Just because professional disc golfers throw farther, score lower, and can leap tall buildings in a single bound (two out of three ain’t bad, right?) doesn’t mean they aren’t like the rest of us mere mortals.
Pros Are People, Too is a new series at Noodle Arm Disc Golf where we’ll get to know some of these disc golf superheroes on a more personal level. Sure, I’ll ask them some disc golf-related questions, but there’s more to these men and women than what’s in their bags and how highly they were rated at their last tournaments, and I’m going to get to the bottom of what that is. It might result in some unconventional questions, but if they answer them, I’ll print them.
Kicking off the series is World Distance Record Holder Simon Lizotte. Hailing from Bremen, Germany, the 22-year-old began his career by dominating the competition in Europe – in 2012 he won seven of the nine tournaments he participated in, including the European Championships – before moving to the United States full-time last year.
Now a regular Top-10 finisher stateside, Lizotte has become renowned not only for his massive drives, but also his massive charisma. His eclectic shot choices and entertaining videos have only helped to grow his following as he becomes one of disc golf’s most well-known names.
Lizotte was kind enough to take some time to talk to me before a recent stop on the Discmania Flying Circus Tour, where he taught clinics and wowed attendees with a distance exhibition. And while he didn’t quite know what a noodle arm was (Can you blame him? He throws a mile), we talked life on the road, music, beer, David Hasselhoff, and anything else I could think to throw his way. His thoughtful, candid responses belied his age and gave some insight into his transition to life in the United States and its differences from German culture, and above all else, my conversation with Lizotte showed him to be truly grateful for the opportunity to be a touring disc golfer. So, without further ado…
You’re 22, and you’re basically the face of an international company. Do you ever think about that? Is there any pressure to act differently, or do we just get you?
I don’t really think about that too much. I know of course – especially throughout last year, and I’ve noticed that a lot this year – that people know me. This morning I dropped my girlfriend off at the airport and some guy working there came up to me and said, “Hey Simon, I’ve seen you on YouTube, blah blah blah.” And it’s just, I really notice the impact of Discmania promoting me the way they do, and I feel really lucky to have that support. I haven’t been to Europe for awhile, but I know that my name is growing pretty quickly right there, especially in Scandinavia. And just seeing posters of myself in disc golf shops, it’s like a dream come true and pretty crazy. I don’t think about it too much, though. For me, I’m still just that kid from Germany who’s playing Frisbee.
You don’t have to behave yourself or anything like that?
Of course I have to behave, like any professional athlete should. No, I don’t really put a lot of pressure on myself for that. I just try to be nice and smile.
Obviously you have the distance record. Two part question: Number one, do you think someone will break it? Number two, do you have any plans to break it yourself?
No real plans yet, but I’ve been talking to Dave Wiggins, who had the record before I did, and we’re good friends. So we obviously want to keep trying to go further and further and push ourselves to throw further. And if anyone can beat that, it’s Dave. I’ve pretty much seen all distance throwers, and Wiggins and I are just a hundred feet further than all of them. So there aren’t a lot of people, it’s pretty much just me and him. I bet there are probably kids out there who are 15 or 16 right now who have potential to do that, what we are doing right now, but of course I would love to break that 900-foot mark. I think it’s possible. People have done it already, just not in competition.
Will you try and do it with a Discmania disc, or will it matter?
The reason I threw the Boss (for the record-breaking throw) and not the DD2 was just, pretty much, for royalty reasons. My boss, who is the founder of Discmania, just told me, he recommended for me to throw the Boss because I would be better off. But I don’t know. No plans, the Boss just seems to be the perfect disc to go for maximum distance right now.
So the whole concept of this site is that it’s for lower-powered players…
Oh, that’s a noodle arm.
I thought noodle arm because like long (points to his arm)…
Not necessarily skinny, just not very high-powered…
OK, I get it.
So what would be one piece of advice you could give someone who is a noodle arm just to be more competitive?
Nothing new, unfortunately. I really highly recommend to record yourself, watch what you’re doing. A lot of times throwers don’t feel what they’re doing. And then compare to slow-mos on YouTube of me or Paul McBeth or whoever’s form you like because all the Top-20 players have really good form. Just put them next to each other, play them back-to-back, and just figure out what you’re doing. It’s usually really obvious to see. If you know what to look at, it’s pretty easy to see what’s wrong. The biggest problem is timing, and timing is not really teachable. It’s just practice, repetition, muscle memory.
Speaking of teaching, you seem very at ease teaching and being in front of the camera. Does that come from your upbringing, or has it just naturally been that you’ve wanted to be in front of people?
