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Kayaking with a twist: polo season begins

The unique sport of kayak polo returns to the Hood River pool this winter, once a week for 10 weeks

October 8, 2005

After dry and dismal spring and summer kayaking, Gorge paddlers finally have the chance to gear-up, get back in their boats and have a blast without the worry of scuffing up their boats or colliding with rocks.

Sure, the Hood River Aquatics Center doesn’t have waterfalls, eddies, play-holes or spectacular scenery. But the White Salmon River isn’t heated, lit or equipped with showers, restrooms and referees. It’s a give and take.

Kayak polo came to Hood River last winter, with about 10 people in the pool on the first night. A year later about 25 paddlers showed up for the first night of the 10-week season.

“It took off,” said organizer Amy Besch. “Pros down to beginners came out to play. It’s one big arena where everyone can have fun and play together.”

Last winter the program was successful enough for organizers to start a league, separate from the once-a-week fun sessions. A similar league is in the works for this winter.

For the time being, games will be played from 7-9 p.m. every Tuesday at the Hood River Pool. Games are free, thanks to sponsorship from the Columbia Gorge Kayak School, AT Paddles and Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation. Participants need a kayak, a PFD, a helmet and a paddle with duct-taped blades. According to Besch, a limited number of boats will be available to players who do not have their own.

“We want as many people as possible to come join the fun,” commented Besch. “This is a great game for beginner, intermediate and advanced kayakers. It’s fast, and all the paddling makes anyone a better kayaker. It’s a great way to cross-train.”

Kayak polo basics:

Two separate games are played at once, with elevated goals on both sides of each court. Goals are thrown into the net, not struck by a paddle.

Games are two 10 minute halves, with teams of eight on each side. Five players from each team are on the court (in the pool) at once, with the remaining three players from each team on the sideline as subs.

Paddles, hands and boats can be used to move the ball around the court, but players can not strike at the ball with their paddles.

At least one female will be on each team, if enough are present.

Defending the goal: The one player most directly under their goal is considered the goal-keeper at that time.

Ball possession: A player must dispose of the ball within five seconds of being in possession of it, either by passing it to another player or by throwing it one meter horizontally. A player can not paddle with the ball resting on the boat’s deck or spray skirt.

Illegal play: Striking an opponent’s body, kayak or the ball with a paddle, using a paddle against an opponent or their kayak for propulsion or support, or to impede the opponent, playing, or attempting to play the ball with a paddle when the ball is within arm’s reach of an opponent while that opponent is attempting to play the ball with their hands.

Tackling: A kayak tackle is when a player, with his/her kayak, pushes an opponent’s kayak. An illegal tackle is any tackle that results in the tackler’s kayak contacting the body of the tackled player and/or endangering the tackled player, tackling an opponent who is not within three meters of the ball, tackling an opponent who is not competing for the ball, and any body contact other than an open-hand to side or upper arm.

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