I grew up in Woodstock, New Brunswick, Canada and moved away after graduating from high school. For the past ten years, I have been living in Calgary, Alberta, Canada pursuing my passion for Frisbee, which includes competing, teaching and growing the sport. I currently have 6 Guinness World Records, 10 World Championships and the Canadian Distance Record. This is my story.
I was born in Edmonton, Alberta in 1982 and moved to Woodstock in 1984 when my dad got a job in town. My sister was born in Woodstock in 1985 when I was almost three years old, so a big part of my childhood was being the older brother. Both of my parents were very athletic – my dad in football and my mom in golf – so it was only natural that I played sports from a young age. I started swimming before I could walk, and I started skating just after I learned how to walk. My parents didn’t have a lot of money, so figure skating and swimming were fairly inexpensive since there wasn’t a lot of equipment involved, unlike other sports like hockey.
As a young boy, I was teased from a young age for being in figure skating. I never competed in figure skating competitions, but other boys would see me at the rink – they were there for hockey, and I was there for figure skating and make fun of me. I loved to skate and although their words hurt, I had very supportive and loving parents and they never treated me differently so I did my best to ignore the boys.
As I got older in figure skating, I started teaching younger kids how to skate, including young boys. I was a role model for these young boys because there were only a few of us older boys in figure skating (two of us in fact). I loved teaching kids how to skate, and that was my favourite part of being in figure skating. However, the hockey boys who made fun of me, didn’t care or didn’t know about the impact I was having on these young boys, so they continued to make fun of me.
I continued to teach and work on my skills in figure skating. Then, one day on the playground, a large group of roughly 50 kids were teasing me and making fun of me for being a figure skater. They were jumping and sliding around on the ice, and it upset me so bad that I started to cry and ran inside. That was the last year I would ever figure skate. That fall, I quit figure skating and started playing hockey.
If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help build theirs.
Although I was not destined to be an Olympic figure skater, I did love teaching and being on the ice, and it was also great to see my friends. After I had quit figure skating, I wasn’t seeing those friends anymore, and I also wasn’t teaching those young boys how to skate. Looking back, I wonder what I would have done had I understood this impact. I like to think that I would have tried to keep teaching skating but in reality I’m not so sure.
From that point on, I was part of the “in” crowd since I was a hockey player. For the next seven years, I played Peewee and Bantam AAA hockey and was also a part of the high school AA provincial champion Woodstock Warriors when I was in grade 11 & 12. With all of the years I put into figure skating, I was the fastest and best skater on my hockey team every year I played. It was definitely worth it even when it seemed like it wasn’t. It was impossible to know that at the time, but looking back years later, it became very clear.
After high school, I moved to Alberta and went to the University of Alberta for my first year of university. Due to where I lived, it was impossible for me to play sports. To stay in shape, I tried to jog around the neighbourhood as much as I could. I also bought a disc during clubs week from the University ultimate team. I remember seeing it a few times in high school so that became something else I could do for exercise. This was before Facebook, youtube, twitter or online communities existed. I wasn’t able to easily search for the different ways to throw a Frisbee, and there wasn’t any information about the various disc sports I could play. I was able to find a basic website that had a pretty simple article teaching how to throw the two most basic throws – the backhand and forehand. I used this website as my starting point, and I would spent as much time as I could – roughly an hour every day – learning to throw in the field. It became a form of meditation, an escape from the grueling work and material I was learning in first-year engineering. For those first eight months, I just threw because I didn’t have anyone else to throw with nor did I know anything about the other disc sports that existed.
Two weeks after I had returned home from my first year away at university, my mom had a heart attack and died instantly. It was on May 17, 2001, four days after my family had played a round of golf for mother’s day. I was so excited to be home for the summer because I had missed my family terribly. I was also looking forward to going to Dalhousie University in Halifax since I decided that it was too hard being so far away from home.
