In March of 2020, as a highly contagious virus wreaked havoc on the world, the PDGA announced that the Waco Charity Open would be the last scheduled event for the season. For the foreseeable future, the sport of professional disc golf would be on hold.
Disc golf has seen dramatic growth since its inception in 1976. According to the Professional Disc Golf Association, in 2011 there were 2,982 U.S. disc golf courses. In the UDisc directory, there are now around 11,300 disc golf courses as of November 2020. At this rate of growth disc golf courses will outnumber ball golf courses within 5 years.
Looking back at March of 2020, it seemed as if there would be a pause in disc golf’s exponential growth. But as we learned more about the virus and how it was transmitted, disc golf was poised for its best year ever. Unlike many other sports, disc golf is played strictly outdoors and equipment is hardly shared among its players.
The Art of Disc Dyeing
As all Americans were asked to social distance and stay home, another niche within the disc golf world began exploding. People stuck at home with nothing to do turned to arts and crafts to occupy their minds and stave off cabin fever. The idea of dyeing disc golf discs seemed like a great way to incorporate two of people’s favorite, or only available, activities into one.
The process of dyeing discs can vary significantly depending on the desired outcome. At the root of it, discs are placed on a medium, like shaving cream, lotion, or glue with dye engineered for polyester or plastic used to embed colors and designs into the discs. This process will usually take around 8-24 hours as the discs need a lot of time to absorb the dye into the material.
Stickers and paint may seem like an easier and faster option but those would make the disc illegal in the eyes of the PDGA. The rules state any detectable thickness on the disc is not allowed.
The Growth of Disc Dyeing
As with the sport of disc golf, disc dyeing has been growing overtime as more and more people jump in. But with the explosion of disc golf during the pandemic, disc dyeing was right there for the ride.
It’s near impossible to find concrete numbers on how many disc dyers are out there, both professional and amateur. However, looking at the growth of Facebook and Reddit groups gives a strong indication of its overall trajectory.
The private Facebook group Disc Golf Dyers has seen thousands of people enter the group in the past 12 months and now has about 9,000 members. The subreddit r/discdyeing was at around 4,000 members in December of 2018. It grew to 5,000 members in December of 2019, and now sits at about 13,000 members.
Browsing Instagram, it's easy to see all the new disc dye artists popping up to sell their wares and capture some additional income or interest. However, there are some dyers that have been customizing discs way before it was popular and have built considerable followings.
Bobby Curry, is the brains behind TDIDI (The Difference is Doing it), and has been in the dye game for years. He is known for his tutorials and guides on YouTube that teach everyone the mystic disc dyeing techniques that some try to keep under wraps. One of the most helpful dyers in the disc golf community, Bobby also brings in guest master dyers that share the techniques that make their discs go viral. Even if you do not dye discs yourself, his energy and work are captivating for all.
Andi of AndiDyes, is one of the most experienced dyers in the world and hails from Estonia. His Instagram and Facebook page showcase the masterful talent of this true artist. Creating simply stunning spin dyes with a turntable, all the way to hyperrealism dyes that look like they should belong in a museum. All his dyes are done by hand like all true dyers.
If you are interested in purchasing custom dyed discs check out Disc Golf Swag.
How to Get Started with Dyeing Discs
Finding the right disc is just as crucial to the dyeing process as using the right dye. There are thousands of different types of disc golf discs and it can be very confusing at first glance. Choose the wrong disc and the dye will not absorb into the plastic or it will be very faint and fade very quickly.
Premium plastic takes dyes the best. Star and Champion Innova plastic are great options for dye application. They soak up the dye well and resist fading much better than base plastics like DX. When searching for the right discs to purchase from Innova, plastic type is the most important aspect to ensure a great dye job.
All dyes fade over time. Like a tattoo, they will be very sharp in the beginning. Over time, the dye slowly migrates into the plastic—especially if exposed to heat. If you play with dyed discs on warm days or leave them in hot cars, you will notice this over time.
The easiest way to get started with your first disc dye project would be a cheap can of shaving cream and some polyester fabric dye powder (iDye Poly) from JOANN Fabrics or a similar hobby and crafts store.
To get started with a basic shaving cream dye, use a paintbrush or cotton swab to lightly sprinkle the powder on top of a rounded shaving cream mound. Slowly take your disc and place it in the center of the mound, pressing down to create a burst or “warp speed effect.”
The effect can be altered by the way the disc is pushed into the shaving cream as well. To create a swirl effect, press down while turning the disc.
To create more intricate designs and images on the disc, vinyl stencils are generally used to mask areas off and allow the dye to penetrate in the exact pattern desired. Discs can also be dyed freehand with Q-tips, brushes, toothpicks, etc.
If you are looking to dye discs yourself or just browse around the plethora of sites and people dedicated to dyeing, there has been no better time than now to be a part of the approachable sport of disc golf. Content is bountiful and the community welcomes everyone with open arms. Who knows? Maybe you will stumble upon something you love!