Four Friends Change Disc Golf Forever
On July 30th, 1982, Harold Duvall showed up to the first ever Professional Disc Golf Association World Championship in Los Angeles, California without expectations. He had signed up for his PDGA membership and received his PDGA number earlier that day. He had a 40 Mold, a 41 Mold, and a 70 Mold in his bag, three models of Frisbee produced by Wham-O. Though the event was the first ever Professional Disc Golf World Championship, it was quite literally Frisbee golf that they were playing.
Harold’s main competition was Dave Dunipace, the 1980 WFDF Champion and 1981 World Distance Champion. He was also Harold’s good friend and mentor. Through three rounds, the two were tied for the lead. But Harold Duvall had been practicing his putting for hours a day that summer; and Dunipace, known more for amazing throws than making putts, was committed to a shot that was not working for him, the thumber roller. At the end of the fifth and final round, Harold Duvall earned his place as the first-ever PDGA World Champion.
Dave Dunipace would take second place, undoubtedly the best finish at a World Championship by a player throwing thumber rollers. His commitment to that shot was a testament to the fact that Dave is an experimenter above all else. He was exploring and pushing the boundaries of his game.
In the same way, Dave has been pushing the boundaries of disc golf in order to advance the sport for the past 40 years. After the 1982 PDGA Worlds, he had the idea for a new disc design; Something faster and more aerodynamic that could cover more ground in a single pull. The modern discs were based on a design that was meant to be easy to catch. What use was that for disc golf? Dave would create the first molds specifically designed for throwing, unconcerned that his discs would be hard to catch. He took inspiration from the far-flying Skyro (an early model of the Aerobie) and the classic Frisbee. And he started tinkering.
In time, Dave had the designs and prototypes for his new model; a disc that would turn “Frisbee” golf into disc golf; a disc that would evolve a game into a sport. All he needed was the financial backing to make it happen. After hearing “No” numerous times, Dave turned to his good friend and protege.
Harold Duvall agreed to help Dave without hesitation. Harold’s brother Charlie was brought in to help with funding and their close friend, Tim Selinske, was brought in for his business and people skills. In March of 1983, Champion Discs, Inc. was formed. And with the approval of Innova’s first disc patents, those four friends, Harold, Charlie, Tim, and Dave, changed the world of disc golf forever.
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Since the approval of Dave’s revolutionary first patent, Innova has been at the leading edge of every major advancement in the sport. Some of those advancements came with resistance. At first, there were players who rebelled against the idea of the triangular rim of the Eagle and the Aero (now known as a beveled edge). They said it was going to destroy local parks and make existing courses obsolete. But once the first modern golf discs became approved for play, you were at a disadvantage if you didn’t bag one. And so disc golf evolved. The courses expanded and our sport became more engaging and exciting.
Innova has consistently pushed the limits of what disc golf can be. We have been at the core of advancing disc technology from the beginning, and in turn, course design, and player development.
In 1984, Dave created the first mold specifically designed for putting, the Aviar. At the time, players couldn’t understand why they would want to bag one. They had just gotten used to being able to rip an Aero twice as far as they could throw before and couldn’t understand why they would want a disc that went less far. But Dave and Innova could see disc golf for what it would become years down the line, not what it was at that time. And so Dave designed discs for the sport that he saw emerging, not the one that existed. The Aviar would go on to become the best-selling Putter of all time, and the disc used to win more World Championships than any other.
From the designing and testing, to the molding, hot-stamping, and shipping, Dave did it all with his own two hands. But through all the work of manufacturing, he continued to prioritize time for designing and experimenting.
In 1984, Dave and Innova released the first ever Mid-range, the XD. In 1987, the release of the Roc allowed accurate distance in a more torque-resistant mold. It was the first appearance of a beaded disc on the market, helping to prevent disc wear. In 1991, the release of the Viper opened up a new level of potential distance. That disc would go on to set multiple distance world records.
Between 1999 and 2000, Innova put out Fairway Drivers in a wide-range of flight characteristics. With such useful and unique-from-each-other flights, the Leopard, the (new) Eagle, the Valkyrie, the TeeBird, and the Firebird created a reason for players to bag many molds in the same speed-class. The 2007 release of the Destroyer, allowed full power rips from the fastest arms in the world, even in windy conditions.
Our innovations don’t stop at discs. In 1995, Innova released the DISCatcher Pro, a better-catching target and the first banded basket. The DISCatcher Pro would go on to be installed on more courses worldwide than any other target. It would also become the official target of the United States Disc Golf Championship, arguably the most prestigious event to win in our sport.
Our drive to keep improving has never faltered. Last year, Innova released a host of new molds from the Toro, to the Jay, to the Charger. This year, we wide released Halo, our most in-demand plastic of the past two decades. Dave is still in his lab tinkering and we are still regularly releasing new molds with unique shot shapes to fill out the Innova lineup. Over 100+ PDGA approved discs and still innovating.
