Portland, Oregon’s Jake Gauthier is among the best freestylers yet to win a major title. Playing mostly with his younger brother Matt, Jake has risen steadily thruogh the ranks since 1997 to his current rank of #12. He has made the world championship pairs final for the past four years and placed as high as fourth.
In 2003, Jake teamed with Randy Silvey in pairs for “Back In Black,” one of the most talked-about routines of the year. They made a big splash in April, nailing the routine for second place at the World Beach tournament in Mission Beach, beating top seeds Arthur Coddington and Dave Lewis and narrowly missing out on first place to Dave Murphy and Dave Schiller. They followed up Mission Beach with top five finishes at both the World Disc Games and the FPA Worlds.
Not content to simply hone his skills, Jake and Matt have contributed to the sport by creating heinsville.com, hosting tournaments and marketing products like the Whiz Ring and custom freestyle nails.
Shrednow spoke to Jake while he rehabilitates his knee after a beach jamming injury.
SN:: First, the question that’s on everyone’s mind. It seems that everyone pronounces your last name a different way. Once and for all, how should we say Gauthier?
JG: Think goth (as in Gothic), and ear (as in what you hear with). Goth-ear. Now move the th to the other syllable. Gau-thier.
SN: We have no excuses to butcher your name anymore.
SN: How did you hurt your knee?
JG: Playing frisbee of course. I was jammin’ on the beach with Matt. The wind was strong so we were playing mostly a brush and run game. I did a double spinning BTB brush and was running after the disc. It was drifting in about chin level so I extended my right leg and did a sole brush. My hips pivoted from the motion and I shifted my weight forward to begin another pursuit. Instead my foot hit the ground an my knee came out to the right. I felt it open up and there was an intense pain on the inside. I just lifted my right leg and fell to the ground yelling in pain.
SN: How serious is the injury?
JG: The only thing for sure is a bone bruise aka micro-fractures. There may be a torn meniscus but the doctor wants to wait until the bruise heals before we decide if surgery is needed. I can walk and am just starting to exercise again. Suffice to say I’m not jamming.
SN: At 6’6″(198cm), you are one of the tallest of the top freestylers. What advantages does that height give you?
JG: I think being tall gives me many advantages. One of the more obvious ones is that my windows are big. This comes into play not only on under the leg moves but on BTB moves as well. Its easier for me to get clearance for the disc on a BTB set or delay. The term I heard in ’96 was ape-factor. Another is that I can reach a disc that is higher in the air than most. This helps my wind game and allows me to save things that boggle many people’s minds.
JG: Well, I wonder if I would not have injured my knee if I were a foot shorter. Imagine all the leverage my legs have to endure because of their length. Also, I sometimes expect other, shorter jammers to reach things that they just can’t. I have to take care when I’m passing.
SN: You and your brother Matt have been a team since very early on. Is there any sibling rivalry. You know, who’s going to hit the biggest move today? Who gets to do what move in the routine?
JG: We never argue about who will do what move in a routine. Usually we end up reminding the other one of moves we are leaving out. During a jam its also pretty friendly. We always encourage each other. But we do play off each other. Like I’ll see Matt do I major skid combo that boggles my mind. So I try to duplicate it or even out do it. He does the same to me….it like we try to one-up each other.
Off the field is a little different. We aren’t too vocal about it but we both want to be better than the other and strive pretty hard towards that goal. Since we are modest be both think the other is better which forces us to both constantly improve.
SN: Matt has become known for some crazy crash and burn catches. What goes through your mind during a jam or a routine when Matt launches for one of those?
JG: I love those moves so I get excited. The thought of Matt being injured doesn’t cross my mind until after the jam if at all.
SN: What got you started with freestyle?
JG: If you count speed flow then it was pure love. I don’t know why but I’ve always tried trick throws and catches. In high school my friend Chris started bring a frisbee to keep us busy at lunch. It wasn’t long before I had the whole group trying UTLs and BTBs. But, we never thought to delay, or brush, or roll.
In ’95 my friend Dave started working for Mike Esterbrook at Mike’s dental lab. Mike invited Dave to play and Dave invited me. After three sessions I was wearing nails and having the best time of my life.
SN: How would you describe your game?
JG: Relaxed. Every time I see a video of myself I’m surprised at how calm and in control I look. Its almost anti-climactic.
SN: It sounds like you view your calm as a negative?
JG: In a way, yes. When I watch routines I enjoy being pumped up, on the edge of my seat. When I watch my play I don’t get that feeling. However, watching myself is synonymous with a cook eating his own food. Its never good enough.
SN: What is your biggest strength as a freestyler?
JG: A couple come to mind but the one that really separates me (and Matt) from most is knowing where to be. Ever since I started jamming I had a nack to know when someone was going to pass the disc, where it was going to go, and when to pass it back. Once it hit me that this was an actual skill I started to hone it.
In a jam I watch the disc carefully at all times. I follow it around, even when I’m not involved. I also watch for signs that each jammer gives off when they intend to pass and I learn how often a given jammer tends to pass. I then move myself into what I believe is the most opportunistic position. Sometimes its in a place where a pass might sail over to me. Other times its as backup in case of a bobble. Perhaps its right on top of someone else so I can get in that hoop or leg over. It may even be to hang back, let the other jammers have their moment, and wait for the throw at the end of the move.
SN: What is your non-freestyle career?
JG: I work at Intel as a Compatibility Test Development Technician. In other words I am a computer geek. I play with all the latest hardware and software to see if it works properly together with Intel’s CPUs, Chipsets, and Motherboards.
