Rise of the Mutants

May 29, 2024  •  3 Comments

Rise of the MutantsRise of the Mutants —by Kevin "Skippy Jammer" Givens—

Modesto, CAModesto, CA Modesto is a large rural agricultural town in the Central Valley of California. There used to be a large sign at the entrance to town which bragged “On the Way to Where You’re Going”—inferring that no one in their right mind would be in Modesto by choice, it just happened to be on the way to a far more interesting place: The High Sierra Mountain Range or the Bay Area beckoned with promise, far from the flatlands and cultural wasteland of what we called home. But for us, freshly out of High School without prospects of a career or the proclivity towards university life, we would spend the languid days of our youth in the one redeeming sanctuary that Modesto offered. It was ripe with wonderful parks. And in those parks, we would find ample stimulus for our fertile yet largely undeveloped minds.

Mutants-group photoModesto Mutants(L to R) Andre Lengyl, Evan Furtado, Kevin Givens, Michael Young, Reed Countryman We were a group of outcasts. Too weird to be part of the jocks, too athletic to be part of the arty people, too unfocused to be capable academically. And so, we found our solace with each other’s company. Our group consisted of myself, Evan Furtado, Andy Yates, Reed Countryman, Rick Richardson and Andre Lengyl. Our interests were in satire, progressive music, language, and sports. A favorite past time of ours was to go to a ‘Jock Party’ where Evan would purposefully make fun of the biggest guy there. But due to Evan’s highly developed skill with logic, paired with his keen sense of satire, the large football jock would only know he was being made fun of, but have no idea why. It would always reach a boiling point when we would sprint for our cars, steps ahead of certain peril. Of course, we developed this to a fine art.

Frisbee—Stancil JohnsonFrisbee—A practitioner's manual and definitive treatiseby Dr. Stancil E. D. Johnson Frisbee—Stancil Johnson—Back CoverFrisbee—A practitioner's manual and definitive treatiseby Dr. Stancil E. D. Johnson One day at our local park Evan showed up with a new book. FRISBEE A practitioner’s manual and definitive treatise By Dr. Stancil E.D. Johnson. We all held the book with deep wonder. As we turned each page, mysteries revealed themselves. It was a life changing event, studying that book for the very first time. The next day at the park we all brought our newly purchased book and went through it page by page. With each new chapter we would immerse ourselves into the described activity. It felt like we were connecting with something larger, something important. But more importantly, this book was giving us focus. Something we had never had before. This was something we could actually do.

Mutants—Young, GivensMutants—Young, GivensPhoto by Tom Salyer, published in Frisbee World, Nov/Dec 1978 In due time, our skills began to develop, and with it, our obsession. After several months of play, we were vastly improved. Then one day, one of our friends older brother moved back into town. Christopher Young was a very gifted musician who was making handmade harpsicords and selling them to classical musicians in San Francisco. His older Brother Michael had decided to move back into town to work on his degree. Michael was recently in the San Francisco Ballet troupe and was a capable juggler as well. When he heard we had formed a Frisbee club he quickly showed up and displayed his far superior skills. We were stunned. Michael was an actual Frisbee player, we were just a group of guys who were enjoying playing with Frisbees.

KG InvertKevin GivensInvert catch EF PhlaerdEvan FurtadoPhlaerd catch What Michael did for us was transform our expectations. This was a huge paradigm shift for us. But there was one set of skills that we had that Michael lacked. We were better at “freestyle” than he was. In our peculiar minds, we thought the idea was to do the most difficult catch ever in the history of the world with each delivered throw. And do as many of them as possible. What this created was quick punchy restricted catches: Phlaerdetzed, Flamedotz, Grunt Trailers, Head/Knee traps and Eflex. We also eagerly named each new catch, utilizing our skill at language and esoteric humor.

Indian Summer—Wham-O 40 Mold—White—BlackIndian Summer TournamentCotati, CA One day Michael showed up at our practices at the local park and informed us of a tournament up in a mysterious place called ‘Sonoma.’ The excitement grew with each passing day. The tournament was called ‘Indian Summer’ and it was held at Sonoma State College in the rural artsy town of Cotati. The tournament was a revelation. It was a sea of bliss as we soaked it all up. The culture of open play, highly developed skill and joy of flight were on full display. One peculiar problem was our obvious misinterpretation of how to play. Our isolation in faraway Modesto did not lend itself to the cross fertilization of ideas. So, left to our own devices our peculiar approach to play drew rapt attention from the tournament’s participants. They were equal parts fascinated and appalled. But we persevered and made new friends. Another problem was our name. In our efforts at legitimacy, we introduced ourselves as the “Frisbee Flow of Modesto.” In reality, we were the punk rock equivalents of Frisbee. Outcasts, half crazy, bursting full of energy and idealism. We were the Modesto Mutant Frisbee Club. We did not participate in the Indian Summer tournament in 1977, but we saw clearly the trajectory of our future. There would be no turning back. Frisbee was our life. Untethered by girlfriends or jobs, we sought to attend every single tournament we could muster our meager funds for.

The next tournament on the schedule was the inaugural (and only) North/South tournament in Fresno, the halfway point geographically in California, during the month of February. This was a very short time frame for us to effectively develop our skills to the degree we felt was necessary in order to compete. We attended with only Michael Young competing. And again, we soaked up 1977 National Championship Series1977 National Championship SeriesWham-O 50 mold, black and gold, featuring John Bird
all of the energy, ideas and friendships possible during the weekend.

