Ken in a calmer moment—1977

I’ve posted earlier a number of stories, pictures and videos about the flying disc and some of the first expert players who also promoted the sport. Now here is the final part of another story sent to me by Audra Gonsalves, the wife of one of those pioneers, Ken Westerfield. It’s amazing how much of a difference just a few people can make in changing our culture and bringing the pleasures of a sport to millions of people. I posted Part 1 yesterday.

Competitive Years 1974-78

Frisbee (Disc) tournaments were beginning to attract excellent disc competitors from everywhere. What was once a top selling pastime with a toy from Wham-O was becoming a serious competitive sport. In 1975, at the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships in Toronto, Westerfield set the MTA (maximum time aloft) world record with a sidearm throw of 15 seconds, using a Super Pro Model Frisbee, crushing the old record of 11 seconds. Also in 1975 Westerfield invented a freestyle move called body rolls, (rolling the disc across out stretched arms and chest, or back), then introduced the move at a national tournament in Rochester, NY called the AFDO, (American Flying Disc Open). The hottest move of the day was called the Canadian Mind Blower: Westerfield would roll the Frisbee across outstretched arms and chest, to outstretched arms across the back (front to back roll). Today body rolls are an integral part of every freestyle routine.

Ken made Frisbee history—1977

In 1976, Wham-O sponsored the North American Series (NAS) Frisbee Championships across the US and Canada, to qualify players for the world championships held annually at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Winning numerous freestyle and individual events, Westerfield was voted, Best Men’s Player 1970-1975 Decade Awards

At a North American Series (NAS) Frisbee tournament in Dallas Texas, Westerfield became a member of the “400 club” with a prelim distance sidearm throw, and won the event with a throw of 378 feet, using a 119-gram World Class Model Frisbee. Only two competitors have officially ever thrown over 400 feet in competition with a 119-gram Frisbee (Lightweight disc by today’s standard).

1978, in Boulder, Colorado, while doing a distance throwing demonstration at a North American Series (NAS) Event, Westerfield threw a sidearm 119-gram World Class Model Frisbee, 552 feet, shattering the official world distance record of 412 feet.

This is how Kevin (Skippy) Givens, five time World Freestyle Champion, remembers it:

“Someone paced off the distance to a building at 500 feet. Dave Johnson (former distance world record holder) and others we’re trying to hit it. Finally Dave hits the building and the crowd goes wild. Ken Westerfield was sitting and watching. After Dave hit the building the crowd started to yell for Ken to throw. At first Ken was dismissive, not interested. Finally Ken stood up, went to the line, sized up the task then let it fly. It landed in the parking lot past the building on his first throw with no warm up. The crowd went crazy. It was the most incredible throw I’d ever seen”.

Tournament officials marked and measured the throw at 552 feet. Since the introduction of heavy weight, sharp edge disc, the world record is now over 800 feet. However Westerfield still holds the record for the sidearm throw.

In 1978, Kenner moved to London, Ontario, and there created a disc manufacturing and
distributing company called Discraft. Westerfield moved to Santa Cruz, California, teaming up with Tom Schot, to help produce Frisbee events in Northern California, including the Santa Cruz World Flying Disc Championships and the Northern California Ultimate League. Ken also created a Frisbee Show called Goodtimes Professional Frisbee Show that featured Freestyle Champion Mary Kathron, and later World Freestyle Champion Brian McElwain. This touring team performed shows at universities, fairs and professional sporting events throughout the US and Canada. Returning to Toronto in 1979, Ken and Mary continued to do cross country touring shows with corporate sponsors, Labatt Brewing Company, Air Canada, Lee Jeans and Orange Crush.

Ultimate Frisbee in Canada (Disc Ultimate)

Retiring from competing in National Tournaments, Westerfield organized and produced local disc events in Toronto, and in 1979-80, with the help of Irwin Toy’s Bob Blakely and Chris Lowcock, Ken created the Toronto Ultimate League. The first year there were four teams. The Toronto Ultimate League developed and was renamed the Toronto Ultimate Club, that now has 3300 members and over 250 Teams playing year round. This was the first Ultimate League in Canada. In 2010, Ken Westerfield was inducted into the Toronto Ultimate Club Hall of Fame. In 2011, Ken was also inducted into the Canadian Ultimate Hall of Fame.

This is a passage taken from the Toronto Ultimate Club Hall of Fame presentation:

In the late 1970’s Ken discovered the game of Ultimate in the USA and brought it to Toronto. He introduced the game at Kew Beach to an initial core of people and from there planted the seed for Ultimate Frisbee in Toronto. Ken was larger than life to this growing core of players who craved increased knowledge and skill development. He created pickup and the establishment of (4 teams) beginning in 1980. Not only was he an architect for the origins of the TUC, but Ken’s influence as a player and a person made his reputation legendary. Simply put, he was the point man on all aspects of disc play, the “go to” guy that everyone looked up to.

Awards and achievements

1970-1975 – Voted Best Men’s Player, Decade Awards.

1970-1975 – Voted Best Freestyle Routine 1974 Canadian Open, Ken Westerfield/Jim Kenner, Decade Award.s

1972-1976 – Irwin Frisbee Team (as the Canadian Frisbee Champions, Irwin was the Frisbee
manufacturer in Canada) with Jim Kenner performing Frisbee shows at special events across Canada.

1973-1979 – The Canadian Open Frisbee Championships, Toronto (produced and tournament director with Jim Kenner).

1974 – Ken Westerfield and Jim Kenner (CEO and founder of Discraft) introduce and win the first Freestyle Competition at the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships, Toronto. This was the first Freestyle Competition ever.

1974-1977 Molson Frisbee Team, performing Frisbee freestyle shows with Jim Kenner at special events and Canadian universities in Ontario.

1975 – World MTA Record 15 seconds.

1975 – Introduced a freestyle move called body rolls at the AFDO in Rochester, New Yor.k

1975-1976 – Signature endorsing the Canadian World Class Frisbee.

1975-1976 – Vancouver Frisbee Championships (producer and tournament director with Jim Kenner at Kitsilano Beach).

1976-1978 – Winning 15 first place titles in North American Series (NAS) Frisbee Tournaments (Open Division) in Freestyle and individual events.

1978 – In a North American Series (NAS) Tournament in Dallas, Texas, became a member of the exclusive “400 Club” with a prelim sidearm throw, and winning the event with a throw of 378 feet. Only two competitors had ever thrown over 400 feet in competition.

1978 – World distance record during a distance demonstration at a (NAS) Frisbee Tournament, with a sidearm throw of 552 feet, Boulder, Colorado. This record still stands today for the sidearm throw.

1978 – Santa Cruz Flying Disc Classic, Santa Cruz, California (produced and tournament director with Tom Schot).

1979-1982- Goodtimes Professional Frisbee Show, performing with Women’s Champion Mary Kathron at Canadian and US universities.

1980 – Ken started the Toronto Ultimate League (Club), which was the first Ultimate (sport) League in Canada.

1983-1985 – Labatt’s Schooner Frisbee Team, performing Freestyle Shows at special events in Ontario with Brian McElwain, Patrick Chartrand and Peter Turcaj

1986 – World Labatt’s Guts (game) Championships (produced and tournament director with Peter Turcaj).

1987 – World PDGA Golf Championships, Toronto (produced and tournament director).

1987 – National Champion on Darkside (Ultimate (sport).

2010 – Inducted into the Toronto Ultimate Club Hall of Fame.

2011 – Inducted into the Canadian Ultimate Hall of Fame.