Whilst many of you around here are aware of the true St Andrean sport of Polo, I bet you didn’t know there was another very similar sport right under your nose; Canoe Polo. Swap the thoroughbred ponies for some slick, streamlined kayaks, ditch the mallet for a paddle and leave those jodhpurs at home, this game is a new take on a classic “sport of the kings”. Played at an international level, with the British women holding the number one spot, this adrenaline-filled water sport is rapidly becoming increasingly more. With the St Andrews Canoe Club’s recent successes at SUCS it’s time this rising sport got some proper Saint attention.
So here are the basics. There are two teams, five players in each. Each have a kayak, designed for impressive manoeuvrability and speed. The aim is to get the ball into the opponent’s goal, which is a net hanging two metres above the water. The game can be played on either a swimming pool or outdoors on flat water and can last up to twenty minutes. The exciting battle starts with a sprint to the middle of the pitch as the referee throws the ball into the middle of the pool to start play. From then on the ball may be passed amongst players using either their hands or paddles. However, possession of the ball can be no longer than five seconds. Dribbling is allowed, where the ball may be thrown either to the side or in front of the player. Once the ball is the possession of a player, they cannot manoeuvre their kayak. Sounds awfully like any other team ball sport, I hear you say. Well now is when it gets exciting. Players may be “binned”, pushed over in their boats, by either a shove to the shoulder, back or boat. This must be done in clear water where there are no obstructions either side of the boat. Once your boat has been capsized you have lost possession of the ball. Penalties may be given for inappropriate binning of players, using your paddle to reach for the ball if another player’s hand is within one metre of it or touching another player with your paddle. Great teamwork and kayaking skills make this an exciting, adrenaline-packed game that is “guaranteed to get you wet.”
The St Andrews Canoe Club polo teams have a busy semester ahead of them. With three teams, known as the Saints Angels, the Saints Demons and the Saints White Knights taking part in two out of four divisions in the Scottish league, St Andrews holds a strong chance at success this year. Earlier this month the teams headed to Glasgow for the annual SUCS matches, where the Saints White Knights took second position. They dominated two of their matches as well as drawing another to make it into the final. Although they marginally missed out on victory at the hands of the ruthless Glasgow team, spirits were not dampened. The teams took to streets resembling the cast of a Harry Potter movie and enjoyed a fun-filled night of celebration. The teams will head down to Hatfield Water Park in Doncaster this April to compete in BUCS Canoe Polo, which hopes to be further success for the Saints.