love.
May HKUPA continue to grow stronger and may you all be lucky enough to have 20 years of Ultimate Love & Layouts.