Frisbee is a beach game for most people. But it was a way of life for brothers Jens and Erwin Velaquez, freestyle champs who officially were inducted over the weekend into the International Frisbee and USA Guts Hall of Fame in Calumet, Mich.
We say “officially” because the VeeBros actually were named to the Hall in 1997…but nobody bothered to tell them, according to Jens, a Morristown resident.
Now in their 50s, the brothers still have magic to match their memories, as they demonstrate in this video (above) by RJ Meyer, a Morristown High School student capable of some pretty impressive camera tricks of his own.
“This 160 grams of plastic… it brings us all together,” Jens said in his induction speech (below). “We’re a Frisbee family. The plastic does that, but it’s really about the people.”
“Everyone wants to be inspired,” Erwin, a Belleville resident, told the audience. “If you have a passion for anything, give it your all, give it everything you’ve got.”
Their lives were transformed by a Frisbee tournament they watched in New Brunswick in the early 1970s. While visiting family in Peru the next summer, they refined their favorite moves and learned to entertain crowds by performing in plazas.
“That was our canvas,” Erwin said. “A lot of people can play, but not everybody knows how to play to a crowd.”
They won their first championship at the Rose Bowl in 1976, and defended their crown the next year–a feat unmatched in freestyle Frisbee.
Renowned for their athleticism, the VeeBros exercised religiously and even took dance lessons.
“When we did a freestyle show, we knew we only had 30 seconds to capture somebody’s interest,” said Erwin, the only freestyle player to win championships in four decades.
“With that mindset, we worked out, we tried to look good, we tried to choreograph a routine that was exciting.”
Frisbee titles became passports to world travel and cult celebrity for the VeeBros.
Their photos graced Frisbee boxes, and people like tennis great Stefan Edberg clamored to meet them at international exhibitions. The brothers have wowed crowds at pro football, baseball, basketball and soccer games over the years.
Disc sports have many variations–freestyle, Ultimate Frisbee, Guts Frisbee and Frisbee golf, to name a few.
Jens urged enthusiasts to be as well rounded as their beloved discs.
“We were Frisbee players. We did everything there was to do with a Frisbee. We didn’t specialize,” he said.
“If there’s anything we can leave here with all you guys and gals… you’re a Frisbee player. Play everything.”
The VeeBros Hall of Fame acceptance speeches