When I was invited along to watch the Bournemouth underwater hockey team practice, you could say I was pretty intrigued. Well actually, I thought I was being pranked. Underwater hockey doesn’t sound like a sport that actually exists, let alone one that is played weekly, at a serious level.
And let me tell you, the sport looks as logistically implausible and vaguely ridiculous as it sounds. All I could see from the viewing gallery was a lot of splashing, and an occasional glimpse of the bright pink puck. I had to wonder if the players spend most of their time fending off kicks to the head.
That said, after watching a few videos on YouTube (with the benefit of an underwater camera), I could see that it’s actually a fast-paced and quite exciting game. What’s more, it looks like one heck of a workout!
Still fascinated by the sport, I spoke to team member Toby Pestridge, who was keen to tell me more about it.
How long has the team been together?
Underwater hockey (also known as “Octopush”) was invented in Southsea back in 1954. The first set of teams that played games were Southsea, Brighton and Bournemouth. As such our club can trace its roots back to the very beginning. As far back as 1977, what is now the “Bournemouth & Southampton” team was just called Wessex. Many of the players around that time were spear fishermen from the region of Wessex. It was renamed to Bournemouth & Southampton around 15 years ago for two main reasons; firstly, people outside the area didn’t know where Wessex was, so the club missed the opportunity to attract new players and visitors. Secondly, the club had merged competitively with the Southampton club, thus enabling it to compete at Nationals and other competitive events. Their players were keen to see some acknowledgement through the club name.
Have you had any recent big wins?
Mmm, define “big”! Not recently, as we’ve lost a few of our star players who have moved away from the area sadly. We’re currently in the 3rd division nationally, but with some more rigorous training hope to be knocking on the door of division two for next year! There are smaller, friendly competitions that take place ad-hoc throughout the year, which everyone enjoys and have more of a focus on the social side than being number one.
Anything special lined up for 2019?
As mentioned, we’re keen to up our game for next year, so we can get into division 2. One of the main issues is that competitions are held at either two or three meters depth with no shallow end, but our training pools only go down to about 1.8 meters. This means that we’re not used to playing at the increased depth. Imagine if you trained hard for a 10k race, then on the day you had to run an extra 5k! Looking at our wider team, we’ve got one player who’ll be competing in the Ladies National Championships, a few old boys partaking in the Veteran Championships, and some of our younger players in the Worlds Age Championships.
Are you recruiting new team members, and if so, where can people find out more?
We’re always on the lookout for fresh blood! We’re a diverse and mixed team featuring men and women aged between eighteen to sixty-something. Tuesday nights are the best time to come along and see what it’s all about, as we have use of the shallow end of the pool behind one of goals where you can try out the kit and practice moving the puck along the bottom of the pool. We meet at Ringwood Leisure Centre on Tuesdays from 9:35-10:35pm, and on Thursday evenings at Totton Leisure Centre from 9-10pm. You can contact us via the GB Underwater Hockey site here, and find more about the sport in general from the main British Octopush site.