Saturday, 17 September 2011

Enter the underwater world of Octopush

Take a massive gulp of air, plunge down to the bottom of a swimming pool, grip your paddle and find a way to blast a puck past your opponents. Welcome to Octopush, a wacky, fast-paced and exciting underwater sport first created in Southsea more than 60 years ago. 

Octopush, known among its devotees as Octo for short, was created by Navy men pondering ways to make swimming endless lengths more interesting for themselves. Their ingenious solution was to relocate hockey to the bottom of a pool, replacing shorts and shin pads with swimming trunks, a snorkel and fins!

The sport involves six players in the pool at once, with four at hand – ready to exchange at any time. It is a non-contact sport and is played over 15 fast minutes. The game is really one to get competitors’ adrenaline pumping. It’s both rapid-paced and tactical; with players holding their breath while underwater, there is little time to communicate and strategy must be well rehearsed beforehand.

Portsmouth is one of only 18 universities to play Octopush, so being a student here presents a golden opportunity to join a small community of underwater hockey enthusiasts. The university trains with the impressive local Southsea Juniors every Wednesday at Eastney Swimming pool – in the very same pool that the game was invented. 

Last year Portsmouth had a very successful run to the final of the National Championships, so we are currently ranked as the second best university team. As well as providing an element of competition, the tours are a great chance to meet players from all over the country, and see how far you and the team have advanced your skills throughout the year.

The first competition on the sporting calendar is the Valentines Tournament in Plymouth. Octopushers have always been very well cared for when visiting – Plymouth Octopush team put everyone up on a sofa and even provided a welcome cup of tea in the morning. The National Championships then follow in March and this season they will be hosted by Warwick.

It’s not all about the edge of competition – having fun is just as important to the Octopushers.
The Octopush President Rebecca Weicht is a final year student at Portsmouth and has been playing Octopush since 2008 after a recommendation from one of her flatmates. About to embark on a year abroad, Rebecca was so head-over-heels in love with the game after two years that she said "the first thing I did was check there were teams to play out in Brussels",

Despite stumbling into the unusual sport of Octopush by word of mouth, Rebecca is insistent that the founding Navy players "must have thought of me when making the game!".

Rebecca describes hockey as "a game for all abilities". The beauty of Octopush is its simplicity – the game uses no weighty oxygen tanks so movement in the water is not at all restricted. The UoP Octopush club will transform anyone from a casual swimmer into an Octo enthusiast in just one session. The club is well equipped, so all you have to do is bring along your swimming kit and the rest will be provided.

If you are looking to try something new at university, there can be no better option than the absorbing and ever-growing community of Octopush.

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