We are always looking for opportunities to improve our line and our materials. There is nobody in the business that offers a better product at a better price. Our mission is unity through disc golf – to make the best products possible so that more people are drawn to our sport, and disc golf can spread throughout the world.
-Innova Co-founder and Disc Designer, Dave Dunipace.
The Choice of Champions
Innova is more than just the leader in advancing disc technology. In 1998, a new addition to the Innova staff, Jonathan Poole, had a novel idea; Innova would form the first Team in disc golf and become the first manufacturer to sponsor athletes. Ken Climo became the first ever sponsored player in our sport. This year, Innova is celebrating not only 40 years as a company, but also 25 years as a Team.
We set the standard for athlete sponsorship, from salaried play, to Tour and Signature Series fundraiser discs, to providing transportation and housing to our athletes while on tour. Since the formation of Team Innova in 1998, we have been able to support hundreds of players, allowing them to do what they love while providing them with the best equipment available.
Since Harold Duvall’s win in 1982, Innova has won more Open World Championship titles than all other teams combined. In 1984, Sam Ferrans became the youngest PDGA World Champion in history. In 1985, Harold Duvall became the first two-time World Champion. In 2005, Juliana Korver became the winningest FPO player in PDGA World’s history, taking home her 5th title. And in 2006, Ken Climo became the winningest MPO player in PDGA World’s history, winning his 12th.
Most multi-time World Champions in disc golf history have played on Team Innova for the majority of their wins, from Paul McBeth, to Barry Schultz, Des Reading, and Valerie Jenkins. Last year, Hailey King became United States Women’s Disc Golf Champion and this year Calvin Heimburg is off to an historic start to his season. Innova is and has been the Choice of Champions for 40 years straight. Our passion and commitment to supporting our athletes is at an all time high.
A Note to our Beloved Ams
As the professional side of the game blooms, Innova will never lose sight on the ground from which that seed grows – the casual player making new friends at leagues or bringing the family out for an activity that kids and adults love equally. Each year, thousands of Innova starter sets help new players discover a passion for flight. We host hundreds of local PDGA-sanctioned events globally, allowing anyone interested to get a taste of competition. Innova creates plastic for everyone. You choose how far you want to take the game.
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Innova has been consistently committed to supporting tournaments from casual C-tier, to DGPT Elite Series, to PDGA Majors. In 1998, borrowing ideas from the traditional game of golf, Harold Duvall, Jonathan Poole, and Dave Dunipace began planning an event that would shape the future of disc golf’s competitive scene. From those plans grew the United States Disc Golf Championship. Through its unique structure, highly acclaimed course, and distinct qualifying procedure, the “USDGC” established itself as one of, if not the, most prestigious events in disc golf.
Since the first iteration in 1999, USDGC has viewed itself as the pace-setter and role model from which other tournament staff can pull inspiration. The team in Rock Hill runs an event that not only exceeds expectations for a disc golf tournament, but would exceed expectations for any professional sporting event. Often referred to as the “Superbowl” of Disc Golf, the USDGC sets a precedent of professionalism that tops itself year after year. From the level of competition, to the media coverage, to player amenities, to spectator experience, the USDGC is the pinnacle of what a disc golf event can be.
In 2023, the USDGC will celebrate its 25th anniversary. As always, this year will top every year prior. Jonathan Poole and the event staff are determined to give the Championship the 25th birthday it deserves; all stops have been pulled out for this year’s event.
The USDGC is a career-defining and life-changing week. To win is to go down in history as one of the greats. This world-class sporting event wouldn’t exist without the efforts of Innova. Of all of Innova’s accomplishments, the Championship is high on the list of our biggest and most-valued successes.
40 Years of Growth
For Innova, growing the sport of disc golf and growing the company have always been synonymous. We aim our efforts at expanding disc golf and we reap the benefits as more people discover the joy of flight. The Education Disc Golf Experience and Throw Pink have encouraged massive growth in our sport. Since the creation of EDGE in 1999, over 2,000,000 kids have been introduced to disc golf. Since the creation of Throw Pink in 2013, a once male-dominated sport has seen a huge influx of female players, both casual and professional.
In large part due to the efforts of Innova, the sport of disc golf has boomed to heights that once seemed unreachable. There are over 250,000 PDGA members, over 5,000,000 disc golfers globally who play regularly, and over 5 new courses opening for play each day. Multiple professionals in the sport make seven-figure-per-year contracts. A lot of that growth can be traced back to Dave Dunipace’s invention of the Eagle and Aero from Innova’s original patent.
Once the only option in high-performance golf discs, Innova is now the best of many; there are over 100 disc manufacturers with PDGA approved molds. We treasure and fully embrace all of the competition that has arisen over the past 40 years. It is this competition that has kept us striving for better.