(Laughs) No, it’s actually been the opposite. I used to not like it at all. I’ve been doing this for way longer than most people know because they’ve just known me for two years because I’ve been here for two years. But I’ve been doing it for awhile. I was a known player in Europe for three or four years, so I got used to being on camera, used to giving interviews. And teaching last year during the tour with Avery (Jenkins, on the Discmania Deep in the Game Tour), like he’s been doing for 15 years, he was just a great coach and teacher for me. It was just good to have him to help me out. If you keep doing stuff you’re not comfortable with, you’ll learn to be comfortable with it.
You live in California now, right?
Kind of. I live kind of nowhere and everywhere.
Do you miss Germany? Do you ever want to go back, or do you like it here better?
Of course I miss family and friends, home, but ultimately this is like…What I’m doing right now, a lot of people would love to do this. Especially at my age, it’s living the dream, being on tour, seeing the world and getting paid for traveling. I feel really lucky doing that. I know, I can’t complain at all. It’s rough sometimes, if you have a bad tournament, like I had this past weekend at St. Jude, I played horribly. And it just makes you think about, “Is this the right thing to do?” Or “I can’t handle this road life anymore.” You never have your bed. Your bed can be such a nice place. But, that’s just the way it is. You get used to everything.
Do you have any family out here with you?
No, they’re all back in Germany. I have some family in Canada. That’s why I can actually be here, because I have a Canadian passport. But I haven’t seen them too many times in my life, like 10 times.
Besides family, then, what do you miss the most about Germany?
The food. Very sure, the food.
Sausage. Beer (laughs). Of course, even though I really like the beer culture here, the microbreweries. Avery really got me into that, that was fun. Avery is a beer lover, so…
Nate Doss homebrews, right?
Yeah, his beers are bomb. They’re really good.
What’s your favorite style of beer, then? We could go off on a total tangent here.
I know. When I first came here, I always stuck to what I now think of as gross beer. Like Bud Light, Miller Lite. Like really bad beer. And Avery always said, “Try this IPA,” he’s into triple IPAs. I’m not quite there yet. But I love IPAs now, and when I came back to Germany last year I was looking for IPAs everywhere, and I actually found in my home town a local brewery who started brewing IPAs, and it’s actually decent. So that was surprising. I’ve had some really good double IPAs, I’m starting to like that. IPAs for sure, all the way IPAs.
“What I’m doing right now, a lot of people would love to do this. Especially at my age, it’s living the dream, being on tour, seeing the world and getting paid for traveling. I feel really lucky doing that.”
When you and Jamie (Thomas, Flying Circus Tour Manager and SpinTV guru) are out on the road, who controls the radio?
Obviously the driver is not the DJ. The driver, his job is to not kill us and get us where we want to be, and the co-pilot is the DJ.
So you guys switch off?
I don’t drive. The insurance for me, because I have a foreign license and I’m so young, it would be super expensive to insure me.
So Jamie doesn’t even get to pick his own tunes when he drives?
Sometimes he does, but like 90 percent I choose the music.
What do you choose, usually?
My choice of music is very all over the place. I really like really bad stuff. Like super cliché pop music. Like the charts, pretty much. I just like normal stuff. I have no favorites, it’s crazy. It’s like disc golf courses. I have no favorite courses, I like everything.
Sticking with the music theme, what was the first concert you ever went to?
Oh, wow. The first thing that jumps in my head is the Wise Guys, a German a cappella group. And they’re amazing. They’re five guys just doing instruments with their voices, and I remember them being really, really good. I haven’t been to too many concerts.
You guys don’t hit any concerts on the road? Is it just drive, disc golf, eat, sleep and that’s about it? Or do you see much otherwise?
We try to do as much as possible, of course. Last year I could do a little more because we had more time. This year, the Flying Circus Tour is super packed and we just have to get from city to city, build up, do a show, drive to the next city in between tournaments. We were on the road a lot and we didn’t have time to do other stuff. We try to do as much fun stuff as possible and I’ve been to 38 states now already, so I’ve seen a lot.
Your video where you slid the putter up the skateboard ramp and into the bag – how many takes? Or was it magic?
It wasn’t magic, but it wasn’t the first take. But it was quick, probably within 10 minutes. I was super lucky. All the tries I did before that were not even close. I was doing so bad on it that we were about to give up, and I said, “Let’s do it a couple more times,” and then it just went in perfectly.
That’s the kind of stuff that gives you way more exposure. Who comes up with it?
I come up with those, mostly. That one, we were just playing around somewhere with some course in Texas…Alabama? Where was that?
