The day Tom and Vicki Schot tied the knot in 1983, a puppy lay on top of their wedding cake. Not to worry; it didn't slobber or shed on the icing. This was an inanimate puppy, circular and purple—a Super Puppy flying disc. More than anything else, you see, discs brought Tom and Vicki together.
Each August since 1978, Tom has organized a flying disc tournament. The first year Vicki helped out by selling T shirts. In '80 she became the tournament "comptroller" and kept the books, never one of Tom's strong suits. Two years ago they became husband and wife.
This year's tournament, christened by Schot the World Disc Championships, was the best meet that Santa Cruz, a.k.a. the world's Frisbee mecca, has seen in years and drew disc-iples from seven countries. For six days the air over Monterey Bay was thick with polyethylene, and Tom Schot was in his element.
Actually, the U.S. Open, held in La Mirada, Calif. in July, fielded more world-class talent than the Worlds because the Open offered $35,000 in prize money. Winners at the Worlds received trophies and all the glory they could handle, but no cash—however, to the 450 discers in Santa Cruz it didn't seem to matter. Surprisingly, after the '81 championships there was actually black ink to drink—Schot made four dollars, and those clams are framed and on display in his office. Despite the money he has lost—$80,000 in eight years—Schot is proud of the tradition he has established. "You think these guys play for the money?" he asks. "They show up because they care for the sport. This tournament has a reputation," he continues. "I make it happen. This is my thing."
It seemed silly, after such a lecture, to ask disc pro John Brooks why he had come to Santa Cruz, since there would be no dough. Brooks, 25, known in disc circles as Crazy John, inspected his questioner through mad scientist glasses for a moment. "Read the posters, man," said the Craze. "World Championships. World Championships! And besides, every time I come here, it's the best time I've ever had."
It certainly doesn't hurt that Santa Cruz, with its Pacific palisades and skyscraping conifers, is a way station to heaven and could probably make a hit of a cow-chip invitational. Preliminaries were held at the UC Santa Cruz athletic fields on a verdant plain that slices into Mount Hermon. Each noon the mist burned away on cue, exposing Monterey Bay, a distant, shimmering amethyst. To make the package all but irresistible to disc fans, Schot, a present-day Barnum, threw in bicycle breakdancers, skydivers and a 200-foot-long sandwich.
Over coffee at the Santa Cruz Holiday Inn early Thursday morning, the third day of the Worlds, Brooks, a member of the Bud Light Pro Frisbee Team and arguably the country's best overall player, debunked some myths about disc pros like himself, pausing every so often to stifle a yawn or knuckle sleep out of his eyes. "Hey, this is not a party," he insisted. "We take this seriously. I train all year round, you know. I was in early last night."
It appeared that Crazy John was wearing Wednesday's socks—unless he owns two pairs with identically arranged dirt. Also, he was sporting yesterday's sweat shirt. Key difference: On Thursday it was inside out. As he pointed out, a minimalist wardrobe can work to one's advantage. "I pack in half the time."
Brooks had a chance to test his packing skills that very afternoon. He was evicted from his hotel along with nine disc buddies with whom he had been sharing a room for two. Not to worry—the 10 were quickly absorbed into the local disc community. "We see a lot of each other at these tournaments," says Brooks. "We're sort of a big, extended family."
So they were. An unmistakable flavor of misplaced '60s, a kind of neo-groovy bonhomie, pervaded the week. There were more men in ponytails than might be found in all of, say, Waco or Green Bay. Tie-dyed clothes made a modest comeback, as did flower power: Carnations sprouted mysteriously from the end-zone cones on the Ultimate fields. VW microbuses with Grateful Dead stickers filled the parking lots. Someone actually called Frisbee "a nonaggressive personal development tool."