Not too long ago when someone mentioned disc golf you might have thought of a player with some discs throwing toward a basket, and maybe that is still how you see it today. But as the sport has grown, evolved, and found its footing as a lifestyle choice, disc golf has taken on so much more. People of all walks of life want to integrate the sport they love into every facet of their daily lives. One woman who has taken the notion of disc golfing to a whole new level is Alyssa Van Lanen.
Everything Alyssa does is disc golf, but also not quite disc golf. It’s her take on the atmosphere around the sport that gives us a glimpse into some unusual aspects that most fans take for granted. Introduced to the world of flying discs by her father while living in Wisconsin, she and her younger brother were always at the local courses. “It was never a question that on the weekends our family would go disc golfing. I thought my dad was just a crazy fanatic of this unknown sport. Little did I know it was an entire world that I would end up so involved in.”
Alyssa is considered one of the preeminent photographers in disc golf. If there is a big tournament, you will more than likely see her with a camera walking along with the players to capture the drama unfolding. I had to know if disc golf or photography came first and she let me know that, “To be honest, I can’t remember a time when disc golf and photography weren’t part of my life. My first camera was a pink, Barbie film camera my parents bought for me when I was six and by seven, I was asking for a better one.”
Her work photographing disc golfers during live tournaments has given her the opportunity to document some intriguing moments and placed her in the middle of some intense action. “The pros are people and they have emotions the same as anyone. Do you like to have your photo taken when you are trying your hardest not to blow up after a putt?” Because of her relationship with pro disc golfer Nate Perkins, Alyssa is allowed to see the side of the sport that is more natural and sometimes fun-loving. No matter what she captures, nothing can take the place of a tournament finish. “The end of a tournament is the most exciting to photograph. The energy in the air is actually palpable. If you see me wearing sunglasses on the final hole it’s probably because I’m tearing up.”
This past year Alyssa and her good friend and disc golfer Paige Pierce (4x World Champion) set out to give the fans something they didn’t even know they wanted. They created a YouTube vlog entitled “Disc Golf Tourist”. In the video series Alyssa and Paige travel to different places between tour stops and allow the viewer a taste of the local culture, a taste of the sights, and quite often the taste of the local cuisine. The rapport that Alyssa and Paige share between each other, while embarking on their journeys, is worth the price of admission. These two seem more like sisters enjoying a family moment rather than friends on a random outing.
With any good idea there must be inspiration. I asked Alyssa what inspired her to breathe life into the Disc Golf Tourist. “I felt like disc golf was missing a cinematic, well-produced lifestyle “vlog”. I say vlog in quotes because my goal isn’t to walk around talking to the camera like a typical vlog, but to show you a place through my eyes.” Alyssa does just that by using her camera knowledge to mix beautiful scenes with creative transitions, and all the while maintaining a quick pace that is reminiscent of a modern day travel-log.
One thing that the Disc Golf Tourist does well is it stops and takes-in each small moment that the viewer surely would have missed. “I have been training my eyes for many years to see the beauty in the world and to capture it as well.” Alyssa and Paige have quite possibly hit upon something vital that is missing in most people’s busy days. The grind of a job or even the grind of a disc golfer’s tour often hides the beauty of the small things right under our noses. Alyssa has a rare talent of transforming the mundane into new possibilities.
When the ladies break into song, it’s hard not to want to join in on the fun. Luckily, the Disc Golf Tourist has found a way to allow disc golf fans to join them on some of their adventures. “We hosted a group trip to Croatia and I foresee trips like this becoming part of the Disc Golf Tourist. It was the perfect mix of disc golf and getting to know each other on a deeper level.”
Alyssa Van Lanen has found a comfortable perch to watch disc golf history in the making and isn’t letting up anytime too soon. Alyssa and Paige plan to continue their series Disc Golf Tourist with many experiences to come. Another of Alyssa’s YouTube creations is “The Van Perks”, a series that chronicles the ups and downs of her life on the road with pro disc golfer Nate Perkins. Alyssa’s goal is to never miss a moment of the action through a camera. She sees the beauty of both disc golf and the world around her, but don’t worry, she’ll let you have a look too.