The Frisbee was a toy that appeared to have reached design perfection. For decades, the modern disc’s sleek airfoil profile, not terribly far removed from its cake-plate origin, felt purpose built for sailing over summer lawns and beaches. And aside from the occasional kitschy tweak — Glow in the dark! Holographic foil! — there apparently wasn’t much that could improve the toss and catch goodness of the Frisbee. But a strange new “sine wave” disc design from Wham-O dubbed the Sonic Frisbee may just prove to be just the design leap everyone’s favorite flyer needed.
Strikingly, the Sonic Frisbee is no longer round. It is, in fact, square-ish. The strange shape is built to accommodate the wavy top geometry of the disc. Three distinct mounded waves disturb what has traditionally been the frisbee’s sleek flat profile. When the platter is tossed, these waves appear to undulate almost like the wings of a bird, which is apparently the point. But do they improve performance? I took the new frisbee out with my 7-year-old to find out.
The only time I really remember trying to toss a frisbee with my kid, the effort was abandoned quickly due to frustration. I found myself chasing down sideways throws, wobbly throws that didn’t get anywhere, and throws that went anywhere but near me. I had hope that the new disc design could help that. An impromptu game of catch with my older neighbor the night before offered some promise. As we hurled the disc from driveway to driveway, we found it to be stable with good accuracy and little drift. But my neighbor is much older than seven. Much older.
By my son’s second toss in our backyard the following day, however, I was pleasantly surprised. The mechanics of his throw hadn’t necessarily improved but the flight of the frisbee had. It remained more level and managed to keep from tipping and flipping in the air. Because of the level flight, the disc was also a bit less likely to bank. That quality isn’t great if you want to toss a fancy sweeping arc across the park, but it’s pretty nifty for a 7-year-old getting the hang of the whole frisbee thing.
Cooler still was the fact that as he got more confident, my son began putting a bit more oomph into his throws. Soon we were standing a good 10 to 12 feet apart and he was closing the distance with ease.
The design did little to help his catching, however. That’s not likely the fault of the square of the waves. It’s more likely that he’s just not great at catching. He has the same trouble with baseballs or anything else that comes whizzing at him from a distance. Which is not to say there isn’t a downside to the new design. There is, albeit, a very specific and nitpicky one: The waves make it hard to spin the disc around your finger by the rim.
That may sound like I’m reaching for criticism. I’m not. Spinning the disc on your finger by the rim is one of those little things that makes throwing a frisbee a unique experience. With the new design you can maybe get a rotation or two, but that’s about it before the waves force the disc of your finger. A small thing, yes. But a thing.
That said, there is plenty of good in the new frisbee design that it doesn’t really feel like a one-off gimmick. It’s easier to fly for a beginner, it’s cool to watch fly through the air, and it’s welcome proof that humans can, indeed, find a way to improve on perfection. The Sonic Frisbee will be available for purchase starting June 5th.