Underwater Hockey

Late on Friday and Sunday nights, a group of mostly graduate students takes over the Campus Recreation Center pool. They mark off a 25-by-15-meter rectangle with white PVC pipe on the bottom of the pool.

A lead disk coated with plastic is dropped in the center of the makeshift field. Two co-ed teams of six players each start at the far sides, all of them wearing snorkeling gear and holding foot-long sticks. Someone chants, “Sticks up, ready, go!”

Underwater hockey begins.

The sport started in England in the 1960s and has spread across Europe and to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South America. It has become particularly popular in Tasmania. Tech’s club started in 2008, said president Nicole Mazouchova.

She had picked up underwater hockey at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, where a team has competed for nearly three decades. After coming to Tech to pursue a master’s degree in biology, Mazouchova decided to start a club at her new campus.

“The club opened with a few curious members that came to practice mostly out of their disbelief of the sport,” said Mazouchova, who is now working toward a PhD. “We struggled in the beginning to get equipment and players in order to organize full games.”

Now the club (swordfishuwh.com) has about 25 members and competes about six times a year against teams from the 30 other schools in the United States that have teams, including two in neighboring states. Tech’s club still has no competitors in Georgia, though.

While some team members came out of curiosity, Mazouchova said they stay for other reasons.

“This sport is a great workout, is tons of fun and can be competitive,” she said. “And it is really unique, making it a great topic of conversation.”

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