By: Tu Vu
Complied from Oral Traditions
“B.A.P. is all about innovation, pushing the envelope, its all about reaching the furthest bounds that your imagination can take you. One day you will be hitting the most cutting edge tricks and the next day someone you never heard of is hitting harder than you, so you train and skool until you are at the top again propelling the growth cycle that is modern day footbag freestyle.”
B.A.P (Big Add Posse) is the collection of the most highly skilled footbag freestylers on the planet. You may have heard of them, you may not heard of them, but once you see them for yourself, you will never forget them. The following article discusses a little background information of the birth of the faction that has gained international acclaim and set the standard for modern freestyle play.
Footbag Freestyle began as a consecutives event as Kenny Shults won the first ever Footbag Nationals in 1980. With a 45 minute “freestyle” routine that consisted of mostly inside and outside kicks he finally finished with his first drop at 45 minutes and was done. Eventually tricks began to be developed and were taken from other sports as soccers neck catch and toe stalls. Kenny Shults, Andy Linder, Jack Schoolcraft and other pioneers began to coin moves and concepts through practice and experimentation.Tricks such as double around the world and double swirl were hit back before 1983 and 1986!
One man entered the freestyle arena and changed the game freestyle forever. His name was Rick Reese, known to many as Rippin, he ripped the most Innovative, the most sharp moves, with a barrage of dexterity’s that amazed the freestyle world. Weak Side (Flip Side)? Rick Reese? NEVER! He was one of the first to stress the concepts of equality in both sides of the body. If he could hit a trick, you could bet he can do it on his other side. Fueling his fire, a man name Joey Shaffer helped create numerous freestyle concepts such as the widely used symposium concept. Rippin, together with Revin David Yevin and The Enforcer, Mr.Footbag himself Kenny Shults, formed footbag freestyle’s first dominant force, The Black Hole of Hein! Their speed and technical prowess paved the wave for the basis of the freestyle footbag movement.
But at this point, it was not all shred and glory! Serious opposition to the shred toil ya drop” mentality was voiced. Footbag was still young and developing its basis. The sport could go in any crazy direction and people were trying things and seeing what worked. The opposition mostly came in the form of freestylers who opted for the dance and movement style. Those freestylers did lots of spin kicks and moving of all the limbs, moving around the field of freestyle play. Remnants of this ancient style can found in our current presentation freestyle card with the now vague music and movement categories. For years, freestylers would turn up on the scene and demonstrate this style, but would be amazed when Kenny Shults entered the field and just shred combos full of dexterity’s with blinding speed and immense energy (yes they used to compete on grass fields with the net players). Some detested this style of play, even denounced it! Slowly they would retire one by one when they began to understand the change of the emphasis to shred rather than dance. Some freestylers reemerged this forgotten style and now have shacked themselves up in a compound the hills of northern California. Check out www.footbag.com but beware, they might make you buy a 120-panel bag before you can even navigate the site. At least they take discover.
But much of footbags ruling body, the PAB (later transformed into IFAB, and now is revamped to the improved IFPA) made serious efforts to stop SHRED! They all disagreed on this style except for Kenny Shults, who had the hindsight to know this would pave the way for footbag freestyle to enter the 21st century. It was time to move away from the dope-smoking, hippie freebird mentality and move to something more athletic, something more challenging. Shred forced people to think beyond the box and dream of new combos and creations to link tricks together. Rather than focus on the team play aspects of circle kicking, Kenny and crew understood that evolution had eclipsed this style, as it just got too easy. If they wanted footbag to evolve, they needed it grow and expand what can be done with the bag. Yet the ruling body on most of the majority kept a lot of the dance aspects in. Some of the best players opted out of competition as they knew it did nor fairly represent skill level. These freestylers would lick their chops and shred on the sidelines; soon they would band together. What freestylers of today do not understand was if you went out and just shred a bunch of phat guiltless shred during your freestyle routine, it was frowned upon. They wanted to see rhythmic dance and flow with the bag with lots of movement and high kicks and spins. It took MANY, MANY years for the transformation to occur, but now – forget it if you cant shred the norm!