Next up was the North American Series event to kick off the 1977 year: Santa Barbara. For us Modestans (or Modestoids as we called ourselves), Santa Barbara could have been on an entirely different planet. One example was weather. A climate reality in Modesto during the winter months was ‘Tule Fog.’ We had not seen a ray of sunshine since early November. The third weekend of March was warm and sunny. Our pasty white skin quickly reddened and burned. It did not deter us from our joy. This was our big debut! Another difference was how everyone looked. They were tanned, happy and looked fantastic. We were not.

EF FlamingoEvan FurtadoFlamingo catch KG ThrowKevin GivensReceiving the throw Undeterred, our mindset was to show everyone how good we were, hiding our fears and intimidation. We decided to split up into two two-person teams. The “A” Team was Michael and Evan, the “B” team was myself and Andy “Droid” Yates. As the tournament began, we noted that Storke Field on the UCSB campus was a sea of Frisbee-playing humanity. It was beyond our most vivid imaginations taking all of this in. In time, we wandered over to “Frisbee Central” where there were more than 100 teams signed up to compete in Freestyle, our favorite event. Droid and I were in Dan “Stork” Roddick and Irv Kalb’s pool. We were screwed, having no chance against such formidable competition. These were authentic ‘Frisbee gods,’ winners of the freestyle competition only two years prior at the Rose Bowl. But we battled through our fears, astonishingly winning our pool. Next up was the semifinals.

EF Hover discEvan FurtadoWatching the disc hover KG FlamingoKevin GivensFlamingo catch EF KickEvan FurtadoKick tip KG nail delayKevin GivensNail delay

Again, we were placed in Stork/Kalb’s pool, along with more Frisbee gods such as Tom “TK” Kennedy and Tom “T Shep” Shepard. TK and Shep were the local guys, and they looked as though they descended from Mount Olympus. We knew them well, their exit off of the 1976 Rose Bowl final was our gold standard of play. As time was called to end their routine, they chose to exit the field of play by air brushing off into the distance, seemingly extending their play into infinity. We were screwed. Only fate intervened again, and we took the pool by coming in first place. As this was our first competition, we  The CompetitionThe Competition(L to R) Irv "Dr. I" Kalb, Dan "Stork" Roddick, Tom "TK" Kennedy, Tom "T-Shep" Shepard, John "Friz Whiz" Kirkland, Jeff Jorgenson
felt as though we were in uncharted territory. Up next was the finals, with Stork/Kalb, TK/Shep and more Frisbee gods, this time it was John “Friz Whiz" Kirkland and Jeff Jorgenson. We were screwed. And while we tried to muster our best efforts we finally came back to earth, finishing in fourth place. Not bad for a couple of Mutants from Modesto.

1978 NAS Seattle Program1978 NAS Seattle Program 1978 OCTAD1978 OCTAD From then on, we were totally hooked. Especially Muck and I. We would hit as many of the west coast North American Series (NAS) events as we could. We knew we were getting better with each passing tournament. Muck, in particular was beginning to shine. He was starting to win Golf events at tournaments, notably the 1978 NAS Seattle tournament. Andy Yates and I won Freestyle at the 1977 Northern California Team Championships in Santa Cruz, a forerunner to the World Disc events starting in 1979. Andy Yates would attend the 1978 Octad tournament where he would place second overall, earning him the nickname ‘Modesto Impresto’. He looked for all intents and purposes as the next big thing in overall. Muck would start to tick off several big wins in Disc Golf such as the1977 North American Series Seattle title. Evan’s bizarre catalog of catches would come into vogue and would be referenced by the likes of Chipper Bro Bell, Donnie Rhodes and other great champions. Dan “Stork” Roddick even asked Droid and myself to be his freestyle partner for the big Santa Barbara and Boulder ’78 NAS meets. The Mutants were hot!

UFOS Established 1976United Flyers of SonomaEstablished 1976 But time marches on, and all good things must come to an end. Evan got a job, Muck moved to New York City and Droid joined the Air Force. So I did what any reasonable person would do, I packed my things and headed to the sacred grounds of Cotati where I could find others who shared in my passion. I wanted to be part of the United Flyers of Sonoma, the greatest Frisbee Club in the World. But that’s a story for another day…

Some photos in the title graphic originally published in Frisbee World—photos by Gary Gossett, May/June 1977; Donnell A. Tate, Nov/Dec 1977 and March/April 1978
Photo of TK and T-Shep by Kevin Givens, originally published in FPA Forum, Fall 2000
Photo of John Kirkland by Harvey Brandt, originally published in Flying Disc Magazine, Feb 1980
Photo of Jeff Jorgenson by Gary Gossett, originally published in Frisbee World, April 1976

About the Author:
Kevin "Skippy Jammer" GivensKevin "Skippy Jammer" Givens

Kevin "Skippy Jammer" Givens started playing as part of the Modesto Mutant Frisbee Club, but then became one of the main forces behind the UFOS. Skippy has 14 major freestyle titles to his name, an ultimate national championship, manages the Freestyle disc Hall of Fame, determines the winners of the Decade Awards, and used to write a popular column, "Skippy Sez."



Charlie R.(non-registered)
Datzz flame, datz oook!
Charlie R.(non-registered)
The frisbee flow of Modesto rules. Datz flame, da
Tom McManus(non-registered)
Tremendous story. Thank you for sharing!
No comments posted.