Here’s an oldie but a goodie. From 2009, this article pays homage to some of the greatest freestyle footbag players ever. Hope you enjoy!
The Top 10 Freestyle Footbag Players of All Time
How are the great freestyle footbag players defined you might ask? A good place to start is by looking a player’s contributions to the sport and its scene. What impact did they make? What did they accomplish in their run? What legacy did they pass on? There are many individuals who have made their contributions for the betterment of the sport. This list however is comprised only of the icons that made their mark as players first. Each athlete on this list has made a great and everlasting impact on the sport with their advancement of the freestyle game. Some players on the list have not yet had their stories fully written yet (Vasek Klouda for example), and in time other players may come along and earn a place among these greats. As of 2009 however, this is Fourkast’s official list of the greatest Freestyle Footbag Players of all time.
1. Kenny Shults
Era: Late 1970s-mid 2000s (for freestyle playing, still competitive in Net)
What can you say about the person that made the sport what it is today? Not only did Shults create many of the root moves (and the idea of combos in general), he basically dominated across the footbag spectrum (net, consecutives, golf, and doubles) for almost a decade and a half. Kenny basically laid the ground work for what freestyle is today, and still remains essentially the Michael Jordan of footbag. Kenny won numerous World Champion titles in a variety of events for a great many years, as well as conquered numbers of other events in his time. Kenny retired from freestyle competition in 1996 (but still dominates and is the current US Champion in net), but as late as 2008 he was still freestyling and impressing with his signature high energy dynamic style and technicality. As of now, Kenny still holds the record on longest footbag career, spanning three decades total. There is also a stature to the man; you simply know that you are in the presence of a king when Mr. Shults is around. He is a giant that influenced many of the other giants in the game, namely Rick Reese and Peter Irish to name a few. Kenny has had a hand in about every area of footbag worth mentioning; from his domination in all footbag events to his epic production of Tricks of the Trade to his role in the formation of the Big Add Posse, if it was footbag, Kenny was involved in it. All freestylers derive from Mr. Shults and his foundation laying work, he is essentially the source of modern freestyle today. Having sported a footbag freestyle career that spanned over three decades, our hats go off to Kenny Shults, still the greatest freestyler of all time.
2. Peter Irish:
Era: Late 1980s to mid 2000s
Peter Irish is quite simply the crowned prince of freestyle footbag. In many ways, Peter was to the 90’s what Kenny was to the 80’s, essentially a dominating force. Considered by many to still be the smoothest freestyler to date, Peter helped boost the game in term of higher technicality (helping cross the guiltless threshold) and form. Many of his moves and combos simply looked effortless, almost weightless in fact. To watch Irish play was as watching someone who was enlightened by footbag, but also someone who was enlightening others through the sport. Peter won his first World Champion title in 1991, and then proceeded to win the next two consecutive years to prove it was no fluke. After Kenny Shults took his final Worlds in 1994, Mr. Irish returned (in what many consider his best year) presenting a strong leap ahead of the pack, and took back the Worlds title in 1995. He would proceed to take the 1997 titles as well. By the time Peter retired from competition in 2005, he had achieved something that no other play had accomplished; making finals at Worlds 15 consecutive years in a row. Peter is also credited with developing a new discipline, footbag juggling essentially, for which is still by far the best in the world. These days Irish continues to be involved in the footbag scene, mainly acting as a source of inspiration to the legions of players and icons. All in all, Peter Irish has had an amazing career, and for this he has earned this high spot on the list of greatest freestylers of all time.