(Jamie Thomas, from the background): Kansas.
Kansas? Yeah it was. Close enough. (Laughs) Oh yeah, it was in Kansas! Of course, I remember. We were playing a course and I saw those ramps, and was like, “Hey Jamie, do you think the putter would jump into the bag if I throw it on the ramp?” And he was looking at the ramp and said, “Maybe.” So I gave him my phone on 20 percent (battery) and we tried to get it in time and it worked.
You’ve been in California for two years, so let me ask you this very California question. In-N-Out Burger: worth the hype, or overrated?
Very overrated. I’ve had it only twice I think, and I don’t know. I don’t really like it that much. I’ve had like a million burgers. I remember it being alright, but I wouldn’t go there just to have that burger again.
People in Southern California are very protective of In-N-Out.
I heard they have human meat in the burgers!
I hope not, but that’s going in the article now. In your experience, what do most Americans think of Germans?
All Americans think all of Germany is like Southern Germany. It’s like the opposite between Canadians and people from Texas. That’s how different Germany is from north and south. What I think Americans think is that we have beer for breakfast, and beer for lunch, and beer for dinner. And eat sausage every day. And pretty much all we love is beer. And that we’re always on time and stuff like that. That’s what I hear.
What’s the reality?
The reality is that Germany has a lot of very different cultures within Germany. And where I’m from is kind of like…What would I compare it to? We live right at the sea, so seafood is big. It’s very old school, we have a lot of old buildings.
So it’s not just beer and everything being on time?
No, that’s like Munich. I live like 500 miles from there. I live almost as far as it’s possible to live from Munich.
Let me turn the tables, then. What do most Germans think of Americans?
About the beer, they think only Bud Light exists as beer. When I went back to Germany, I told my friends the beer is amazing. And they don’t even know what a microbrewery is or what an IPA is or all those different kinds of beers. Germans have no idea about that. In Germany we have the pilsner and the hefeweizen and nothing else that’s good. So they have no idea about the good beer culture here.
What do they think about Americans? Fat. Eat a lot of fast food, and love America.
I’m sure you see some of that, but have you seen other experiences with Americans as well?
There are a lot of big people, and a lot of fast food.
Do you guys just eat fast food all the time on tour?
Sadly, this tour we ate a lot of fast food. Yeah, it was bad. I noticed my body getting weaker.
What’s your preference at least?
Chick-fil-A. I love that sauce.
I have to ask you this question: What do you know about David Hasselhoff?
Oh I know, Americans think Germans love David Hasselhoff.
Don’t they? He’s like Elvis there, isn’t he?
No. Maybe 30 years ago. I know David Hasselhoff from being a judge on “America’s Got Talent,” because I watch those shows on YouTube. And I know he was on some beach show. And I know he sang some song when the wall fell. And that’s all I know about him. And he ate some greasy burger on video.
So there aren’t statues of David Hasselhoff all over Germany? That’s just me playing into the German stereotypes?
No. Nowadays I would say maybe 50 percent even know who he is.
Do you follow any other professional sports?
I try to follow soccer. The Bundesliga is like the sport in Germany. Pretty much the sport in Europe. But I don’t have a lot of time to really follow it. I live like a mile from the stadium in my hometown. They started playing crappy so I didn’t want to follow anymore. Other than that, I try to watch golf and follow Germans a little bit. If there’s a good tennis tournament maybe I will follow that. But really we have no time to watch TV at all.
If you could take a professional athlete from another sport to convert to disc golf, who do you think would be the best to do that?
I don’t know why he came to mind. He has really long arms, and he’s huge. He could probably throw really, really, really far.
Did he retire? I don’t follow basketball much.
I saw him play a couple weeks ago. I don’t like American sports. Football and baseball don’t even exist in Germany. They exist, but it’s not like a common thing at all. Basketball a little bit, I played basketball in school. But professional down there, nope.
Mostly just soccer? Do they call it football there, too?
I like to call it soccer.
You like to call a disc a Frisbee, right?
Just to make it sound less serious.
What do you say to people who get super serious when you don’t call it a disc?
Yeah. (Shrugs) I don’t care. It is pretty much a Frisbee, just a little heavier.
It makes it easier to explain what you’re doing, too, right?
Right. It’s throwing Frisbees.
Last question: One person, living or dead, to play a round of disc golf with?
Tiger Woods. Just because he’s my favorite.
Connect with Simon Lizotte to keep track of him on the road and to see his latest feats:
Steve Hill is a Southern California-based disc golfer who doesn’t throw very far. Follow him on Twitter @NoodleArmDG.