In the freestyle circuit in the early 1990s, a young man from Virginia Beach, Virginia was winning World Titles with his amazing flow, beauty, and grace, creating a unique style all is own. His name was Peter Irish. His smoothness and timing gave him the nickname, “The Executioner” for executing the difficult tricks cleanly and flawlessly. Legend has it that he can shred on a piece of rice paper and not leave a trace. His skill, mystical! In 1991, he became a freestyle champion that didnt compete in the sister sport, Footbag Net. Coincidentally in 1991, Randy Mulder won his first Net title and was a Net World Champion that was not involved in freestyle. Peter and Randy were paving the way for specialization in the sport of footbag paved by the original specializers Gary Griggs, probably the first Net Specialist champion. He won the World Singles Title in 1987. Also, Jon Lind would be the first Freestyle Specialist champion in that event. He won World Singles Title in 1986.
The freestyle scene began to explode all over North America, but one area in particular was brewing a freestyle contingent unmatched in the rest of the world: The San Francisco Bay Area. Dennis Jones and Dimitri Kavouras were skooling long and hard with the most cutting edge combos of their day. At Dimitris parents house they were shredding off layers of the floor from where they played. Back and forth, they skooled each other, pushing each other to hit the PHAT and high dexterity intensive tricks with smooth flow. Soon thereafter, a young blond man from Minnesota would join their ranks, his name is Tim Kelly. Tim Kelly was one of the most amazing players to ever step in a circle. He pounded the Huge combos with a flurry of double dexteritys on both sides. They also hosted the legendary SF warehouse jam. Together, they formed a rich history of freestyle in the Bay Area that included the likes of Sam Conlon, Kenny Shults, Carol Wedermeyer, Peter Irish, Tuan Vu, Eric Wulff, Fred “Red” Husted, Tu Vu, Ryan Mulroney, Sunil Jani, and Ahren Gehrman and many others.
In the early 1990s, Golden Colorado became the birth place of a tradition known as Holidome Shred, the yearly gathering after the freestyle finals where all freestyle players played till 4am shredding the huge combos. It was a chance to see what were the latest tricks and combos being hit. This was also a showcase for the growing contingency of freestylers who could shred hard but did not compete. These individuals specialized in pushing the limits of what you could do with a footbag. The brain child, Joey Schaffer with Rick Reese came to the 1992 Worlds with a mysterious box. What did it contain? Joey had an idea and he passed out the contents of the box to a select crew of individuals. T-shirts were inside the box; they had the logo, STAND CLEAR OF THE BLADES which today still stands as one of the rarest footbag shirts ever created. All those individuals wore their shirts all round and in all the circles at worlds. As a joke, they thought of themselves as a ruthless faction that would take over the freestyle scene. Their joke, and their club, turned out to be the leading force in freestyle today. With a collection of the greatest freestylers known to man, they formed the BIG ADD POSSE.
They soon forged a new era of freestyle that would influence the course of footbag for the next decade, and would accelerate the sport into far reaching dimensions never before thought as possible. About this time, Kenny Shults began writing his articles, “Freestyle Underground” in the Footbag World Magazine. This was the first time in footbag history that articles about the Big Add Posse were ever written. In his article, which later would be taken over by Rick Reese, Kenny discussed the various freestyle jams happening around the country such as the legendary OMSI jams, SF Jams, and the winter Michigan Jams. At these jams were reports of the upcoming shredders that would later become household names. Soon there would be others who would push the sport of freestyle into new realms but the gates were kept closed for several years under the basis that BAP would only be “The Originators”. Legend Eric Wulff, from New Jersey began to skool HARD year after year, becoming famous with his original duck sets, juggling combos, vast array of fliers and powerful dexterities and combos. Eric Wulff was showing a high level of athleticism not seen in any of other freestyler, making him one of freestyle’s greatest legends. Also emerging from the east coast, a young Asian man by the name of Tuan Vu was shredding up a storm, causing serious hype with his amazing speed, mind-blowing atomic sets, hippie style (use of the hips to gain momentum), and innovative combos. Quite possibly one of the most innovative freestylers in history, Tuan blew the door open, destroying the norms of modern freestyle play and pushing the sport to its limits. Players generations to come will imitate his style. Meanwhile, in Chicago, Veteran Scott Davidson was skooling his ass off and getting into SERIOUS shape with smooth spins, confident flow, dense combinations, and setting new levels of consistency. In the Michigan area, team gurus Jay Moldenhauer and Greg Nelson were skooling with a batch of hopeful young freestylers that would help hatch the new freestyle era. Year after year, one of the most underrated stylers, Paul Munger, began nailing serious stuff lost in the archives of his old shred tapes. He was the first person to release a full on shred video, “RAW SHRED” showcasing the Big Add Posse.
