WILDWOOD - Sand in your face on a blistering hot day doesn't usually lead to a good time at the beach, but Sunday was different.

A clean face meant you weren't trying hard enough.

Hundreds of players dove through air and kicked up sand on the beach, all the while trying to grab hold of a plastic flying disc. Wildwood Ultimate 2010 officials said it was the biggest Ultimate beach tournament in the world.

What used to be a backyard game with friends has turned into big competition.

The 18th annual Wildwood event, a two-day competition that began Saturday, drew more than 5,000 athletes on 436 teams. Players - some wearing socks to prevent blisters from the hot sand - scored points by reaching their opponents' end zone with a flying disc, such as a Frisbee.

"It incorporates so many different sports like football and basketball," said Steve Bristowe, 22, captain of the Vineland Ultimate team. "There is strategy that goes on and you can set up a number of plays."

Ultimate is played on a rectangular field with two end zones on each side. The goal is to reach the end zone by throwing the disc. The thrower cannot move while he or she has a disc. If a pass is not completed - it goes out of bounds, is dropped or intercepted - the other team takes over on offense.

Last year, Vineland Ultimate sent just one team to Wildwood. That team went 1-7 in the tournament.

Since then, the group, which seemingly grows every week, has practiced at least twice a week at Vineland High School when the weather cooperates.

This year, Vineland Ultimate sent three teams, including a junior team of players from the high school. The junior team won its division Saturday.

In the Beer 3/1 division (in which there is one woman and three men on each side), Vineland's two teams met in the championship game Sunday.

"One way or another, Vineland is going home with two trophies," Bristowe, 22, said before the final round.

Bristowe was confident it would be his squad in white, not the red team on the other end of the rectangular field. There was plenty of trash talking with players making fun of style or bad moves, but there were no extra bets between Vineland players.

"We get bragging rights," Emanuel Acosta, 19, of Vineland, said.

Both teams thought it would be a close match. Last week, when they scrimmaged, the white team won by one point. Sunday's game wasn't nearly as close.

The white team won 13-5 and the 11-member squad, includes substitutions, earned a beer-filled trophy and each took a swig from the cup.

"That win tasted great," Bristowe said. "But it's not always about winning. Everyone comes out here because of the atmosphere. People are relaxed and everyone looks to have fun, It's more about being out here and enjoying yourself."

For proof, there are no referees in Ultimate. The players police themselves and play on an honor system.

If there is a dispute and the two sides cannot agree, the point is replayed. They don't see any sense in arguing.

"That's part of the spirit of the game," said tournament official Mike Adlis of Vineland, who competed in the World Ultimate Club Championships in Prague from July 3-10.

Adlis' club O.L.D. S.A.G. finished fifth in the Masters Division.

"Everyone just wants to have fun," Adlis said. "They want to win too, but this is what separates us from other sports."

Ultimate Vineland was just one of 20 winners at the tournament. There were seven divisions with 20 brackets. The event was so big, organizers needed to set up more than 130 field, taking up nearly 15 blocks on the beach. It ran from the Wildwoods Convention Center past two of Morey's Piers, from Baker to Poplar avenues.

"This is incredible that they can have all these people out here who play Ultimate," said Pat DeRiso, 20, of the Manahawkin section of Stafford Township and the captain of an Ultimate team at Richard Stockton College. "We were eager to be part of this. It's the biggest event we're part of all year."

The divisions ranged from professional players who go around the world to more casual ones who play on weekends.

Every week, Vineland Ultimate seems to grow. Its members don't turn anyone away. They teach newcomers the rules and different ways to throw the discs.

"We want people to enjoy the game and not get turned off from it," Bristowe said. "We've grown over the years because of word of mouth. People tell their friends who tell their friends and then they wall want to play."

Contact Susan Lulgjuraj:

609-272-7187