Contributed by Joey Carpio
- Since underwater hockey began in 2004, how has it expanded? How many members are there now compared to say, 5 years’ ago?
Underwater hockey in Singapore has grown from a once-a-week, one-hour game session played in a single venue in 2004… to a thrice-a-week, two-hour dual-games schedule played in two separate pool facilities – Queenstown in the South and Woodlands in the North of the island.
- What is the demographic of the members – gender, age, sports abilities?
Underwater hockey players in Singapore range in age from the early-20s to the mid-50s, with around 30% of them female.
The game’s enthusiasts come from a variety of lifestyle backgrounds… from aquatic athletes who have represented Singapore in swimming and water polo, to leisure scuba divers of all levels… from group sports players from football, rugby and volleyball who are familiar with functioning as a team, to individual competitors from running, triathlon, rock climbing who wanted to try something different… underwater hockey players enjoy the game for its sheer fun and its challenges, as well as for its significant benefits to fitness and health.
- Where do you guys play underwater hockey and how often?
As mentioned in Q1 above, SUHCers currently play in two venues: Queenstown Swimming Complex towards the southern part of Singapore (every Tuesdays & Fridays) and the Singapore Sports School in Woodlands up north (every Sundays).
- Could you share more on the sport and how different it is from hockey on land? Why should people give it a try and can anyone play it?
Underwater hockey involves two teams of six players each competing for a puck to shoot and score into their opponents goal. A game consists of two 15-minute halves divided by a 3-0 in ute halftime break.
The playing area is 20-25m in length by 12-15m in width, with a level depth of 2-3.5m throughout the court. Goals are two 3m-wide metal troughs positioned on the pool floor at either ends of the court.
Player equipment includes a diving mask, a snorkel and fins… plus a short playing stick held in one hand, and a glove for playing-hand protection.
The main similarity between land hockey and underwater hockey is that there are two teams competing against each other to shoot into their opponent’s goal, score more points and win the game.
- What are the pros and cons of the sport?
Benefits of the sport include: intense cardiovascular exercise and fitness from the constant lung-busting swimming all around the playing court, both at the surface and at the pool floor, much like high-intensity interval training due to the alternating sprinting and cruising for recovery; improved swimming skills and comfort underwater which is important for scuba divers, particularly in strong ocean currents; training in teamwork, especially due to the fact that players cannot speak with each other underwater; hand-to-eye coordination in maneuvering, shooting and intercepting the puck; and sheer fun from enjoying a team sport among friends.
Like with most sports and games though, there will always be that possibility of somebody getting hurt accidentally… especially when the players in the game are larger and more powerful. UWH addresses these issues through its playing rules enforcing safety as well as through individual playing gear such as gloves, playing caps (ear protection) and mouth guards.
As enjoyable and beneficial as the sport is, UWH has had difficulty growing over the decades due to the fact that it is not easily a spectator sport as viewers cannot see and appreciate the action from poolside… along with the difficulties in find and securing swimming pools with suitable playing areas for the game.
- When did you guys start competing in tournaments and how has they changed over the years? What have been the accolades earned?
SUHC began competing against other clubs in its first couple of years through friendly matches against the Philippine club PUHC. Competition was formalised and taken up another level through the founding of the Asian Underwater Hockey Championship (AUHC) between Japan, the Philippines and Singapore in 2007. This regional competition has since grown to include Indonesia and China, with AUHC 2015 to be hosted in Jakarta this November.
Over the years, the club has also sent teams or players to other tournaments such as the Australian Nationals, Japan Invitational and Manila Invitational… with another team heading to the 1st China Cup in Beijing in May.
Singapore’s women are currently the Asian champions while its men earned silver at the last AUHC in 2013.
SUHC’s players, as Singapore’s representatives for this sport continue to train, strive and improve regionally… with the next target emerging on the world stage at the next UWH World Championships in South Africa exactly twelve months from now.
- Since 2004, how has the scene here evolved and what do you think is the appeal of these alternative sports that are a twist on the usual sports or a hybrid of them?
Over the past decade since SUHC’s founding, awareness of the sport has grown through exposure in mainstream media (tv, radio and print)… publicity through public demo events (such as ADEX and Velocity Mall event)… and through people picking up the sport and spreading the word to their friends and colleagues.
We’ve long known our favorite game is not everyone’s cup of tea… some people are not comfortable playing underwater, and some persons prefer a much easier pastime. Our sport attracts those seeking a fun yet challenging activity… one which constantly pushes you to your limits, where you suddenly discover you can do even more. As to explain the how and the why… put simply, because breathing can wait.