During the month of October this year the biggest bike polo event in the calendar took place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Teams from around the world made the trip to compete but only one could walk away the champion.
These kind of trips are the reason so many of us have continued to play polo. When I first began playing 4 years ago it was all about hanging out at our local court, talking and having a laugh, playing in a very informal casual style. But the more you play the more you yearn for a more competitive element. That is where traveling becomes a factor of bike polo, some of the most exciting trips I have ever been on were for bike polo and it really does let you see parts of the world you might not have otherwise. Florida was one of these this year, this was the second world championships I have attended and coming 7th last year was a real achievement for me and my team and something we wanted to maintain or outdo this year.
Sadly this year my team mate and good friend Lee was unable to attended, leaving Hayden and I looking for a third. A friend of mine Jon from London’s world famous bike polo team Spring Break was a free agent and looking to pick up a solid team for the worlds. Hayden and I were more than happy to take him on and Gettin’ Wild were back to full strength. Having never played together as a team and the first actual time we were all in the same country, let alone city begin in FL, Florida, we knew it would take us a while to get our game together and get moving as a team on court.
The courts were amazing, perfectly smooth with rounded corners, plenty of room for both the Ref and spectators to stand court side. What more could you ask for……perfect weather! Leaving behind the dull British October in exchange for 32 degree of Florida sunshine.
I won’t bore you with a day by day run through of all the things that happened, essentially the best and worst parts of day 1&2 were scoring some sweet goals on some high level teams, taking and giving some big hits, winning a couple of close games and of cause enjoying every minute of it.
Day 3 was the most important of the tournament and one that many people fear the most. Getting a good nights sleep is essential to any player (Polo never used to be like this, it used to be as much about the nights out as it was the playing, every evening was a celebration of the day, having fun with the global polo community and drinking…no one normally went to bed until at least 1 and that was an early one in most peoples books). But with the change in level of play and people putting the training and practice before the tourneys, nobody normally stays out late before the final day, most people tend to leave the partying until Sunday. We got a good nights sleep in and a solid breakfast ready for the mornings polo. It was anther Hot Hot day and people came to the court ready to play hard and win. We had a couple of easy games to start with, dispensing with the opponents in a swift and ruthless manner, but like any final day the games began to get harder and harder, facing teams with more to lose and everything to play for. Pretty early on we met one of my favorite teams The Means, a team made up of players from all over the US and Canada. We knew it was gonna be a hard game, but nothing could have prepared us for one of the hardest games of the tourney. We won with a golden goal, with a few close calls and one of the other team members being sent off for UN-sportsman like conduct. The rest of the day is a bit of a blur, with a few wins and then a loss to one of the best teams, we found ourselves playing Portland United one of the top US teams and a powerhouse of players. Such a close game with end to end goals, towards the end of this game an all mighty storm passed over the court, the heavens opened and in the last 2 minutes of the game at golden goal we got totally soaked, we managed to scrape the win and move on to the biggest game of the day.
Before our final game we had no idea that win or lose we would come 7th, tying with our record from last year. We played hard and fast, but the slippy court had the better of us and we all took pretty epic falls at critical points of the game. We got a couple goals in but lost the game 4-2 which although disappointing in some respects was also pretty amazing for a team that had only played together for 3 days before the final game.
The overall champions were a previous world champion team from San Francisco-The Beavers-they played a fast confidante game with total believe in winning. I don’t think they lost a game all weekend and they seemed to just get better and better as the games went on, making every pass and scoring every goal. It was a master class in bike polo and their final game is available to watch HERE if your interested.
One thing I secretly love about polo tournaments on any level is the bikes and seeing what people have done and are doing to there bikes to make them better, stronger, faster for polo. From high end custom frames to stock OTP bikes modified for polo everyone has a different idea to make there bike better for the sport. The best thing I saw at the WHBPC was a bike ridden by one of the top players, he had a whole new set up from previous years, everything was different, new lighter frame, stronger forks and wheels but the main thing was a totally new look on braking and setting up the brakes. He had a traditional lever to V-brake for the rear brake, but a totally new idea in a thumb shifter for the front brake. To solve the problem of cable travel and pull he used a cable pull shifter that went to a special downhill disc caliper that is hydraulic, meaning effortless engagement of the brake and perfect pull. There were many other cool bikes at the tournament, but the new big thing that has come to polo is that so many people are running S&S couplers, for ease of travel within the US. Soon to be seen in Europe?
The WHBPC is now in it’s 5th year and is only going to get stronger year by year. This year was truly the beginning of a new level, the courts and people were amazing and the organisation was spot on, that is something that has really struggled in previous years. This is the key and is something that makes a tournament either go well or fall apart. I have been to a tourney that just didn’t work, were there was little organisation and it is truly a waste of time. This years WHBPC set the bench mark for people to push the quality and organisation higher and higher.
To get involved in bike polo in cambridge or anywhere in the world visit-