Playing with both sides

Jamming, everybody’s jamming. What a beautiful day. “Gimme an upside-downer.” Snap. “Now a rightside-upper.” . . .? A rightside upper? . . . That’s it! Oh, it finally makes sense! That’s why my mind is so captivated disc shaped pieces of plastic. Unlike the rest of the things I have been playing with all my life, a flying disc has two (count ‘em 2) distinct and very different sides. Is that why it is so different from the “objects” of other sports? Sideless baseballs, footballs, javelins, shot-puts, and hockey pucks all operate different principles. Even our fat cousin the discus just missed the point.

But surely not all sporting objects are so underprivileged that they are deproved of sides. No, pole vaulters and swimmers both have a top and bottom. So what’s the difference? The pits and pools don’t spin!

Let’s forget about that and get on to the joyfully limitless innovations of disc players. Once these guys start a disc spinning no part goes untouched. Just like the tired old story of the Indian and their buffalo, great freestylers find a use for every single bit of the disc. They nail delay the top and bottom, rim delay the inside and outside, use the ridge on Wham-O’s C mold, and somehow find flight ring delays on the old models. They can MAC the top, airbrush the side, padiddle a disc, and even breath delay a mini. Now with all this use, what I want to know is why no one hot stamps the bottoms!

These freestyle techniques sure get confusing and, in fact, quite overwhelming. By the time any one of these skills is copied, the state of the art has changed so drastically that there seems to be a constant need for something newer. But like any kind of technique it always goes back to the basics. For me, this is the nail delay, one side at a time.

The first time I saw a nail delay, I was totally mystified. “Hey, did you see that; man, what is going on around here?” I wanted answers and it drove me bananas, because unlike other sports, there was no way I could experience the big star performances vicariously. To relate to Dr. J all I have to do is to set up a six-foot hoop, but a nail delay…? About two months and a thousand questions later, I had attained my first goal; I was confident enough to practice an above-eye-level-clockwise-spinning-right-handed delay in the house. What a thrill; I laughed and laughed and laughed. Really wonderful, I thought. Now I only with my first teacher had told me to slick the disc. . .

Soon afterward I learned to delay a disc that was spinning upside-down. Quite quickly I found that it is in one way very different from delaying rightside-up. There is a longer walk to pick up drops. And slightly after that I learned about rim delays. If you can find one fingernail long enough to reach the corner of the disc, given enough practice, you’ll soon comprehend that slippery creature that changes curves and alters attitudes. Watch out though, for all their revelations, rim delays introduce extra friction. They are always, always capable of burgling the Z’s right out of your hands.

As I got more into this freestyle stuff my partner challenged me to put together a combination. “It’s the next step,” he said. Well the one I wanted to do the most involved delaying both sides of the disc at the same time. In this case I decided that the axiom about the whole being greater fun than the sum of its component parts is more true than ever.

The first time I saw anybody with hands simultaneously on a disc it was in my first copy of Frisbee Disc World (vol. 3 3). I had been delaying a short couple of months (I think I was up to using WD-40), but the trick was so hot, so state of the elusive art, that it captured my mind. Its attainment was a distant, much sought after milestone. Sought after not to say that I was physically capable of doing it, but to understand the disc well enough to comprehend just exactly how the trick would work. I had been playing with balls all my life, so I can sort of understand Dr. J levitating over the rim, but gyroscopic forces on a disc are another matter all together. Chris Taylor, who had written the Frisbee World Disc article, seemed to speak of the trick as though he was still a little mystified by it. The masters told him it was impossible, but still he knew that with the right tools and enough preparation its accomplishment was well within the physical laws of the universe. Such exploration is one of the very essential elements of our sport. People are just beginning to pioneer what a flying disc can do. So to our minds we can only say, “lead us not into limitation, but deliver us…” It’s so easy to get carried away. There I go again.

