On Saturday 30th November, the Octopush team (also known as Underwater Hockey or UWH) played their first competition of the year at the University of Oxford.
For the few people reading this who don’t already know, Octopush is a game created in 1954 by scuba divers to help them let off some steam (without damaging any of their incredibly expensive equipment). They devised a game where teams would attempt to push a weighted puck into a goal, all while holding their breath underwater. The game is ‘limited’ contact and involves ten players, with six in the pool at any one time and four as substitutes. Players also don a glamorous kit which includes a snorkel, mask, fins, a delightful hat, plus some specially made sticks that allow the player to manoeuvre the puck.
Although UWH is a very well-known sport in the UK, people often don’t realise that it is internationally played, with competitions hosted globally and attracting a diverse range of people (although the game still hasn’t made it to BUCS yet). In fact, the game’s international history stretches as far back as the first world championship in Canada in 1980. The main reason the sport hasn’t reached Olympic status is the huge engineering challenges involved in making the sport crowd-friendly. Ideas have included a fully glass pool or a submerged spectator stand, however so far neither one has gained huge traction (especially after the terrible UWH Glass Disaster of 2001 where three players lost their lives). Although the imperial team isn’t quite at an international level presently, it’s definitely something that’s on the agenda for coming years!
So who is your average underwater hockey player? Well, generally speaking, UWH players derive great pleasure from the niche, edgy, and aggressive nature of the sport. The game is surprisingly fast paced and often involves some ramming and the odd sneak attack by a fin or stick. The wonderful thing about underwater hockey is that collisions underwater usually lead to much lower injury rates than ‘above-the-water’ sports. Of course, risk of drowning is definitely increased compared to say field or ice hockey…. but generally your teammates/the other team don’t actually want to kill you and will come to your aid if need be.
The most recent tournament was last Saturday’s competition in Oxford. It was against several other UK universities including Oxford, Warwick, Plymouth, and York. The Imperial team successfully won their first two games…and then promptly lost the next four. However, the six-person team was also lacking any substitute players, meaning a stream of relentless games with almost no breaks in between. Ultimately, Imperial battled hard (and accidentally made a player on one team cry), so all in all it was a hugely successful first competition. The team is now looking forward to their next competition and the student nationals in 2020.
Imperial’s UWH team trains at Ethos pool every Thursday evening. Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.