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40 Years of Innova
Since the company’s founding in 1983, Innova has only become more enthusiastic about advancing and supporting the sport of disc golf.
I’m at least as invested as I was 40 years ago. There’s more to be invested in, a lot more.
We have managed to add millions of players globally, without losing the sense of family that makes our sport so special. We have created over 100 molds so that any arm speed can throw any shot shape. We have helped install courses across the country and world to provide access to as many players as possible. We run tournaments from local C-tiers to PDGA Majors to create opportunities for competition at every level of play.
Innova’s main motivation is to bring disc golf to as many people as we can, while maintaining the core values that made us all fall for the game: fun, community, and a love for flight. After 40 years, we hold those values closer than ever and have never had a brighter outlook for our sport. Thank you to every member of the disc golf family for helping us get here.
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40 Years of Innova
Dave Dunipace wins the World Flying Disc Championship
Dave Dunipace wins World Distance Championship
Harold Duvall wins and Dave Dunipace takes 2nd at the first PDGA World Championship
Dave has the idea for a faster, more aerodynamic disc that is easier to use in the wind
Innova Champion Discs is founded by Dave Dunipace, Harold Duvall, Charlie Duvall, & Tim Selinske
Dave Dunipace (Innova) patents triangular rimmed discs, the first designed specifically for the sport of disc golf
The Eagle is approved for PDGA
The Aero is approved for PDGA
Dave Dunipace wins US Open
Innova (Dave) starts hot stamping in-house
The Aviar becomes Innova’s first Putter and is approved for PDGA competition
The XD becomes Innova’s first Mid-range disc and is approved for PDGA competition
Sam Ferrans wins the PDGA World Championship at 16 years old with the Aviar. He remains the youngest World Champion to this day
Harold Duvall wins his second PDGA World Championship
Innova’s iconic Mid-range disc, the Roc, is approved for PDGA competition
The Stingray, Innova’s first long-range Driver, is approved for PDGA competition
Innova gets its first molding machine to manufacture discs in-house
Carolina Flying Discs is founded for Eastern US promotion and distribution
Ken Climo wins the first of his nine consecutive World Championship titles
PDGA approves the Viper, a record-setting Distance Driver
The Discatcher Pro target is created and approved by PDGA; currently the most-used target worldwide
Team Innova is established
Innova becomes first manufacturer to sponsor a pro player, Ken Climo
Teebird becomes approved for PDGA play
The Leopard, Innova’s first iconic Fairway Driver, is approved for PDGA competition
Juliana Korver wins her first World Championship title
Innova holds the first United States Disc Golf Championship (USDGC)
Innova creates the Women’s National Championship
Innova debuts Champion plastic
Firebird is approved for PDGA play
Valkyrie is approved for PDGA play
Four-number flight ratings system is created by Dave
Barry Schultz wins the 2001 World Games in Akita, Japan
Women’s National Championship becomes the inaugural US Women’s Championship
Innova debuts the Champion Edition “CE” Roc, considered by many to be the first tournament fundraiser disc
Educational Disc Golf Experience is founded by Innova to promote disc golf in schools
Christian Sandstrom sets the World Distance Record at 820 feet and maintains the record for nearly a decade
Barry Schultz wins 2nd World Championship title
Wide-release of Star Plastic
Juliana Korver wins her 5th PDGA World Championship
PDGA approval of the Wraith
Ken Climo wins his 12th PDGA World Championship
Des Reading wins her 3rd PDGA World Championship
Barry Schultz wins 3rd USDGC title
The quintessential Driver, the Destroyer, is approved for PDGA competition
Ken Climo wins 5th USDGC title
PDGA approves the Boss, world-record setting disc
Innova launches the Innova Factory Store
Paul McBeth wins 4th World Championship title
David Wiggins Jr. sets the World Distance Record with 154 gram Boss at 1,108 feet
Jennifer Allen sets women’s distance world record with 152 gram star wraith
Philo Brathwaite hits his Albatross
Valarie Jenkins wins 4th World Championship title
Shryke gets PDGA approval
Disc golf sees a rapid influx of new players
Inaugural Throw Pink Women’s Disc Golf Championship is held at the Winthrop Arena
Hailey King wins the USWDGC
Innova Jay is approved for PDGA play
Innova wide releases Halo plastic
PDGA signs up 250000th member
25th anniversary USDGC
The Halo Aero
For our 40th Anniversary, Innova wanted to release something special. The 2023 wide release of Halo plastic was Innova’s most recent major announcement; we figured let’s put our first revolutionary advancement together with our most recent game-changer. And so the Halo Aero was born. The old meets the new.
As much as this disc makes a beautiful commemoration to keep on the wall, it’s meant for throwing too. You will be surprised at how useful the Aero still is. It is one of the straightest-flying discs in the game. The slight added stability of Halo plastic makes this a winner for short-range drives and upshots. Get yours at your local retailer starting this week.
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