By Myrriah Gossett
Over the weekend, Savannah was taken over by more bikes than usual. Strolling downtown even I noticed a remarkable number of bikes riding around town, and the fact that they had to look at street signs was a dead give away that they were from out of town.
What were these extra cyclists doing in Savannah? This weekend marked one of the largest bike polo tournaments in Savannah, possibly in the Southeast. The numbers are hard to keep track of, as bike polo tends to be a bit of an underground sport. It has no official league at the moment, however teams are forming all over the country.
The sport, which is an amalgamation of regular polo and hockey, on bikes started in Seattle. From the Pacific Northwest, which has had a strong bicycle scene for a number of years, the pastime as spread and changed names from Hardcourt Bike Polo, to Urban Bike Polo, to the now more widely used Bike Polo.
The game is broken down fairly simply. Teams are made up of three people, and, while there are not assigned positions, teams will usually work out game plans before hitting the court. It can also be purely impromptu as well.
The basic rules according to bikepolo.com are as follows:
“Hitting The Ball: All players must play right handed. (Some day we will start a league for lefties, but until then we have to have everyone hitting from the same side.) A mallet may only intentionally strike the ball when the frame of the rider’s bike has been parallel to the sideline for at least 21 feet (three bike lengths).
Right Of Way: A player’s right-of-way must be respected! Right -of-way is established when one player has approached the ball on his or her right, with their bike positioned parallel to the sidelines at least 21 feet before striking (three bike lengths).
Veering: Veering occurs when a player fails to establish or maintain a position parallel to the sidelines before intentionally striking the ball. If veering is called the other team takes over from the spot of the infraction.
Contact: Intentional contact of any kind with an opposing player or bike is illegal!
Foot Position: A player’s foot must remain on or in the pedals at all times. If a player’s foot touches the ground, that player must clear the field of play by crossing out-of-bounds at the nearest point and then return to action. A player may not hit the ball while his or her foot is on the ground.
Start Of Play: Each chukkar is started by a “joust” A joust is when one player designated by his/her respective team, sets-up in the goal to sprint to a ball placed at the center of the field. The sprinters take start on the command of the referee.”
Most games end when a team has either made three or five goals, depending on the tournament or once time has expired. The usual time for a match is about ten minuets, in order to allow for maximum amount of games to be played.
The tournament over the weekend included teams from Savannah, Charleston, South Florida and Alabama among many others.
The game has spread over the nation and had continued to grow in the South East. However, if you do plan to play you might want to invest in a junker bike as the game can be quite brutal. A “taco” or when one player and bike fall onto another player and bike happens quite frequently, and often results in injuries to both bike and player.
Many of the players often bring spare parts with them, and it is usually advised to wear a helmet, and any other kind of protective gear. Over the weekend, some of the armor seen on players ranged from old soccer shin guards, helmets, and even onesie footed pajamas (may not provide the best protection but definitely stood apart).
I found the sport to fun to watch. I’m not so sure about whether or not I will actually play, however I found the community aspect of the whole event fracking amazing. It was a time to show off bikes, see bikes and watch some amazing polo.