Wind or not, these were tremendous throws.
March 30, 2016 by Steve Hill in Opinion with 6 comments
Simon Lizotte’s 903-foot bomb and David Wiggins’ subsequent 1,109-foot moonshot this weekend in Primm, Nevada, broke not only the World Flying Disc Federation outdoor distance record, but also the Internet.
At various outlets – the Professional Disc Golf Association’s Facebook post about Lizotte’s record, Reddit, etc. – congratulatory messages dominated the discussion, to be sure. But for every couple of people in awe at the sheer magnitude of 275.5, and then 338, meters, there was at least one person taking issue with the milestone. The presiding sentiment of the dissenters? “Meh.”
Whether it was complaining about the quality of the Instagram video posted of Lizotte’s throw, or disputing the validity of the records due to their occurrence in front of a 30 and 40 mile per hour tailwinds, there was a loud segment of the disc golfing population that, for one reason or another, could not bring itself to appreciate both thrower’s achievements.
Or, if the naysayers truly did appreciate it, they certainly had an odd way of showing it.
As one of about 40 people on hand to witness Lizotte’s historic blast on Saturday, then, I feel I’m uniquely qualified to give any cynics this piece of advice: Slowly back away from the keyboard and allow yourself to be amazed.
To be sure, I understand the skepticism, as absorbing the record via social media, instead of in person, doesn’t lend itself to an authentic experience. You see the single-camera video, complete with rippling Innova Discs banner to signify the level of wind involved, and you’re not left with the best impression. You can’t even see the disc soar through the desert sky. So, from behind the screen, you feel safe to assume that the record is somehow invalid.
But by taking that stance, you are truly missing out on the experience to appreciate history. So allow me to add a little perspective that, I hope, will help to make you see the achievement for the epic feat that it was.
First, let’s talk the video. Would it have been great to see a higher quality production? Of course. But I am not sure that even the best disc golf videographers – with all due respect – could do the event justice. For one, the throwers at the High Desert Distance Challenge are throwing the discs so high in the air that they often get lost against the sky, making them hard to track with either the naked eye or a high-powered lens. Secondly, we’re talking attempts flying anywhere from 750-900 feet. Even with a catch camera down at the end of the lake bed, there’s no guarantee a videographer would have been close enough to the record-breaking throw (also not seen on the video: the spotter in a dead sprint to track the disc down).
And let’s not begin talking about the budget all of this production would require.
Next, we have the issue of the wind. Yes, Lizotte had the big breeze at his back for the record. But so did every other person at the event, as has every person at the desert distance competitions since Christian Sandstrom set the world record at 820 feet in 2002. In that regard, the playing field is level and perfectly within WFDF guidelines. This isn’t a track and field event, so don’t make it one.
But what all of the skepticism about the wind discounts is that there is a tremendous amount of skill involved in actually navigating those gales and using them to your advantage.
In fact, nearly every person I spoke with at the event highlighted the science behind the competition, and how hitting the exact release angle and giving the disc the proper height was key to maximizing distance. Too much of an anhyzer release – as could be seen on plenty of attempts throughout the day – and the disc would hold its angle to the ground without taking a full flight. Not enough anhyzer, and the disc’s natural stability takes over and makes it stall out.
For Lizotte to have crushed his Blizzard Boss the length of three football fields, the disc wasn’t just riding on the wind like a carrion bird cruising for lunch. It required an incredible amount of precision.
And if these accounts from someone who was on the ground aren’t enough to convince you, dear naysayer, maybe this will: The collective energy of the event completely changed for the 10 or so seconds Lizotte’s throw was in the air.
It started with silence, the only sounds being the wind and Lizotte’s feet crunching across the dry desert floor during his 360 degree run up. From there, a collective awe overtook everyone in attendance as they tracked the disc through the air. As the disc traveled further, that awe transformed into what I can only describe as an electricity, a shockwave washing over everyone who realized what they were seeing. When the disc finally hit the ground, a round of cheers and applause went up.
The distance hadn’t yet been measured, but everyone knew. Lizotte’s small fist pump, and that electricity, were all the proof we needed.
I know these words don’t truly capture the magnitude of the event, just as the video doesn’t, either. But I don’t think that changes the fact that you can appreciate what happened without having to question it.
Let yourself be amazed. You might be be surprised at how good it feels.