I think this has to be the most unusual sport I’ve ever played before. The University of Plymouth has a very successful and strong underwater hockey team, so when I moved down South I signed up immediately.
It’s a slightly crazy sport but is great fun. There are two teams, white and black. It’s played on the bottom of the pool with a lead puck. Each player has a mask and snorkel, protective glove and a stick about seven inches long. The aim of the game is to get the puck into the opposite teams goal, the goals are metal troughs that sit at each end of the pool. You can tell who's on whose team by the colour of the sticks, it’s amazing how with a mask on underwater you can see so little. You stop recognising people by their faces but by their sticks or swimming costumes.
Although this is technically a no-contact sport you do end up with a lot of bruises. It’s hard to manoeuvre in the water, so if there are six of you trying to reach the puck you can end up stacked on top of one another and if you are on the bottom and need to breathe you may end up headbutting your way through.
Breathing is a major problem, when you are playing and are swimming with the puck you can’t actually breathe at the same time. Imagine playing football and as soon as you got the ball you had to run without breathing. All of a sudden it doesn’t matter how fast you can run if you can’t last without breathing. Octopush is just the same, the longer you can go for without breathing the better, but remember, you can’t have long to recover after a long dive - your teammates are depending on you.
Teamwork is essential in Octopush - your team is going to get nowhere if you don’t work together. Which again is harder than normal sports because you can’t talk to one another mid game. You have to rely on arranging a plan before the start of a match and having basic hand signals to work out what is going on. To be a good team player you need to think about others around you - where does your teammate need you to be to receive a pass? How long have they been down for? Do they need to breathe soon?
Octopush is a great game and because it’s so unusual most people who join the club are beginners so no one feels intimidated joining. The Plymouth Underwater Hockey Club is very welcoming - they encourage beginners to try the sport at taster sessions. Below there is a video that one of our talented members put together to show what it’s like being part of the club.