top of page
  • Chris Davies. Edited by Martin Galley

Winning When Wet: a How To Guide

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

This week, Vortica takes an in-depth look at how to excel in the rain, and cold.

"Can you see the basket?" Ed, Robyn, Kyle and David at the Christchurch Fling, 2017
"Can you see the basket?" Ed, Robyn, Kyle and David at the Christchurch Fling, 2017

In 21 years of competitive disc golf, I have played my share of wet tournaments, and one thing remains constant throughout – my performances have been better than my fine weather results.

I want to share with you what I have learned over the decades, so you might save yourself a lot of heartache and discomfort when the weather takes a nosedive. And, if it helps you beat me at an NZ NT event sometime in the future, please let me know, as it will fill my heart with a warm glow.

The first, and most important aspect of wet play is mental attitude.

The second aspect is having the right equipment, and using it correctly.

The third aspect is your routine.

The fourth aspect is strategy, and tactics.

And finally, you need to tie all these ingredients into a cohesive whole, which will work well and survive the whole tournament, and not a single throw less.

Now, no one likes to play in the rain, let alone cold rain, or even worse, cold, rain… and wind! The Deadly Three are liable to wreck your game entirely, unless you have all your ducks in a row. So, let’s hunt down some ducks!

Mental Attitude The weather is what it is. Getting upset about it doesn’t help you, or others. Try not to complain about it if you can help it. Personally, I struggle with this.

A well prepared player isn’t too worried about the weather, merely that the round is not going to be much fun, unless you play like a demon, and have fun because you are running hot.

You will need to be focused for every shot in the round, and to do that you need to give yourself a break in between shots, and while it can be hard to relax when you aren’t throwing, this is exactly what you need to do.

Being able to relax is largely down to having…

The right idea: Hannah Joint equipped with gaiters and boots
The right idea: Hannah Joint equipped with gaiters and boots

The Right Equipment And the right gear costs a lot of money. No two ways about it. But there comes a time in a disc golfer’s career when they will no longer accept being cold and wet, or the “inevitable” results those bring. You have to ask yourself; What am I prepared to pay, to take strokes off my wet weather game, and be less miserably cold and wet?

You can accumulate your equipment slowly over time, or you can go out and blow a big wad of cash on everything I have listed below, as being essential for wet weather play.

Most people turn up to tournaments woefully ill-prepared for wet weather. This puts them at a huge disadvantage, even before they begin. I travel heavy and carry all my wet weather gear which I have tried to list in order of importance, but in reality, it’s *all* important!

• 2-metre, vented storm umbrella • Three pairs of waterproof shoes • Many pairs of thick merino wool socks • Bag/Cart rain cover (read on) • Three rain shells • Properly waterproofed over-pants with sealed side zips • Lightweight low-profile insulated jacket • One Mark II Mobius Butt-Flap (read on) • At least 3 caps, one with polar-fleece ear flaps • At least 4 artificial chamois • At least 4 cotton towels • At least 6 re-usable hand warmers • 2 pairs of fleece-lined, semi-waterproof insulated trousers • Cart – OR, 19” Huklab stool • Two sets of merino wool long underwear • Several merino wool undershirts and long sleeved shirts • Two merino wool jerseys • Merino neck warmer

There is no such thing as having too much wet weather gear. Staying dry and warm is the top priority in any bad weather round. It is impossible to perform to your potential if you are cold or wet. If you are cold and wet then you are done for, and might as well pull out of the event.

Not dressed for success, or his sick condition. No prizes for guessing how Ben did.
Not dressed for success, or his sick condition. No prizes for Ben.

Your shoes and rain shells are the most important items here, and you need to spend proper money on these items and buy high-quality gear. Because the joy of cheap price is long forgotten, while the bitterness of low quality persists for the lifetime of the item.

No matter how waterproof your shoes are, or how good your rain shell is, both are highly unlikely to leave you dry after two rounds in heavy rain. This is why you need at least two of each, and preferably a third, so you can still be dry and warm for the morning round the next day, when you don’t have adequate drying facilities available.

