RAF Active Team
by Sqn Ldr Ron Salmon
Ever played hockey under-water? You must be mad! Well not ‘mad’ but it certainly seems an eccentric idea. Until you give a try…..
Octopush, Bubble-hockey, Underwater-hockey - call it what you like, chasing a puck around the floor of a swimming pool, is challenging and fun. Armed only with snorkelling gear (fins, mask, snorkel, and ideally a protective glove and headgear), players have to dive down and chase the puck around the floor of the swimming pool, using a short hockey stick. Once out of breath, a return to the surface for another breath is necessary, before setting off in chase of whoever might have taken possession. The stick is short, approximately 1 foot long, the puck is heavy, around 3 lb. and the goal is 3 meters (9’) long
The little-known sport of Underwater-hockey is a very fast-moving game that can be played at many levels from casual fun to serious competition. It can be an incredible workout, and one that can specifically improve your swimming and free-diving skills, and enhance your breathing capacity and diving muscles. Underwater Hockey also provides an instant conversation starter at dull parties!
In formal competition, games are two 15-minute halves, and teams of 6 can have up to 4 substitutes on the deck who can enter play on the fly. The sport is defined as non-contact in the same way that basketball is considered non-contact. The person in control of the puck cannot be physically pushed but also may not charge into opponents. Rules are simple - no body contact unless your stick is on the puck, no touching the puck with anything but your stick, and no detaining or obstructing another player (even if you do have the puck) by pulling off their mask or fins or holding on to them. Success (scoring) ultimately depends on teamwork, since no single person can hold their breath forever.
Individual strength is less of an advantage than it is in many other sports. The buoyancy of the water nullifies the advantage of sheer mass. Often, women and smaller players appear to have a slight advantage over other players, perhaps because they are more agile or have more space to manoeuvre in.
When I played Octopush, it was a contact sport by accident if not design. We played it with as many people turned up at the time, no-one refereeing and few even knowing the rules. Players often barged each other out of the way, or inadvertently kicked another with their fins. Arms flew wildly, as players manoeuvred themselves – another hazard to those around them. Demanding, frantic, energetic and fun, is how I would describe it. Octopush is an excellent, enjoyable way to get people used to the underwater environment.
The sport was started by Alan Blake, Secretary of the Southsea British Sub- Aqua Club of Portsmouth, in 1954 to improve the snorkelling skills of his scuba students. Today, the sport is played in more than 30 different countries from Argentina to Australia, Belgium to Brazil, throughout the whole of North America and most of Europe, as well as China, Japan, Singapore and the Philippines. Even Africa has its clubs, with Namibia, South Africa and even Zimbabwe involved competitively in the sport. Internationally, the sport is governed by the Underwater Games Commission of the Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatique (CMAS), the world diving organization.
For more information and a chance to play the sport, contact your local sub-aqua club or check out the following web-sites: