Hello and welcome to my
diary journal dream recorder TRAVEL BLOG. Okay, wow, looks like we're really bloggin now. Thanks for logging on with me.
For whatever reason, FloWrestling thought it would be a good idea to send me and our own Monstupolous Mike Mal to Chaves, Portugal to cover the very first UWW Beach Wrestling World Series event. We were most happy to oblige the powers that be.
So we're going to Chaves, Portugal. Yes, it's called Beach Wrestling. Yes, beaches are by the ocean. No, Chaves is not by the ocean. Yes, Beach Volleyball can be played in places that are not normally considered a beach. Yes, that concept also applies to Beach Wrestling. No, I am not interested in hearing your opinions on potentially renaming the sport Sand Wrestling.
Folks, if you can accept the fact that Alpine and Nordic skiing does not have to take place on the Alps or in Nordic countries, respectively, then you need to accept that Beach Wrestling can take place anywhere you have sand and wrestlers.
BEACH WRESTLING RULES
Here are the official rules for Beach Wrestling. The most important things to remember are as follows:
- Take down or forced step out is 1 point
- A feet-to-back is 3 points
- First to 3 points wins
- No parterre or ground wrestling of any kind
- Legs are allowed in all situations
- The circle is small (officially 7 meters, but I need to convert and figure out if they man circumference or diameter or whatever)
- Matches are one (3) minute period
- There is criteria, no OT
- Don't worry about what the criteria isfor now, it's totally fine
- Men wrestle in shorts, women in shorts and tank tops
That's it. Basically. I will tell you more about the nuances as I learn them!
DAY 1 - First Flight
We're checked in, but international flights make you check in in person. Probably a good idea. Cyon once got to the airport headed to Japan only to be denied because he didn't have a visa. Better to find out you need one in Austin than in Tokyo!
Just waited on the marvelous Mike Mal to stop by so we can ride-share to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport [one thousand thumbs-up emojis].
Mike and I made it to ABIA, so that's at least one leg of the trip we didn't completely screw up. But there is still plenty of time for that!
Next stop is Atlanta, the world's busiest airport!
I typed some notes on the flight to Atlanta about Mike pulling up his hoodie and falling fast asleep like a small child but I reread them when we got to Amsterdam and they sound really stupid so forget that noise. Instead, just know that we are in the B terminal of Schiphol Airport and Mike is no longer sleeping like a small child, which he also did on the transatlantic flight from Atlanta.
Unlike Mike, I stayed awake the entire trip. Someone had to stand guard, and I dutifully watched Mike's back. We were surrounded by orchestral high school students from Atlanta on the way to Vienna for a performance. One of them could have easily broken a violin over his head while he slumbered. But they didn't. I would not allow it.
It's now 7:00 AM local time and our flight to Porto doesn't board for another hour. I'm going to be very punchy by the time we get to our final destination, which is Chaves, Portugal. But that's fine. We're fine. We're all fine here, now, thank you. How are you?
DAY 2 - Beach Wrestling Begins
I guess technically day 2 started when we landed in Amsterdam, but whatever. We're about to head down from the hotel to the outdoor arena where the beach wrestling is scheduled to begin in 10 minutes.
I don't know if there is wifi or a way to charge my computer since I did not bring an adapter but I'm so horribly jetlagged I'd just be spouting jibberish anyway. Maybe tonight I will regain my senses, but probably the next useful blog will come tomorrow.
Okay, great blogging, really great job!
DAY 3 - I'm Alive
Wasn't sure I was going to make it, but here I am, sipping coffee in the lobby of our resplendent hotel in Chaves, Portugal on a lovely Saturday morning.
Apologies for the lack of updates, but being awake for 30 straight hours has deleterious effects on one's faculties.
My motor functions were maxed out at a lethargic torpor, like a clockwork tinman suffering a deficiency of lubricant. My brain was failing to produce even rudimentary conversation, like from that Simpsons episode where Homer listens to the vocabulary building tapes but then stops and gets stupid again and asks Marge for the metal dealy you use to dig food, and Marge says, "You mean a spoon?". In that analogy, I am Homer, and Mike would be Marge. Yes, an extremely precise and accurate analogy.
Now, for what transpired yesterday. Mike and arrive at Porto's airport, which is quite modern and visually striking airport and are promptly scooped up by Luis, who ferries us to Chaves, which is about 90 minutes northeast of Porto, near the Portugues border with Spain.
Thank goodness the baggage claim was playing the Bucks game yesterday so I could keep up with my fav team while traveling abroad. pic.twitter.com/B4aQone6zJ— Beach Blogger (@SpeyWrestle) March 30, 2019
Luis runs Portugal's MMA federation, which part of the national wrestling federation (and one of the members of UWW). Luis provided more information about the country and state of the world's oldest and greatest sport therein, that my jetlagged brain adequately process, but it was very appreciated nonetheless. Luis is the man.
Excellent Portugues countryside on the way to Chaves from the Porto airport. pic.twitter.com/tgszjN3Vu3— Beach Blogger (@SpeyWrestle) March 30, 2019
Once we arrived our our hotel we met one Mr. Tim Foley, UWW communications factotum and renowned mailbagoner. I'd go into more details about the hotel and the charming community of Chaves but this is not Instagram and I am not a lifestyle influencer. So let's get to the wrestling.
The venue is located in a sprawling park on the banks of the Tamega river, which flows alongside the old city center. Tucked into the side of a hill is a natural outdoor amphitheater and our beach wrestling arena, an erstwhile beach soccer arena.
Very chill and nice park in which the beach wrestling venue is located. pic.twitter.com/wOe59qVe5B— Beach Blogger (@SpeyWrestle) March 30, 2019
Beach wrestling can be summarily described as freestyle wrestling, but on sand. Yes, that is why they pay me the big blogging bucks, for sentences like that.
But really it is very similar to freestyle wrestling. The difference, of course, is there is no parterre. Also if two knees hit the ground you give up a point, so if you're going to hit an army spin, make sure you can do it on just one knee, as an unfortunate female Turkish wrestler learned the hard way.
The key selling point of beach wrestling, in my opinion, is it's simplicity. Every stoppage is a point (more or less), and if there are five stoppages, someone is going to win. Often matches last less than a minute, as a single feet to back move is all it takes. It takes some getting used to as a fan, but it increases the tension of each match, creating an immediate do-or-die atmosphere.
The short matches also lend themselves to casual viewing. The matches occur in rapid succession, so you'll get to see a cross-section of nations, weights and genders. Local park-walkers stopped to check out the entertainment, which included thumping pop music inbetween bouts.
There were sizable contingents from several non-traditional wrestling powers, with Spain and Portugal leading the pack, naturally. Greece and Turkey also sent large squads, which helped create some intense matches, as it appears that neither Turks nor Greeks care much for losing competitions to each other.
I'll have to pause the blogging for now, as Mike and I have to get to the arena for the morning session. This afternoon we'll conclude the event with the finals. More blogging hopefully at the midday break!
We've returned from our second day at the beach in the park in Chaves. We've got a two hour break and then they'll hold the finals. Right now the heroes of the tournament have been the Georgians, specifically Dato Marsagashvili.
Olympic bronze medalist Dato Marsagishvili with the match ender! pic.twitter.com/wYPUglr4eE— FloWrestling (@FloWrestling) March 30, 2019
The level of wrestling also seems to have improved. Or perhaps it just that I no longer feel like Roadkill Man from Beetlejuice. In any event, it's been a lot of fun watching these competitors let loose on the sand.
Another feature that stands out at this event, more so in other wrestling events, is the national rivalries that get amplified by the power of sports. There have been several excellent Greece vs Turkey bouts, on both the men's and women's side. Regardless of the quality of the wrestling (and it was mostly high quality), the fact that the coaches and teammates were all highly invested in the match and were loudly shouting encouragement and instruction made for a compelling spectating experience.
Additionally, whenever a Portuguese wrestler stepped in the circle, you could expect a vociferous response from the small but passionate crowd.
Overall just a lot of fun. Although there was a dude in a little pushcart selling keg beer.
Speaking of lunch, we need to get some. Will check in after the finals!
Beach Wrestling does not involve itself with the usual pomp and circumstance of Greco-Roman or Freestyle events. And that can be a good thing. Instead of the usual baffling and interminable opening ceremonies, Chaves kicked off their finals with some teens performing a short dance routine. It was as brief as it was adorable.
A local dance team warms up the Chaves crowd. pic.twitter.com/IpIxsjR4RB— Beach Blogger (@SpeyWrestle) March 30, 2019
We then whipped through the semis and finals. The Romanian women did their best impression of the Japanese women's freestyle team, winning gold in three weights and claiming a silver in the fourth. The Georgian men's beach wrestling team did a great impression of the Georgian men's freestyle team, also winning three gold medals.
Romania wins the first gold medal of the 2019 Beach Wrestling World Series! 🇷🇴🇷🇴🇷🇴🇷🇴🇷🇴 pic.twitter.com/5A84hDNHHS— Beach Blogger (@SpeyWrestle) March 30, 2019
The awards ceremonies were also mercifully quick and without national anthems.
