NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - During the month of March, the city of North Myrtle Beach is host to a unique type of sports tournament.
Nearly 200 teams are competing in an ultimate frisbee tournament at North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex.
“It can be super chill but it can also be super intense,” said Morghan O’Neil.
In its sixth year at North Myrtle Beach, the High Tide Ultimate Tournament has grown into one of the largest ultimate Frisbee tournaments in the world.
“The majority of our teams come from the snow belt, they want to come out to a place they can play,” said High Tide Event Coordinator Ed Pulkinen.
Ed Pulkinen and his wife Cathy started hosting the High Tide Tournament 23 years ago and met while playing ultimate frisbee 25 years ago.
Now they use the tournament as an opportunity to minister to college students throughout the country.
“The thing they wanted to convey through the ministry is that we’re just a bunch of people from different areas in life coming together to play a sport,” said O’Neil.
“Whenever you’re caring for people, and they recognize it as you’re being authentic, I think you’re going to see growth and more opportunity,” said Pulkinen.
As the sport of ultimate frisbee grows, North Myrtle Beach continues to be a popular location for tournaments.
The city saw a direct economic impact of $28 million from sports tourism last year.
For players like Morghan, she has played with both guys and girls and helped create the first all girls team at her school.
“When we started our own team it made it very exciting,” said O’Neil.
The month long tournament is free to attend and features some of the top college ultimate frisbee teams from across the country.
“I think in the next three to five years we could have a 50 percent growth increase,” said Pulkinen.
Sean Luffy, who attends Christopher Newport University in Virginia, was one of the thousands competing in the tournament, which allowed his grandmother Martha Higgins from Pawleys Island to visit with her grandson.
“I absolutely love this sport. I love my grandma and she was able to come up for once,” said Luffy.
In its first year, High Tide hosted six teams, 23 years later the tournament welcomes nearly 4,000 players, but for Pulkinen it’s the impact they’re making off the field that means the most.
“Christians love each other and they love people who are not believers so that opportunity to show who we are and what we believe is really important,” said Pulkinen.
All of the games in the High Tide tournament will be played at North Myrtle Beach Sports Complex throughout the month of March.