If you need a fourth set of wet weather gear, use the driest stuff for round 4, by which time there’s a good chance 25% of the field will have pulled out, so you should be sitting pretty. :P

Fine Merino Wool Is a miracle substance, and you would do well to obtain as much of it as you possibly can, in various types of clothing, and in various weights. And, of course, the very best fine merino wool comes from New Zealand, where we have been producing the best wool and woollen items for a hundred years. Keep your eyes open for the NZ-based Icebreaker brand – you will never regret a purchase.

If you can’t find, or afford fine merino wool, or much of it, other wools are also good, just not AS good.

Artificial Fabrics are Not Optimal Not only do they not protect you as well from cold or wet, they stink like crazy, and can cause chaffing – something wool will never do.

Wool is not Itchy or Scratchy Properly prepared wool will never irritate your skin.

DO NOT TUMBLE DRY!

Do Not Tumble Dry The best woollen items come pre-shrunk, and can withstand even warm washes in a top-loading washer, but you must never tumble dry wool. Do not be lazy! Fast-spin woollens and hang them up to dry. It is a tiny price to pay for the unparalleled luxury of fine merino wool directly against your skin.

Waterproof Gear has a Short Life Span I can’t stress this enough. Nothing is waterproof. Water is the ultimate solvent, and will, over time, dissolve everything. Completely.

Your expensive waterproof shell is highly unlikely to be anything like waterproof after just 20 days of wear. It might survive light showers, but serious rain will leave you wet inside it. Discard old rain shells, and replace every couple of years.

Of most interest to disc golfers is that the carrying of bags via backpack straps is the thing which most rapidly destroys water-repelling coatings, membranes and treatments. The friction, folding, and movement under pressure combine to rapidly degrade the material. Ten rounds in a shell carrying your backpack can ruin the very surface you need most; the shoulders – and from then on, the jacket is going to leak.

Disc golfers are advised to use carts in the rain, if only because it saves your very expensive rain shell from damage.

Waterproof Shoes Have a large variation in quality, price and longevity. The waterproofing membrane breaks down with use, particularly in non-insulated shoes, and so it is wise to avoid wearing your waterproof shoes unless it is actually wet or raining.

Try to wear appropriate footwear at all times for disc golf, and do not subject your feet to boiling inside a winter shoe in summer time. Toes which look like they have been in a bath for two hours is an unpleasant look and feel. Best avoided!

And if you are unlucky enough to suffer pitted Keratolysis, then damp feet will result in the bacteria eating half the skin on your feet. Not fun.

Vortica is happy to recommend the Latitude64 T-Link shoe as having excellent water resistant properties for an extended period of time, superb grip and are very warm. We do however have one caveat: the very first batch of T-Links used the wrong glue, and fall apart fairly rapidly. They can be perfectly repaired using Shoe-Goo, or you can return them to Lat64 for a new pair, which will not fall apart.

Shoes in General It may sound excessive, but I have six pairs of shoes for disc golf, and I chose which pair to wear based on the conditions. This has several advantages. Shoes which are not worn for anything other than disc golf last many, many times longer than shoes which are worn casually.

Believe it or not, this isn't all of them.
Believe it or not, this isn't all of them.

So, disc golf shoes are put on just before a round begins, and taken off as soon as it ends. Rest your feet in flip-flops or open toed sandals with good cushioning at lunch time, and at the end of the day. Let your feet dry properly. If cold, wear other socks and shoes over lunch time, and change again before the second round. I can’t stress how important it is to look after your feet during a tournament. This comes from a guy with a left ankle which is fused solid, after ripping the foot clean off his leg, taking the shortest root down a 30-metre cliff. So, do as I say, not as I did. :P

If you are a normal human, and you wear a single pair of shoes for three days, your feet will be very sore, and in poor condition. Take my advice, never miss an opportunity to put on a fresh (thick!) pair of merino wool socks, or to change into dry shoes.

When I caddied for Dave Feldberg for four days, I was shocked and horrified by his shoes, and how badly he made contact with the ground. I had to have words to him and Synthia about it, and made him promise to see his podiatrist back home, and sort his shit out.

Cheap or badly fitting shoes, with low quality foot beds are never going to be good for your disc golf game.

Proper Footbeds Unless you are a genetic freak, your feet are messed up. Somehow. You’ve got a massively wide foot, or a low instep, or collapsed arches, or bunions – or any number of diabolical problems from abusing your feet for years.