3. Vasek Klouda:
Era: Early 2000s to present
The only player on the list who’s accomplishments may still not be fully realized or completed (due to his more recent nature). If it was Kenny in the 80’s, and Peter in the 90’s, then it has most certainly been Vasek in the new millennium. It can be said that Vasek and the Czech crew are largely responsible for the boom in freestyle footbag during the early 2000’s. Vasek rose to power relative quickly; within two years of beginning freestyle he was World Champion at age 15. Beginning in a hotly debated victory over Ryan Mulroney in 2002, Vasek would cement his standing and reign in the footbag community over the next fives year by initiating a winning streak that lasted from 2002 to 2007, six World victories in a row. In his six years as champion, Vasek basically broke (or pushed forward) almost every freestyle record in the books; from number of dropless routines to his groundbreaking tripless/fearless/beastly/jackpot runs. His level of technicality and sheer natural talent pushed the game years forward and raised the bar on what was physically possible in the sport. Vasek stepped miles ahead of the pack, and inspired a whole generation of new freestylers to elevate their own games. Known as a cross body master (amazingly strong with his clipper and osis moves), Vasek will probably be eternally remembered for having the best and most utilized ankle crank in the sport. Outside of this however Mr. Klouda is a master at almost every freestyle concept. Vasek remains current in the game, and though he finally was overtaken in 2008 (ironically in another somewhat controversial Worlds call), the final chapter of Vasek Klouda remains to be written. As I write this article, Vasek Klouda has just reclaimed his title of World Champion (2009), for a groundbreaking seventh time. For everything this still young freestyle has accomplished thus far, he is well deserving of his place on the list of greatest freestylers of all time.
4. Rick Reese:
Era: Mid 1980s to early 2000s
For many years, Rick Reese was considered to be the poster boy for freestyle footbag. An amazing athlete in general, Rick looked and played the part. He was in very good shape (cross training regularly), and sported a sharp image and even sharper game. Rick rose up in the late 80’s during Kenny’s reign in footbag. At first he was given the name “Kenny clone” for emulating the groundbreaking combos and moves that Kenny had put forth. It wasn’t long though before he earned his true and everlasting nickname, ‘Rippin’ Rick Reese’. This was due to his extreme focus and precision in the game. Kenny had invented much of the moves and concepts for combos, but it was Rick that would display how well they could be performed. Compared to Kenny’s high energy style, Rick brought a new level of form perfection in his execution and razor sharp precision. Two of the most well used freestyle moves (Ripwalk and Ripstein) were named after Rick in fact. He was a master of form without any thought of it; a true natural essentially. Rick would win two Worlds titles in his time, once in 1988, and again in 1996. With fellow freestyler (and student from the school of Rippin’) Daryl Genz, Rick would also push the boundaries of doubles freestyle greatly forward, and go on to win many Worlds titles in this division. Considered to be the role model to many of the freestyle greats (including Peter Irish), Mr. Reese is easily at home on the list of top freestylers of all time.
5. Ryan Mulroney
Era: Mid 1990s to early 2000s
The Rogue. Ryan’s reign was shorter then his predecessor and successor, but his impact still remains hugely relevant. Mulroney essentially broke out in the late 90’s, and aggressively fought his way to the top. Ryan matched his competitor’s experience (mainly Peter Irish’s generation) with pure talent and a fierce drive to win and be the best. This paid off finally in 2000 when he performed a daring dropless routine to take his first Worlds. He would easily defend his title a year later in San Francisco without question. Never being completely comfortable with the role of champion, Ryan would keep a certain distance in the freestyle community, but none the less promote the sport and his dominating game whenever needed. Ryan “the Regulator” Mulroney also represented the changing of the guard and ushered in a new generation of late 90’s freestylers. Mulroney is largely credited for pushing forward technical shuffle (many stepping/pixie moves in a row) and elevating the tripless level (all fours). He much like Rick Reese displayed a razor sharp style, one which he mainly played on his toes with great quickness and flare. This style has been heavily emulated and refined by later players, including Ryan’s successor, Vasek Klouda. By the time Ryan was relieved of the World title in 2002 (considered Ryan’s greatest performance and thus a highly controversial call), he had slowly turned his attention to other hobbies. Still though, Mr. Mulroney’s great and competitive presence in the sport helped push it forward, thus earning him a spot in the top five freestylers of all time.
