DISC DRIVE : Lure of Frisbees Captivates a Diverse Clientele Ranging From Children to Veteran Connoisseurs of an Ultimate Pastime

Times Staff Writer

Dave Lorenzen considers a Frisbee standard equipment when he takes his family on camping trips. Whenever his kids get restless, out come the moon-shaped plastic discs.

Lorenzen never viewed a Frisbee as anything other than a plastic pacifier, however, until his sons, Casey, 9, and Rick, 7, entered the World Junior Frisbee Disc contest at Peach Hill Park in Moorpark last Saturday.

Yet even after Casey and Rick had signed up, it was still hard for Lorenzen to take a Frisbee contest seriously.

"We started practicing about five minutes before we got here," Lorenzen said.

Casey and Rick Lorenzen could have used more practice, as both youngsters failed to score enough points to advance to the World Junior Frisbee Disc regional championships Aug. 5 at Victory Park in Pasadena. The Lorenzen brothers needed to score 15 points in three divisions--accuracy, throwing and catching--to advance.

Maritza Torres, 15, of Moorpark, was all business in the competition and her approach paid off. Torres is the first girl in three years of the Moorpark tournament to qualify for the regionals.

"I've been practicing real hard for this contest with my parents," Torres said.

More than 50 of the top juniors, age 16 and younger, from throughout the western United States are expected to compete in the regional championships next month in Pasadena. The top finishers will advance to the World Junior Frisbee Finals Oct. 18-22 in San Diego.

The world junior champion receives a $1,000 savings bond and the second-place finisher wins a $500 savings bond.

For Wham-O, which manufactures Frisbees, the annual contests help to introduce the popular plastic toys to a new generation of disc jockeys each year.

For older Frisbee aficionados who never had the chance to compete in organized contests, there is another popular use for the toy--ultimate Frisbee, a sport which combines the nonstop action of soccer with the passing and catching of football.

Ultimate Frisbee is most popular with former college jocks who never got playing with a Frisbee out of their system, according to Ron Rauch, executive director of the New York-based Ultimate Players Assn.

"Most ultimate Frisbee players start off by playing other sports--soccer, basketball, football or lacrosse--and then they come over to this sport," Rauch said.

Rauch estimates there are more than 20,000 ultimate Frisbee players nationwide who compete on club teams, in summer leagues or in intramural programs. Members of the Ultimate Players Assn. cap each season at a national championship tournament.

For the super-serious ultimate Frisbee player there is the World Championships. Sixteen countries competed in last year's world championships held in Leuven, Belgium, which was won by a team from the United States.

In ultimate Frisbee, a seven-man team advances down a 70-yard field by passing. A point is scored when a player catches the Frisbee in the end zone. Games can last up to four hours depending on the point ceiling that is determined before the match.

Rauch estimates that the Frisbee is the main attraction to the sport.

"A ball goes up and comes down, there's not a lot you can do with it," Rauch said. "You can bank a Frisbee or make it rise over a defender. It's a sport which demands an incredible amount of conditioning just to compete."

Tom Hayden, 31, of Moorpark, has been involved with Wild Fling, a Camarillo-based ultimate Frisbee team for the past five years. He was introduced to the sport by his wife, Elaine, who competed in ultimate Frisbee in college.

"I've always loved team sports like football or basketball," Hayden said. "There is a lot of action involved and it is a real fast-moving sport. You can do a lot more with a Frisbee than with a conventional football."

While Wham-O makes Frisbees, it cannot take credit for ultimate Frisbee. The sport originated in Maplewood, N.J., in 1968 when a group of reporters on the newspaper at Columbia High invented a game involving a Frisbee. Ultimate Frisbee quickly became popular with college students, which led to the first intercollegiate ultimate Frisbee game between Princeton and Rutgers in 1972.

Today, ultimate Frisbee is played in 25 countries and it continues to attract new converts, according to Rauch.

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