Seattle’s Guardians won the Emerald City Open 2 bike polo tournament. Held over this past weekend, this second Emerald City Open reported a record turnout. Usually capped around 40 teams, according to long-time supporter Tommie Richter, due to the registration of 45 teams, a second venue had to be scheduled to handle the overflow. Cal Anderson multi-use courts which are used regularly in Seattle for team play and pick-up games was secured. Even so, players and organizers were prepared for the competition to extend after dark on Sunday. Though the weather cooperated with rain holding off, competition was to be held regardless of weather. For the level of enthusiasm that prevailed, it’s doubtful that even some Seattle liquid sunshine could have dampen spirits.
Described as a hobby sport, bike polo, more correctly called “hard court” bike polo has grown rapidly over the last few years. Much of that seemingly spontaneous growth can be explained by how easy it is to become involved. As Max Feldman of Vancouver’s, Northern Standard bike polo gear company, said, “All you need is a bike.” Much of the early equipment, mallets and gloves, were borrowed from other sports. Ski poles were used as mallet shafts with a head made out of PVC or another light-weight material. Lacrosse gloves because of padding and helmets because of face masks were readily adapted. Feldman added that just in the last couple of years the sport has grown in sophistication, with companies such as his own forming to develop gloves and mallets, and even bikes.
Hard court bike polo bicycles have been specially adapted for the sport. Because players need one hand for the mallet, brakes are operated with one lever by modifying cables to run from each brake to one control. In addition to allowing players a free hand for their mallets, this also assures fast and simultaneous braking. As one fan, Keily Shutt reflected, “It really looks hard. Players really need a good handle on the moves. I’d probably fall a lot.” Keily had come along with her friend Malia Seavey whose boyfriend was playing. Seavey explained though she’d watched games at Cal Anderson, this was the first tournament she had attended. Both women had quickly become fans, though Shutt said that she had had no idea that it really was a sport, but rather a made-up game. That aspect seems to be part of the allure.
Another aspect of the sport that has grown its popularity is its social aspect. Feldman cited the team camaraderie saying that it was a great way to meet and reconnect with friends. Richter said that due to the family-like relationship that developed among players, that when teams traveled for games, they stayed in homes of hosting teams. He added, though he was not a player himself, he had been a supporter since his first introduction to the sport at the 2003 Bike Messenger Worlds. Richter wasn’t alone, Nano Arevalo, a player, said he had been involved in the sport since early 2000, and credited Richter for his involvement. Whether Vancouver, BC, down the coast of in Australia, bike polo is growing and players are as Richter says, “One big cycle family.”