Friday, March 27, 2015

Interview with WCBU Broadcaster Evan Lepler

Before too much sand falls in the hourglass, we caught up with Evan Lepler who discussed broadcasting for WFDF's 2015 World Championships of Beach Ultimate (March 8-March 13). An experienced broadcaster for ultimate games - for both USA Ultimate and the American Ultimate Disc League - Evan admitted getting the WCBU gig with no prior beach ultimate experience and his choice of footwear in the booth.

SLUDGE: Congratulations on successful coverage of the World Championships of Beach Ultimate. How did you get the gig to be a broadcaster for WCBU games?

Evan Lepler: Skyd Editor Elliot Trotter first reached out to me to gauge my interest back in October, and I was immediately intrigued. But it was not until mid-February that Elliot finished negotiations with folks in Dubai and the opportunity became official for me. I booked my flight on February 20, basically two weeks before the event.

SLUDGE: That's a tight window to prep for an international trip. Were there any issues you were "nervous" about when accepting the invitation to broadcast the WCBU games in Dubai?

Evan: It was an honor to be invited and a thrill to accept the invitation. Perhaps some minor nerves about the challenge of becoming informed about all of the teams, but I was eager to embrace the challenge.

SLUDGE: There were 20+ livestreamed games during the event covering lots of international players. How in the world did you prepare for the WCBU broadcasts?

Evan: Heading into the event, I knew that it would be a team effort between myself and my superb commentating partners, Bryan Jones and Megan Tormey. They were the heroes in brilliantly formatting the rosters and acquiring some general information about many of the teams we planned to cover.
WCBU broadcasters (l to r): Bryan Jones, Megan Tormey and Evan Lepler
Over the course of the week, we each had certain games "off" in order to go watch other games and talk to different people to get ready for the next telecast. Before the trip, I read as much as I could, but I also was very focused on my basketball work in the weeks leading up to it.

I literally drove straight from the Big South Championship game to the airport to begin my journey to Dubai. On the flight, I read the official beach ultimate rule book a couple times (in between episodes of "House of Cards"). Overall, it was a different prep experience because, for the most part, it was not like there was a media guide or extensive written coverage online of the 25 countries and the seven divisions. But thankfully most everyone in the ultimate community is super interesting to talk to and generous with their time, even in the hours and minutes leading up to a game. I'm proud of how the broadcasts came across, even though I wish I could have prepared more.

SLUDGE: During the broadcasts provided by Skyd Magazine, I marveled that wind was not being picked up in the audio. Explain your setup.

Evan: I had no idea what to expect in terms the overall production, but was very pleased with how it all came together. There was a really big-time TV truck, producer, and crew from DubaiSports. We had three headsets, allowing us to have three broadcasters on the air simultaneously, and two monitors in our "booth" that enabled us to see a live program feed. We were located at the top of the grandstand underneath a remarkably sturdy tent that somehow withstood the fierce Thursday winds and shielded us from the sun, both of which were clutch. There were six or seven camera and all were high quality. So many people commented about how good everything looked, and obviously I had nothing to do with that but was grateful to be a part of the team.

SLUDGE: What were some of your favorite parts of WCBU?

Evan: My favorite part was just being there and being able to see players from so many countries that I had never seen before. It was surreal to walk up and down the beach and witness the spirit, energy, and passion that everyone displayed. It was my first experience traveling outside of North America for an international tournament like this, so simply having the opportunity was incredible. My least favorite part was the jet lag. But it was worth it.

SLUDGE: Yep, jet lag is a drag. (cough) Any other challenges to speak of?

Evan: It was a challenge I was eager to embrace, but it's always tough calling 4 or 5 games with 8 or 10 different teams in the same day. But that's ultimate and it's a privilege to try and conquer that challenge as best you can.

SLUDGE: Is there anything you would improve upon for future beach ultimate events?

Evan: It's really hard to imagine having a better setup in terms of a stadium showcase field and a great broadcast location on the beach. Obviously, in identical circumstances, the next time is almost always better just because of the increased familiarity. I hope I have the good fortune to experience future beach ultimate events. It's cool to broadcast barefoot. I had never done that before.

SLUDGE: There are some obvious difference between playing beach and grass ultimate. What about for broadcasting beach ulti games??

Evan: Having not been to a beach tournament in my life--Lei Out, Wildwood, and Sandblast are all on my list, but haven't been able to make it happen yet--I really did not know a whole lot about beach. The speed of the game is very different, which frankly makes it a little easier on the play-by-play announcer. Players also talked about how much easier the beach was on their bodies than the grass. Except for the occasional face full of sand, laying out on the beach is usually harmless.

SLUDGE: Sounds like an amazing experience.

Evan: It was a whirlwind, but it was awesome. I am very grateful that Elliot offered me a chance to be a part of it.

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