6. Eric Wulff
Era: Late 1980s to early 2000s (still plays Net currently)
Eric Wulff perhaps brought the greatest mix of styles (barring Lon Smith arguably). His game was perfect hybrid of two different generations of player; the pre technical player and the post technical player. Eric pushed the forefront of shredding and technical combos during his run, but what truly made his game unique was his understanding and inclusion of flyers into his combinations. While other freestylers of the day had transitioned away from flyers as more technical tricks were put into play, Eric instead chose to increase his arsenal instead of interchange it. What resulted was a strong guiltless (all three add moves and above) style that mixed Dragonfly kicks, Butterflyers, spinning kicks, and even stepping/paradox flyers. These moves were woven seamlessly into technical combos; in a flash of a moment Wulff would link a Blurriest to Paradox Dragonfly kick to a Down Double Down, and so on. Some players used the flyer moves as novelty as the technical age of freestyle advanced, Eric chose to use instead to give them continued attention and inclusion in his combinations. Wulff was so successful in his development of flyer combos that they achieved a certain technicality to them. Aside from the flyers, Eric also pioneered another front; Ducking and Spinning. Perhaps his greatest legacy (as it is still used greatly in modern freestyle) Wulff’s ducking moves were unparalleled. Terms such as Ducking, Diving, Weaving, and Zulu all refer back to the ground work this iconic freestyler laid down in the 1990’s. This groundwork would not only become a staple of modern freestyle, but also influence other greats like Lon Smith. Eric was a true hybrid freestyle, and for his work he was rewarded the title of World Champion in 1998. For all of his accomplishments, we recognize this unique freestyler as one of the greatest of all time.
7. Lon Smith
Era: Late 1990s to present
What can be said about the great Lon Smith? Lon is as hard to define as freestyler as he is as a person. Possibly the most natural of all the freestyle greats, Lon doesn’t so much shred with the footbag as he does dance with it. Lon’s greatest contribution will always be the style he has brought to the game, literally a very free style of playing. Unpredictable in runs filled with absolute variety and creativity, Smith not only broke out of the creative box, but flat out changed people’s perception of what freestyle was. While many players had a variety of forms, Lon was formless. Almost every player has a rhythm; Mr. Smith has many and at the same time none. A freestyler can invent a move, some say Lon reinvented to his own fashion the way the game is played. Specific contributions include a greatly expanded understanding and use of ducking, diving, and spinning moves. Lon certainly covered the card; he could perform heavy technical as well as his usual arsenal of stylely moves and unique randomness. At one time he even held the fearless record and was one of the first (if not the first) to break 10 five add moves in a row. Now days Lon Smith continues to be one of the best players in the world, and after a very long footbag career was able to come out in 2007 and show the kids that Lon Smith is indeed eternal. Lon has many accomplishments under his belt, most recently he starred in the official Modest Mouse ‘Invisible’ video. Possibly an anomaly of freestyle footbag, this inspiring player more than deserves his spot at the table of the great freestylers both past and present. Shred On Lon!
8. Carol Wedemeyer
Era: Early 1990s to mid 2000s
A Queen of freestyle. Carol took women’s freestyle to new heights, and in quite a few cases, outmatched many male players of her generation in both technicality and style. Carol’s reign lasted through much of the 90s and early 2000s. In this time she won a great amount of freestyle titles, both World titles and other. It’s an understatement to say that Carol pushed women’s freestyle forward, she almost rewrote it. Never before had there been a female freestyler so advanced as Carol. She took the name and idea of the Shredita to new heights, all with a great style to boot. Though Carol could play with a good technicality, she never did this at the sake of her smooth game. At her height in the late 90’s, it was only Peter Irish that could match that same level of smooth play. Carol’s routines were also something to behold, there was a certain eloquence and professionalism to them. Carol would go on to inspire a new generation of freestyle shreditas, including the great Jane Jones, Oxana Prikhodko, and Verena Lenneis, and of course the successor to the women’s freestyle throne, Tina Aeberli. All freestylers female or male can take a page from Carol’s book of freestyle, her mix of grace and technical ability is something every player can learn from. In 1998 Wedemeyer became the first female freestyler to be inducted in the Big Add Posse with her World’s victory that year. Carol retired from competition in the early 2000’s (after winning numerous Worlds titles), but continues to pursue her love of art. In many ways in her time, Carol took freestyle itself and made it an art, which grants her access to being one of the greatest players of all time.