To say that my mother’s death was hard would be an extreme understatement. It was the worst thing that could happen to me. I did not handle it very well, and I very quickly closed myself off to the possibility of any relationships for fear of losing someone I cared about again. I instantly went into self-protect mode and in this space, I turned to Frisbee. I spent hours practicing throwing and in September 2001, during the first week of my second year, I saw a sign for the Dal/King’s Ultimate Team (DKUT). I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be life changing. Over the next four years at Dal, ultimate (and disc golf with an ultimate disc), became my way to grieve losing my mom. The first two years I spent learning the game, getting cut from the A team, developing friendships, and eventually running the team (during my final two years at Dal). I learned how to throw far, teaching throwing, design websites, edit videos, run a tournament, manage and coach a team and I started to find out who I was again.
It would still take another six years, but my four years at Dal (3.5 years in engineering and one semester in business) would form the foundation for what I am currently doing today.
It was through that discovery process – both of Frisbee and of myself – that I would learn the lessons and deal with the challenges that would shape who I am.
Ten years ago, I moved to Calgary for three reasons – ultimate, a girl and a job. After three months, I no longer had a girl or a job, so I decided to stay for ultimate. Over the next few years, I would bounce around between jobs, school and traveling all over Western Canada competing in ultimate tournaments. I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I did know that I was good at Frisbee, and I wanted to play as much of it as possible.
In 2010, a good friend of mine introduced me to disc golf with golf discs. Up to that point, I had only ever played disc golf with ultimate discs, which is a much different and much less exciting experience because golf discs have so many more possibilities in how they fly. Being introduced to golf discs changed the way I looked at Frisbee and elevated my throwing to a whole new level. In the summer of 2011, I was invited to the World Overall Flying Disc Championships in Colorado by a former world champion. An overall competition is exactly like a heptathlon in track and field but instead there are seven different disc sports. This further changed my life because I met many of the original Frisbee innovators from the 70’s, who have since become my close friends and mentors.
In August 2011, I set my first World Record, which happened also to be my first with Davy Whippet. Davy is a 6.5-year-old Whippet owned by my good friends in Edmonton. Since that day in August, Davy and I have set 2 Guinness World Records (for a total of 6 World Records). We have also won 4 World Championships and have won 2 Quadruped titles (a dog disc distance competition).
The first time I saw my name on the website with the title World Record, it flipped a switch inside me and showed me that anything was possible. However, there was still a lot of learning that needed to be done.
In 2013, I was fired from a good paying job. At the time, it was hard financially and egotistically, but it turned out that being fired was the best thing could have happened to me. From my first day at this job in 2010, I had gotten much more involved in Frisbee, and it was only a matter of time before it took over my job. I wasn’t going to quit anytime soon but being fired gave me the spark I needed to commit fully to Frisbee and started down the path that I am still on today.
At first it was terrifying. There were weeks when I had $5, and I had to choose between buying milk or buying gas. I learned that $5 would get me 50km in my car. So usually I would choose gas, in order to drive to play Frisbee.
It’s been hard working through the emotions that come from losing someone you love but looking back; it’s very clear to me how it’s all helped create the man I am today. My mom was my biggest fan, and I only wish that she was able to see me play Frisbee because it’s the only sport that she wasn’t there watching me play.
Over my life, I’ve had many ups and down, many successes and failures, many days of happiness and sadness. But what has kept me going through it all – and what will keep me doing until I cannot anymore – is that I have a purpose. I love Frisbee – teaching, competing and growing the sport and my goal is to give at least every kid the opportunity to see and hear about Frisbee the way it can be.
I also love talking to kids about being unique, embracing differences, finding what they love and supporting others who are doing the same.
I’m spreading my message to kids that friends don’t bully, and if it is bullying, then those kids aren’t their friends.
Through it all, I strive to improve myself and inspire those around me to my words and my actions. I believe that’s what life is all about. Finding your purpose. Finding your passion. Going after it. Never settling. Not giving up and keep moving forward.