The US are the favorites, but some intriguing teams will look to upset them.
October 31, 2023 by Kelsey Hayden in Preview with 0 comments
Ultiworld’s coverage of the WFDF 2023 World Beach Championships is presented by Spin Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author(s). Find out how Spin can get you, and your team, looking your best this season.
It’s been six years since the last iteration of the World Beach Ultimate Championships. So much has happened since 2017 that it honestly feels like a lifetime since we’ve seen teams line up in the scorching hot sand and try to perform with grains blowing into their eyes. But at last, WBUC is back and this time it’s in sunny California.
While the 2023 WBUC event is sure to be exciting, it is notable just how much smaller this event is than the last. In 2017, on the beach in Royan, France, over 100 teams competed across seven divisions: Women, Open, Mixed, Masters’ Women, Masters’ Open, Masters’ Mixed, and Grandmasters Open. In stark contrast, the 2023 event has 45 teams across five divisions – we won’t be seeing a Masters’ Women or Masters Open division this year due to a lack of teams.
So what should we expect from WBUC 2023? If history has taught us anything, Team USA will absolutely dominate on the beach – they have only missed out on the gold medal three times since the event’s inception in any division (USA Women won silver in 2017, USA Mixed won bronze in 2015, and USA Mixed Masters won silver in 2011) and the rosters for this year look up to the task of sweeping again. But beach and wind can be an equalizer, and this is the type of event where the range of preparation will vary widely from team to team, so it will be exciting to see how all teams perform this week.
- Location: Huntington Beach, CA
- Dates: Nov 1-5, 2023
- Weather: 73 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, 7-8 mph wind
- Divisions: Women’s, Mixed, Open, Masters’ Mixed, Grandmasters’ Open
- Tournament Schedule
- How to Watch
With only seven women’s teams in the mix, the tournament format is pretty simple. First, there will be a round robin between all seven teams, and then they will divide into the top three (Pool B) and bottom 4 (Pool C). Each pool will do another round robin and then the top team from Pool C will join the three teams in Pool B for the bracket.
The top four seeded teams in the women’s division are Team USA, Team Great Britain, Team Canada, and Team Spain, in that order. Teams matching up against Team USA Women will have to try to slow down the 2023 Top 25 Women’s Club #1 pick Claire Trop, to start. If they find a way to stifle her relentless cutting, next they’ll have to come with answers for the likes of Jesse Shofner, Dena Elimelech, and Robyn Fennig just to name a few. The Team USA Women’s roster is deep, talented, and undoubtedly the odds on favorite to win, maybe never even dropping a game.
The team with the best chance at grabbing the gold other than USA in the women’s division is probably Team Canada, despite their initial no.3 seeding. TC will be led by Britt Dos Santos, arguably the best player in the Great White North these days. She’ll be accompanied by defensive powerhouse Alyssa Mason, huck-loving Anouchka Beaudry, and a myriad of other talented Canadian women, including some lesser known talents that could have breakout performances this week. It will be an uphill battle to contend with the superstar lineup that is Team USA, but neighborly rivals Canada could be just the right squad to do it.
Great Britain – though coming into the tournament seeded no.2, likely based on 2017 results – will have a hard time maintaining their seed through the tournament. This GB contingent just doesn’t have the top names you’d expect at a Worlds event — namely, the ageless Forth sisters who were so effective in 2017 — so they will have a lot to prove. In contrary, Team Spain is a promising squad that could make some waves if Carmen Toscano Sánchez and Cristina Navasa bring their A-games.
There are 10 teams vying for gold in the open division, and they will start the run for the podium with a very big round robin between all teams. Yes, teams will start by playing a whopping nine pool play games each. Following this gauntlet, the top eight teams will move straight into a traditional bracket and the bottom two will be out on contention.
In the open division, it’s much of the same story with Team USA coming in as the deserved number one seed. On paper at least, there is simply no team that has a roster that can stack up next to this list of names. The team features eight of the 2023 Top 25 Men’s Club Players, including three1 of the top five. Any of the next five teams could make a run for silver but it’s hard to imagine Team USA doesn’t have the gold basically secured due to their depth being completely unmatched.
Team Great Britain’s top end talent will be able to run with the likes of any elite players – Tom Abrams, Justin Foord, and Connor McHale (who just made an impressive run to the final with Chicago Machine last weekend) are all good for some show stopping plays every tournament. They could want some revenge after getting a bit run over by the United States in 2017’s final match. Team Canada shows similar promise with an experienced squad and some up and coming talent – keep an eye out for Quinn Snider, who could be a breakout star this week. Team Spain have some players worth watching for – rumor has it Alvaro Iturmendi might be the fastest beach player in Europe, and Alvaro Monterde was outstanding at EUC this summer. Nobody come closer to shocking the US in 2017 than Spain’s squad. The Philippines have cultivated a strong lineage of success on the sand, but just missed the medal podium in 2017, and will be itching to prove they belong among the world’s best. Antonio Francisco was a tournament standout for them in the mixed division in 2017 and brings valuable experience.
The mixed division has the largest number of teams with 14, and therefore is the only division that will use a more traditional pool system to start. Teams are divided into two pools of seven to start, and then the top four teams from each pool go start to the bracket. Pretty simple.
Not to beat a dead horse, but Team USA is absolutely still the team to beat in this division and rightfully so they are the first seed. While the mixed division often lends itself to more chaos, and that certainly may still be true this time since many other countries have put their best players on the mixed team, the Team USA roster is quite frankly outstanding. To start, the roster boasts four World Games champions from last year – Khalif El-Salaam, Carolyn Finney, Sarah Meckstroth, and Kaela Helton. But those names barely stand out on the roster since the whole list is full top to bottom with talent from most of the nation’s best club outfits.
Canada Mixed is coming in seeded no.2, but will probably struggle to hold back the barrage of teams competing to move up the ranks, though keep an eye out for some impressive athletic plays from Penelope Robert, who was a recent U24 star, and Jacquie Mann, a recent CUCM champion.
Germany Mixed, who are seeded no.3, have an impressive lineup in the mixed division, featuring newly-minted two USAU Club Champions in Lena Trautmann and Levke Walczak, along with PoNY D-line stalwart and fellow German World Games player Conrad Schloer. Germany boasts a myriad of other talented players in Frederike Wagener, Charlotte Schall, and more. It’s clear Germany is going for another gold with this squad to add to their 2015 first place medallion and it will be delightful to see how they stack up against the various stars on Team USA in pool play and maybe later in the bracket.
Masters’ Mixed and Grandmasters’ Open
The other two divisions competing this week on the beach both have seven teams a piece. They will follow the same format as the women’s division – there will be a round robin between all seven teams, and then they will divide into the top three (Pool B) and bottom four (Pool C). Each pool will do another round robin and then the top team from Pool C will join the three teams in Pool B for the bracket.
USA is the reigning champion in both divisions. In Masters’ mixed, Canada and Germany will look to reprise 2017 roles as top challengers. The US was pretty unstoppable in 2017 in Grandmasters’ open, and it isn’t clear there’s a team to change that this time around, either.
Christian Boxley, Chris Kocher, and Ben Jagt ↩