9. Tuan Vu
Era: Early 1990s to early 2000s (still plays Net current)
In many ways, Tuan Vu advanced freestyle by not only the tricks and combos he created, but also by the leagues of freestylers he inspired. In the mid 1990s, freestyle was moving into the guiltless realm, and that by itself could have been a big enough step. But Vu’s comprehension of the game and what it could be went further; he added his own mix of technical freestyle that was not only cutting edge at the time, but also the foundation for a more technical style that was later adopted by many freestylers. Moves components like Atomic and Nuclear existed before Tuan, but it was his advancements that showed the freestyle world what really could be accomplished. In many ways, he was the first technical shredder, for which all others followed after. Tuan pushed the forefront of toe to toe game, paradox, stepping, symposium, and about everything else. Aside from being a specialist at technical shred, he was also a very well rounded player, and could incorporate creative moves as he pleased. Throughout the 1990’s Tuan won numerous events, and placed finals at Worlds multiple times. He achieved further recognition with his rightful induction into the Big Add Posse in 1995. Vu’s influence was wide ranging, he inspired a next generation of technical players, including Yacine Merzouk, and perhaps Tuan’s greatest successor, Suni Jani. Inspired by Vu, Jani would continue Tuan’s work while making advancements and achievements of his own. Tuan retired from freestyle in the early 2000’s (but continues to play net and is still heavily involved in the scene). His legacy lives on however; of the masses of technical shredders playing today, all derive at least one element of their game from Tuan Vu. He was the source of technical shred, and for this has earned his place in the pantheon of great freestylers of all time.
10. Scott Davidson
Era: Mid 1980’s to present
How could Scott Davidson’s career be summed up? One word comes to mind; prolific. Scott’s career in freestyle spans three generations and next to Kenny Shults may have had the second longest career in freestyle footbag. Scott started playing sometime in the 1980’s, and hasn’t stopped since. He helped pioneered freestyle in the Midwest, and competed in and won many tournaments over the years. Scott brought a distinct unmistakable style; his cross body game was unparalleled for many years. Davidson could interweave clipper and osis set moves seamlessly, his personal form even today remain one of the most distinctive styles in the game. During the 1990’s, Scott rose to the ranks of one of best freestylers in the world, and consistently made finals at Worlds. In 1995, he earned his entry into the Big Add Posse, and continued to represent consistently ever after. Finally, in 1999 in his home town of Chicago, Davidson took the hard fought title of World Champion with a well choreographed near flawless routine. While many players of his generation were winding down in the early 2000’s, Scott continued to aggressively push the limits of his game. As of the date of this article Scott Davidson continues to represent freestyle, both as a player and in the footbag scene in general. Aside from being a long time player, Scott acted as the freestyle director for the IPFA for many years. Truly the example of a life dedicated to shredding, this icon of freestyle footbag has earned his place in the top 10 players of all time.
And finally, we have one honorary position on the list that needs to be awarded. Quite frankly, we were not sure where to put this individual due to the nature of his status. If Kenny Shults is Freestyler 1, then what would that make this iconic player? It wouldn’t feel right putting him before or after Shults, or Klouda, or Irish (and so on), thus we have created a special place for this icon. The man’s influence in the beginning was great, especially to the other new players of his day (most notably a young Mr. Shults). Many people assume freestyle footbag began with Kenny Shults, and in many ways freestyle in it’s modern form did in fact derive from the foundation Shults laid. But there was in fact freestyle before Kenny, a much different style of play that predated even stalling. The man that was at the forefront of this of push is the legendary Jack Schoolcraft (Era: mid 1970s to early 1990s). Jack brought flyers, rainbow kicks, spinning kicks, and even back flips to the game. Schoolcraft’s reign and influence lasted from the mid to later 1970’s to the mid to late 1980’s, he was in fact the first World Footbag Association Champion for freestyle footbag. If Shults laid the foundation of modern freestyle, Jack very well may have created the foundation for freestyle itself. He is considered by many the ‘godfather’ of freestyle, and though he may not have a traditional 1 through 10 spot on this list of freestyle greats, Jack Schoolcraft’s undeniable contributions are worthy of accolade and possibly an even higher praise than the list will allow. We consider Jack a grand master of freestyle, he transcends the Top 10 List, and he is everywhere in it. If Kenny Shults is the father of freestyle, then Jack Schoolcraft is most certainly the grandfather of the game we play today. Thus, for all of his accomplishments in the early years, and his status as possibly the first star of freestyle footbag, we award Jack Schoolcraft the master title of Freestyler 0, quite possibly the first of all freestylers. Our hats off to you Mr. Schoolcraft, for laying the deepest foundation of this thing we call Freestyle Footbag!
Honorable mention also goes to Daryl Genz, Derrick Fogle, and Tim Kelly. Their contributions helped push the sport along!