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10 Questions for Lisa Hunrichs

by: COURTESY OF Lori Daniels, 
Lisa Hunrichs, executive director of the Freestyle Players Association, has won 11 world freestyle disc championships.

Portland's Lisa Hunrichs has won 11 world freestyle disc championships, but she didn't pick up the sport until well into her adult years - in 1991.

'I was studying to be an actress,' says Hunrichs, 46, who works for Ziba Design and who moved to Portland from Seattle four years ago. 'I met a guy showing us tricks, and I went out to Green Lake (Wash.), where everybody was playing. I saw it and said, 'That's crazy, I'll never do that.' They were patient with me, stuck with me, and I started picking up the tricks and, within a few years, I was rising to the top. I never really picked up a Frisbee before that.'

The Tribune talked flying discs with Hunrichs, who's also executive director of the Freestyle Players Association (www.freestyledisc.org):

Tribune: Describe freestyle disc.

Hunrichs: It's choreographed routine to music, using a flying disc, a series of balletic or acrobatic movements. You move around and do things like double spinning catches. In competition, it's choreographed routine; in play time, it's more like a spontaneous set of moves shared between people. Like musicians sitting down and 'here's what we want to do' and everybody just plays, or like freestyle dance.

Tribune: How do you compete and how are you judged?

Hunrichs: You're judged as a team, and there are four different categories: women's; open (which is usually two men); mixed pairs; and co-op three-person teams. My (world) titles have been in mixed pairs and women's pairs. I've been to the finals several times for co-op, with the highest being third place. … There are nine judges, mostly judging on the 10-point scale - three judges in each category of difficulty, presentation and execution. In the eights is good. They are four five-minute routines, and there's some discussion whether we should shorten the routines to pack in all the moves.

Tribune: How'd you do this year?

Hunrichs: The world championships were in Berlin, and I wasn't planning on going because of cost. It's a small sport, with not a lot of sponsorship, people do it for the love of the sport. There's a little prize money, enough to cover a few dinners, not the plane ticket and you use vacation time and expend energy. But the last second I decided to go, and I teamed with a person I'd never teamed with before (Jan Schreck, from Berlin) and got third in mixed pairs. … Next year (worlds) is in Seattle, at Green Lake, Aug. 5-8, kind of my home turf.

Tribune: What's a five-minute routine like?

Hunrichs: You're running a lot, moving around a lot, there's an element of fatigue. You're choreographing, thinking about how you want to start off, and work into more difficult moves. You have to deal with wind, it can affect how the disc will fly.

Tribune: What's the basic concept of the sport?

Hunrichs: We have ways of throwing the Frisbee that releases it with tons of spin. The more spin there is, the longer the disc will spin on your finger and the more tricks you can do. You have a (fake) fingernail you wear, because skin creates friction. Sometimes you have them on two pointer fingers, sometimes four fingers and your thumb, and sometimes people use toe fingers. The basic move of freestyle Frisbee is dealing with the Frisbee on your finger, delaying it. You move your finger around, so the disc stays in the middle of your finger, then you can do tricks around it. … The best players can throw any way with a multitude of discs.

Tribune: What about moves?

Hunrichs: The thing that makes moves more difficult is when you add restrictions to them, like holding the Frisbee under your leg or your arm moving around the opposite leg. They have fancy names for the types of catches. Just like in skateboarding and figure skating, we have our triple spinning lutz and triple phlaud, the gitis (across body catch), a perch (same arm, same leg). It's funny how moves have been named and created. There are really strange names like Brain Hotel. Arvons. I have one called Advil.

Tribune: Are drops part of the game?

Hunrichs: Most winning routines have four drops or less. They are a big deduction, you don't wanna do that.

Tribune: You're about 5-foot-8, is that an advantage?

Hunrichs: I would think it is. It depends on flexibility, if you're able to get into certain situations with your body.

Tribune: You've teamed with your boyfriend?

Hunrichs: He's also a world freestyle champion, Matt Gauthier. His brother Jake also lives here, and the two of them have won world championships twice. Jake's girlfriend, Lori Daniels, also lives here. For women's, I usually team with Cindy Kruger of Seattle.

Tribune: How much a part of your life is Frisbee?

Hunrichs: I would say it's a major part of my life. I don't think about Frisbee moves every day, but in the summer life is geared toward when are we going to 'jam.'