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Beerfoot 7's annual beach rugby tournament set for Saturday

August 2, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Sun. Sweat. Grit. Fun.

Fort Myers Beach will be overtaken with beach rugby players this Saturday for the 15th annual Beerfoot Beach 7's tournament.

From 9 3 p.m., teams from around Florida will face-off on the beach outside of the Wyndham hotel.

Article Photos

Hammerheads member Tyler Pigott of Cape Coral runs for the goal line to attempt a try. The Hammerheads won the 2016 tournament. File photo.

Thirty teams, both men and women, have signed up this year, said Tatum Walker, the tournament vice president.

"This year, we have a surprise coming," she said.

USA Rugby, the national governing body for the sport, is launching a beach rugby branch this year. As part of that debut, it's sending inflatable outlines for Beerfoot to use for one of its four fields.

"This one coming is just a sample, but next year it will be bigger and better," Walker said.

The event garnered more sponsors this year and will have several vendors set up during the tournament, including a concession stand. A snow cone stand will raise money for the Fort Myers Youth Rugby league. Shy Wolf Sanctuary of Naples will be in attendance - with a wolf.

After the tournament, the group will have six bars on its annual pub crawl. The pub crawl is open to anyone; it costs $15 and begins at 7:30.

Attending the tournament as an observer is free, Tatum said. And, it's a unique way to spend your Saturday.

Traditionally, rugby is played with 15 players on each side. Alternatively, teams can play with seven players instead, hence the "7's" in the tournament's name.

"It's the same size field but a smaller, quicker play," Tatum said.

Tatum advises watchers to bring chairs and sunscreen along. It's a family friendly event and all are welcome to watch.

"Come and watch, it's something they've never seen before," she said.

Parking is available at the hotel and at Fish-Tale Marina.

It's the 15th year for the beach to host this unique event. Walker said the group originally started hosting the tournament on the beach because of its central location to teams north and south, and the beach by the Wyndham is wide open and gives them plenty of room to spread out and play. It was originally called the Barefoot Tournament, but due to its more fun and social nature, the same was crossed out to say "Beerfoot" instead.

Fort Myers Beach has been a good host, too.

"Fort Myers Beach has a fun vibe and is open to new and exciting things," Walker said. "We enjoy coming there every year."

If you're looking for a team to cheer for, the Naples Hammerheads are the closest; this team practices in Estero. Florida Gulf Coast University also is bringing its mens and womens teams.

It can be a little difficult to decipher which team is which, however, because they all adopt fun names and usually wear themed gear. For example, the FGCU alumni team is the "balding eagles."

"It's the one fun tournament," Walker said. "This is the last hoorah of summer."

Ian Lehn, a Fort Myers Beach resident, has been playing rugby for 10 years, and has been on the Hammerheads team fro five years. He used to play football in college.

"I grew up playing football and I love it, but the knocks to the head, the info you hear about concussions... it's completely different than rugby," he said.

Football is just blunt force trauma, hitting someone, where in rugby players learn to wrestle someone to the ground, Lehn said. He likes this style better - as well as the camaraderie.

"After we beat each other, we go to the bar and get a beer and laugh about it," he said. "That's the greatest part of rugby. A rugby team is a tribe."



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