Kelakhashvili wins the first men's gold of the 2019 Beach Wrestling World Series. Azerbaijan takes silver. 🇬🇪🇦🇿 pic.twitter.com/L1W1IOOkbi— Beach Blogger (@SpeyWrestle) March 30, 2019
It was quite a smooth operation all things considered, like having wires and computers and other equipment all plopped on top of a giant sandbox, for instance. From start to finish, I only noticed the most minor of hiccups.
Much of that can be attributed to the tireless work of Pedro Silva, the president of the Portuguese Wrestling Federation and a UWW bureau member. Pedro was handling business nonstop, taking care of problems great and small. He was also more than capable as the MC. He's got a smooth set of pipes and admirably negotiated the Greek and Georigan names that often look like randomly selected Scrabble tiles.
So a huge thanks from Mike, myself and everyone at Flo to Pedro and everyone else that helped organize and execute this event.
Well done my friends 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/nSZPd8lMV3— Beach Blogger (@SpeyWrestle) March 30, 2019
Next on the docket is dinner. Tomorrow we travel back to Porto and fly out early Monday morning. The competition may be over, but the blogging never stops!
DAY 4: Cultural Appreciation Day
Now, in our defense, European daylights savings is today, so we lost an hour. We also have to catch a ride to Porto, which leaves in about 15 minutes. So our cultural appreciation would be hurried and frankly, inadequate. So we will try and squeeze some appreciation of Porto's culture when we arrive there. I will let you know how it goes.
Back once again in Porto, the city that invented the Port-o-potty. Of course, that is a joke, but the city does have a local beer called Super Bock, that I am enjoying as I type. So there is your cultural appreciation right there. Let it not be said that Mike Mal and Andrew Spey do not appreciate the local culture of the cities to which they travel.
Also shouts once again to Pedro Silva, the only UWW Bureau member who would deign to shuttle lowly media hacks from one hotel to another within Chaves to catch a bus to Porto, just so they don't have to schlep their luggage through the city. Pedro rocks.
The drive from Chaves to Porto produces high quality views imo. pic.twitter.com/SrVnz1oLWT— Beach Blogger (@SpeyWrestle) March 31, 2019
We're trying to upload some videos to bring you more beach wrestling goodness. Hopefully, the Crowne Plaza Porto will cooperate by providing blazing wifi transmission speeds.
Once we've fulfilled our content production quotas will take another crack at appreciated that culture that is Porto, Portugal. Perhaps we will try some Port wine and complete the Port-trifecta. There is also a football club that has a match in our neighborhood (that means a soccer game to you Americans). There is also talk of enjoying some live music. In a city as culturally rich as Porto, one is simply spoiled for choices!
DAY 5: The Final Travel Day (We Hope)
Cultural Appreciation day in Porto went swimmingly. We did not make it to the soccer game, though our hometown heroes Boavista handled business.
Instead, Mike and I enjoyed a leisurly evening on the banks of the Douro under the shadow of a striking 19th Century bridge built by the man Mr. Gutav Eiffel himself. That's right, he did more than towers.
Then we walked up a big hill to get a better view and because we are such good athletes, neither of us were winded in the slightest.
Nearly died free-solo'ing this incline, but at least the view from the top was pretty. pic.twitter.com/TmPBcKPkGV— Beach Blogger (@SpeyWrestle) April 1, 2019
We also saw this chill castle.
Do you even know how impregnable my castle's keep is, bro? pic.twitter.com/cmNQHu1wr4— Beach Blogger (@SpeyWrestle) March 31, 2019
Now we're in JFK, hopefully soon to board our last flight of the trip, back home to Austin. The day started at 3:00 AM, which is a totally cool and normal time to wake up, so we could catch our 5:00 AM flight from Porto to Amsterdam.
Customs was in Amsterdam was no picnic, but we just made it to our trans-Atlantic connector flight to New York City. Unfortunately, that flight was tardy getting out of the gate, though even if it was bang on time, the nightmare that is JFK immigration and border control likely would have doomed us from making what was supposed to be our scheduled 1:45 PM flight home Austin.
But we were able to rebook a 6:45 PM flight to Austin, so know we max and relax and blog until our departure. See you in Austin (fingers crossed)!
DAY 6: The End
We're home! How wonderful!
That's the end of the Beach Blog. But it's not the end of the Beach Wrestling World Series! There are two events in May, one in August, and then the Beach Wrestling World Championships in September. Oh and the Beach Games in San Diego in October.
Beach Wrestling fever, baby, catch it!