Underwater hockey makes a splash in Singapore

Mon Aug 13, 2007 5:42am EDT

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By Jovanda Biston

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Wielding sticks, the players chase after the puck and the referee declares a goal.

Cheers erupt in the swimming pool as everyone rises to the surface to catch their breath, before diving back in to continue the game of underwater hockey.

Underwater hockey, organized by the Stirling Underwater Hockey Club in Singapore, is often met with incredulity and hilarity by those uninitiated in the sport.

But players say it is more challenging than the field game -- and a lot cooler.

"Underwater hockey is really like hockey, it's just that we play it in a pool and not on in a rink or on a field," said Adam Chan, who plays both field and underwater hockey.

"It's probably more challenging to play in the pool because you have to learn to regulate your breathing." he said, "I enjoy it but people are always shocked when I tell them I play underwater hockey."

The sport involves lead pucks not too different from those used in ice hockey, sticks and gloves. But the players wear bathing suits and swimming trunks, flippers, snorkels and caps with bulging ear cups.

The sport was invented in Britain in the 1950s, where it is also called "Octopush", by a group of divers who wanted to get a workout in the water when it was too cold to dive in the sea.

It has since garnered an international following. Players keen to keep up the sport around the world check out clubs online at "The Underwater Hockey Tourist" (pucku.org/uwht/).

In Singapore, the sport was introduced three years ago by three expatriates who used to play in the Philippines and Australia. Their ranks have since grown to have more than 80 members, said Adele Chiew, the club's vice president.

"We wanted to introduce the sport in Singapore because it's really a great sport played internationally," added Joey Carpio, one of the club's founders. "There are variations but a typical game would usually have six players per team."

Carpio is resigned to the fact that the sport's popularity is limited by the fact that it is not spectator-friendly.

"It's not like underwater hockey is ever going to receive much funding or endorsements. Where are you going to put the ads?" said Chan.

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