The Michigan scene saw the rise of the Blur Brothers, Josh Casey and Steve Kremer. “THE CHISLER” Josh Casey had some of the sharpest blades around, scraping off fresh and artistic combos like chiseling ice sculptures from pure blocks of ice. Steve “Kosmo” Kremer showed the footbag community that his blades were forged out of this world with his graceful precision and deep style. After an amazing show by young potentials and veterans who were learning at rapid paces and nailing Bigger, Longer, and Faster, BAP finally opened its ivory gates. At the 1995 Heart of Freestyle tournament (in Portland, OR) the first baptisms of the Big Add Posse occurred.
Another pivotal beginning at the 1995 Heart of Freestyle tournament was the standardization of guiltless (combinations of tricks that were all tricks were three adds or higher) in freestyle circles. Before then, it was all tiltless (combos of 2 add tricks or higher). Originally, the shred circle never had self-tosses or several tries. If you started a combo and bailed mid-way you must start again, the way BAP is trying to stay even today. New etiquette came into play as the multiple attempts or many players to get second chances used self-tosses. Players took several tries to hit a move or a combo. Today, BAP still prides itself on playing with honor and always passing the bag after the first try. Unfortunately, many BAP forget this rule when in a BAP circle and they take too many unnecessary tries, slowing the pace of the circle. Also, if players performed thes while executing a move (when the player does not cleanly circle the bag when performing a trick), then they also must pass the bag. Another major change was the flow of circle played now moved in a clockwise or counter clockwise passing scheme. No longer would players pass the bag across the circles. There was more order when you finished a combo: you would now pass it to either the person left or right of you, depending in the direction the circle.
At that time, only BAP were playing at the Guiltless level (Boy, that would not last long). Later at 1995 worlds, one of footbags greatest legends, Greg Nelson would join their ranks showing the world his smooth as silk guilt-free freestyle. His endurance, his smoothness, and his grace certainly made its mark in the world of professional freestyle. The 1995 Worlds was the first time in history that the entire finals night would be controlled by BAP. Before that the only 3 out of 8 finalists were BAP, while the rest demonstrated a cross between the two styles of dance and shred. Now, if you arent in BAP and make finals, you are an anomaly! And, theres a 99.5% chance they would induct you that week.
A season passed, their was one man who trained long countless hours in the mountains of Colorado and one young prodigy who sprouted in the rains of the Pacific Northwest. The Winter Michigan Jam continued to produce hard core shred from various individuals. One in particular, Daryl Genz, showed the world his true ability as one of the worlds elite, with his mighty runs, ambidextrous style, and his ability to nail the big adds combos. At this very same, in the Pacific Northwest, there was a fire burning; one that would be impossible to quell. In 1996, influenced by the footbag super-hero Kenny Shults, this 17-year-old boy had the brain to understand freestyle and never knew the meaning of I cant. Thats because there is nothing on this world that he cant hit. When a child learns to walk, they never fear that they might fall and fail, they just walk naturally. When it comes to freestyle, Ahren walks naturally. BAP would expand again. At the 1996 Heart of Freestyle in Portland/1996 Westerns, the next wave of inductions came down:
Stay tuned with the second half of the History of the BIG ADD POSSE EVOLUTION!
Special thanks to Kenny Shults, Peter Irish, Dennis Jones, Rick Reese, Tim Kelly.