SN: This year you hooked up with Randy Silvey in Pairs. Your “Back In Black” routine had a big buzz around it. How did the routine come about?
JG: I’m not really sure but I do know that Randy is truly a genius. I went to Seattle for a 3 day weekend. It was raining for the first two days so we were stuck in the cafeteria at Mary’s school. The room was small, the ceiling was low, and there were tables, chairs, and even poles. Randy took the reigns and everything just sorta fell into place. On the third day we were outdoors and going over the routine from start to finish. We continued to fine tune it throughout the rest of the year but the major choreography took place on those first two days.
That routine was my vision of the ultimate routine. I’ve never attained that before. I had quite a bit of respect for Randy before the ’03 Worlds. Now I think he is a god! I hope some of his godliness rubbed off on me.
SN: How wired did the routine get in practice?
JG: It was always a struggle. We went through it again and again and kept making small adjustments. It didn’t take long before we had the moves memorized and were able to adjust to almost any folly and get right back on course. However, it only went perfectly from start to finish a few times. We were really banking on our ability to adjust.
SN: Which performance of the “Back In Black” routine are you most pleased with?
JG: It would have to be the San Diego Beach Open. Every other attempt had too many execution errors. In the WDG finals I was sure we had it at the half way point. Then I went for the leg over kick and dropped it and the whole thing fell apart. Man that was frustrating.
SN: How’d you like that wind in Rimini on finals day?
JG: Sucked! For jamming I love a good, strong wind. In fact Pipo, Pat, Greg, Fabio, and I jammed in stronger wind the next day on the beach. But for competition that wind was too much. Especially since it made my and Randy’s routine so much more difficult to do.
SN: Are you and Randy playing again in 2004?
JG: Yes, Matt and I are playing co-op with him. Matt and I are playing pairs and Cindy and I are playing mixed.
SN: Let’s talk about reputations. You and Matt both upgraded your reputations this year, but in different ways. You played a lot of competitions, hooked up with top teams and performed routines that contended for first place at every event. Matt entered only three competitions but made a huge impact in every one and in all his jams. His reputation has exploded despite being pretty low profile this year. How will your new reputations affect you as a team in 2004?
JG: Good question. I imagine there will be higher expectations on us to perform. However, having such reputations will give us the confidence needed to step up to the next level. I think we’ve the skill to win for a while. Now we are starting to believe it. The reputation only fuels that belief.
SN: What move or part of your game are you working on right now?
JG: Since I can’t jam I’m working on benign and flippy moves with a little paddidling and indoor counter ring brushing for spice. When I can jam 100% again I’m going to try to get some osis moves down. Osis still hurts my brain. I’m dreaming of a twisto to a single spin to a flamming osis brush but I’ll settle for a gitosis.
SN: What move is your nemesis?
JG: I’ve never been able to get even close to doing Rings of Saturn.
SN: You and Matt hosted the Super Hein tournament this spring, which mixed three formats into an experimental overall freestyle event. If one new freestyle format were to catch on, which one would you choose?
JG: I am a strong believer in the overall freestyle event for a number of reasons. One is that freestyle is so diverse that a single format can not capture it. Hence all these experimental formats keep popping up. Having the overall event gives all jammers a chance to show off in the type of event that they are best at or enjoy most. If you win one even you are Hein. If you win the tournament you are Super Hein.
Another reason is that it has the opportunity to draw the crowd in. Current formats let each player show their stuff and then a winner is declared. The audience has no chance to get to know each player. In a multi-format event players appear one time for each event. My thinking is that the people in the audience will have a chance to pick a favorite jammer to root for. If that happens they will have a vested interest in sticking around to watch everything and to hear the results.
Also, a multi-format event gives the audience better idea of what is happening. Since each event is tailored to a style or type of play the announcer can tell the audience that “the competitors are going to attempt their hardest move” or “the team is being judged on how well their routine is choreographed”.
I also think that done properly a multi-format event can be faster paced and less repetitive than a routine based event which should keep an audience more interested.
OK, I’ll get off my soap box now.
SN: What’s the sickest move you’ve ever done with one of your Whiz Rings?
JG: Most of the time I can’t remember all the moves after they are done so forgive me if I embellish. Steve Hays, John Titcomb, Sara Bergman, Rick Williams, Doug Korns, and I were jamming in Porlezza on an asphalt road that rides along Lake Como. To the right was a cliff face and to the left was the lake.
I don’t recall what lead up to the move but I know that many passes that included leg overs, hoops, and spins. As the ring flatted out in the wind we began moving forward. Steve passed through my hoop to Doug. Doug passed it to me and I went off. I think I did a double spinning UTL brush, to another spinning brush, to a BTB brush, to a spinning roll or some such thing. I had left the group and was on my own. Somehow I set it out too far and had to kick it back up. I was on the run and did a UTL touch to get control and then spun into a the brush that sent the ring deflecting off the cliff face. I did a double spin into what should have been a BTB catch. Sadly I missed and instead kicked the ring, sending it rolling off into the lake.
SN: I heard that a Porlezza local dove into the lake to retrieve the disc for you?
JG: That is true. He jammed with us for 15 minutes and then we gave him the ring he retrieved. After he showed us how to get in the lake we must have retrieved rings 5 or 6 times after that. Swimming in lake Como was really nice.
SN: Beyond rehabilitating your knee, what is your biggest freestyle goal for 2004?
JG: To win 3 world titles. I certainly have the right partners for the job.
Photo 3 by Gregg Hosfeld)