How I Accidentally Made a Viral Video on a Frozen Lake in Maine — And Had a Blast Doing It

A frisbee spinning on the ice on a lake in Maine. (Photo: Shea Gunther/Snapshot from YouTube)

Last winter up here in Maine, we had a stretch of weather where it was warm for a few days followed by a fast and hard cold snap. When this happens and the conditions are just right, it can make for some epic ice skating as our state's myriad lakes get a chance to freeze up glossy smooth.

That was the flavor of the day when I stepped out on Great Pond in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, near where I live in Portland. I was with my family, the sun was out and shining bright, the wind was strong and blowing, and you couldn't ask for a nicer day for a skate. As I usually do on most outings, I brought along a frisbee to throw around. I'm an avid ultimate frisbee player and coach and have passed my love of the game onto my oldest daughter, who's a skilled player herself.

Once we got laced up and out onto the ice and starting throwing the disc around, I noticed that the blowing wind would catch my throws in a particularly interesting way, driving the disc across the glassy-smooth ice as it spun, nearly frictionless. I thought it would make a nice video, so I took out my phone and let rip a throw that took off just right into the wind. This is the result:

I managed to shoot the video using my iPhone while skating alongside and behind the disc, which was powered by both my initial throw and the strong winds — which worked together in a beautiful mash of physics behind my layman's basic understanding.

I first published the video last winter on YouTube and it quickly took off as a viral video on Reddit. It nabbed more than half a million views on a Dutch website, which makes sense, given that nation's collective love of ice skating. But it also resulted in all kinds of licensing offers from media companies and video websites asking my permission to use it. I fended off all of the bad offers and made a small deal with a Japanese TV station, which bought the broadcast rights for two years on Japanese television. (I cherish that deal more for the joke that I can now put "experienced in negotiation international media licensing" on my resume!)

I decided to share the video again on Reddit this year on the one-year anniversary of my original publishing, and if anything, it did better than last time, picking up more than 200,000 views within a week. I managed to hammer out another deal, this time with a U.K.-based media company that wants to use the video on their website.

Here's a quick protip: Give it a watch with closed captioning on. It really helps deliver the real feel of the day.