Let’s say someone sends you a YouTube video of underwater hockey. At first you think it’s just another funny viral video sent to you by that guy in the office who forwards e-mail chain letters about Obama’s phoney birth certificate and pictures of cheeseburger-craving kitty cats. But unlike those, underwater hockey is not a joke. In fact, the guys that play it take it pretty seriously. Look no further than the Charleston Blockade Runners, the Lowcountry’s own club team. In 2006, they won the U.S. National Underwater Hockey Tournament.
“It’s no more silly than trying to put a ball through a hoop 10 feet in the air,” jokes Matt Goodrich, a long-time member of the Blockade Runners.
The club started back in the early ’90s, thanks to a South African couple who were eager to bring the game to South Carolina. The couple has since moved on, but the club remains. And they’re always looking for new players.
A member since 1999, Goodrich says he joined to get in a little bit of exercise. “I swam in college, and after graduate school, I was doing lap swimming and I heard about this from my neighbor, and it sounded like a lot more fun than laps,” Goodrich says.
In a game of underwater hockey, two teams of six people try to slide a three-pound puck into goals at either end of an eight-foot-deep pool. Although it may sound challenging, Goodrich says that it’s not too difficult for beginners.
“You only have to hold your breath for a few seconds and come back up and grab a breath and go back down,” he said. “It’s co-ed, it’s non-contact, but incidental stuff can happen. You can get kicked in the wrong spot sometimes.”
Fortunately, the players wear safety gear — water polo helmets, mouthpieces, and gloves to protect their hands from the rough bottom. Participants also use snorkels and wear fins to make swimming a bit easier. “Anybody can play it. We’ve had people who are not fit at all, and we’ve had triathletes play,” Goodrich says. “It’s a sport that caters to all fitness levels, but if you play fast, it can be an excellent workout.”
Goodrich and his teammates encourage anyone who is looking for an exciting way to burn some calories to come out and join a practice session. Practices include a couple of scrimmage matches, but the goal is centered on fitness and camaraderie. He adds, “We don’t keep a score.”
Charleston Blockade Runners
Practices take place: Tues. and Fri., 7 p.m
St Andrews Family Fitness Plus, 1642 Sam Rittenberg Blvd., West Ashley, (843) 763-3850