Bike polo players from across North America flocked to Topaz Park for the 15th annual Victoria Bike Polo Winter Mixer tournament on Nov. 9 and 10.
What do traditional polo and hard-court bike polo have in common? As it turns out, not much.
Both sports use mallets and helmets, but the similarities stop there. Horses are replaced by bikes, fields are replaced by asphalt courts and the rules are very different, player Ryan Harris explained.
“Polo is definitely cheaper on a bike too,” he said with a laugh. He owns Recyclistas Bike Shop which was one of the tournament’s sponsors.
The sport started about 10 years ago when people used bikes to practice for traditional polo, but hard-court polo made its official debut in Seattle in the early 2000s, he explained.
Nov. 9 marked day one of the Winter Mixer. Players milled around the tennis court-turned bike polo court waiting to play while reggae music and rain filled the air.
The players were shuffled randomly into seven teams of three for 15 minute games – typical for bike polo, Harris explained. Another variation would have six players to a team with games lasting up to one hour.
The games take place in an enclosed rectangle with a goal at each end.
Players who touch their foot to the ground – also known as a “dab” – must tap out by touching their mallet to a dot spray painted on the boards halfway between each goal, Harris explained.
Players came from all over North America – from Montreal to Calgary and down to Seattle – to play in the annual tournament.
Robert “Robbie Boards” Taylor came all the way from East Vancouver to attend – as he has every year since 2011. He enjoys playing in Victoria because there’s a strong sense of camaraderie.
”[Victoria] brings out the goodness in everybody,” Taylor said.
Not only does Taylor play in the tournament, but he also builds the boards for the make-shift courts – which is how he got his nickname.
Taylor’s teammate for the weekend, Chris Hamersly, travelled from Seattle to attend the Winter Mixer.
Hamersly, who’s been playing for 10 years, was in Argentina for the World’s Tournament back in September representing the Cascadia region – Vancouver Island down to Portland. His team ranked third in the world.
He plays to get better and travel. He noted that there’s a steep learning curve for beginners and that while it may look intense, it’s fun, and those with experience are always willing to help out.
The Winter Mixer continues on Sunday and folks are welcome to come down to watch, Taylor noted.
“A lot of people think its very dangerous, but it’s actually not that dangerous,” Harris said. “I think soccer and a lot of other sports are actually a lot more dangerous.”
He emphasized that Victoria Bike Polo is always looking for new players. The group meets every Wednesday at the Fernwood Community Centre from 8 p.m. to midnight. No equipment or experience is required as folks are welcoming and happy to share, Harris noted.