Back to the story. Before I had even seen a live and in person turnover, I knew that the crux of the matter was that the direction of the spin changed from one side of the plastic to the other. Chris Taylor told us that. So I, just like he, spent my time learning both spins on both hands. It was frustrating watching my friends accomplish more and more complicated single spin moves while I was in the elementary stages of both spins. I told myself that it would pay off and I’d one day put each spin together in a single package. It happened.

Chris said that in a turnover a clockwise spinning disc goes over to the opposite, counterclockwise spin. From playing with this idea and a disc, another self-evident realization came to mind. The disc also goes from one hand to its opposite, and again from one side of the plastic to its opposite. Everything, I thought, goes opposite: upside-down to rightside-up, left to right, and counter to clock. So 2x2x2=8. Therefore, there must be eight turnovers, if you could take either spin on either hand on either side of the disc, and turn them all over to their opposites. (I really am not sure if it is possible to turn them all the way over to anything else, but who knows?)

The fact that there had to be eight possible turnovers was obvious given a little thought. Accomplishing them is another story. Comprehending each one was my real goal, because I knew that would teach me about how a flying disc works. The physical part would come later. It was quite by accident that I learned a little about how our universe works. I told a scientist friend of mine that I didn’t know why the under-side was always spinning opposite its top. “It’s simple,” he said “why can’t you understand it? The same thing would happen if you turned over the earth. It would be spinning the other way.” Food for thought.

After studying the situation a bit, I was able to ask more than, “show me how to turn it over.” I asked everybody to show me their different turnovers. I learned first that it takes a lot of spin to do the trick. A rim delay causes a lot more friction that a nail delay, and a turnover is often both at once. Mega-Z’s are a must, especially at the beginning. A few extra can help us salvage our mistakes.

The next step was learning the pressure points both top and bottom. This essentially means knowing where to push and where to pull. My first turnover was upside-down to rightside-up. I started with my top hand pressing next to the rim and my bottom hand trying to turn the disc over. A rim delay (the top work on an upside-down disc) supported by a nail delay caused almost a total loss of spin. I finally got it though, and learned the risks: even with hot Z’s a turnover takes its toll.

The people who patiently taught me could show three turnovers that started clock: two upside-down and one rightside-up. The pressure points for each one were different. I found a lot more to it than just trying to keep a fingernail in the center. There is a balancing act with a hand on either side pushing the disc out of parallel with the ground. All this before righting it on the other side. Taking what we had learned from the Frisbee Disc World article, my friends and I extrapolated a bit more. Since one turnover started upside-down clock on the right hand, we figured we could learn the same thing starting upside-down counter on the left hand. With practice and experimentation we took the three tricks we had learned and turned them into six we understood.

The disc does go over and come up so we knew that the pressure points we had learned about did work. But I couldn’t help wondering if these points where optimum. What could be realized from trying some new ones? Well, a great thing happened when, for once, I moved off the rims. A lot of spin was left when the disc came over. Instantly I realized how and why the friction factor had been reduced, but more importantly, for the first time I felt the gyroscopic forces of a spinning disc. They were powerful; it was hard to turn the disc off its plane. There was real energy there. It reminded me of holding the axel of a spinning bicycle wheel and trying to change its plane. Now more than ever, I was left questions about the forces that act on a spinning disc. And questions about what else could be done with them.

Soon afterwards I began the familiar ritual of setting myself up, trying to figure out the seventh and eighth turnovers. Mostly I was pushing down on the disc and picking it up off the floor. It’s not such a bad was to spend a lonely afternoon. But all the time I was thinking, “what will happen if I push down here or there.” Finally one went over, and two tries later it was spinning the other spin on the other side on my other hand.

I managed to find out there actually are eight possible turnovers. For a few minutes I thought I knew them all. I was so excited. I was about to really start showing off. Later at home I started thinking about why I should have been able to figure out the last two from what I had known of the first six. “If that pressure point works that way, then this one would have to work this way,” kind of thinking. Clear enough. But, oh no, that means that still another point might work another way. That would mean, if you changed hands or started upside-down or…oh, at least ten or twelve variations, or who knows how many. And they are all related somehow.

Vickers Chambless

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