Circling the puck like a frenzy of sharks Bundaberg Underwater Hockey is providing players with a fast-paced sport that improves fitness and diving capabilities.
The sport, which has been in the Bundaberg Region for more than half a century, is gaining momentum as the weather warms and more people have an interest in diving and snorkelling off the coast.
Organiser Brett Gamlin said the aim of Bundaberg Underwater Hockey was more social than competitive and there were many benefits of playing, which included keeping fit.
Corey Bennett, 20, is a regular competitor who took up the sport three years ago after his interest in the ocean grew and underwater hockey enabled him to meet other people with a similar interest.
“I do a lot of spearfishing and free-diving,” Corey said.
He said the non-stop dynamic sport kept him under the water for up to one minute at a time.
“Underwater hockey offers a great opportunity to increase everyday fitness and diving capabilities.
“It's also a great way to meet other experienced free divers and spearfisherman in the community.”
What is underwater hockey?
Brett said underwater hockey first originated from a game called octopush that was invented in 1954 by a group of divers from the southsea branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club in order to give their members something to do during winter.
He said since those early beginnings, the game had evolved into a fast-dynamic sport that was played all over the world and had been in the Bundaberg Region since at least the 1970s.
“I joined in 1976 when we used to play in the Quay Street pool before we moved to the Norville Pool,” Brett said.
Players wear a diving mask, fins and a snorkel for play. Safety gear includes ear protection usually in the form of a water polo cap, a mouthguard, and a glove.
Brett said each player used a small white or black hockey stick to indicate the player's team.
As the competition starts the water at Norville Pool thrashes as two teams of six masked men swim rapidly toward the 1.3-kilogram puck sitting dormant on the floor of the underwater field; within seconds the water surface calms as all the action is taking place at the bottom of the pool.
“Basically, it is a non-contact sport in which two teams of players compete to manoeuvre a weighted puck across the bottom of a swimming pool into the opponent's goal tray at the end of the playing area,” he said.
“Each team consists of up to 10 players with six players in the pool and four interchange players on the side who can substitute at any time.
“The game is played in two 15-minute halves.”
The rules of underwater hockey
On the referee's signal, the teams race to get possession of the puck and try to score by manoeuvring the puck into the opponent's goal.
The puck is not allowed to rest on the glove or be carried on top of the stick or stopped deliberately by anything other than the stick.
Both teams are free to swim anywhere in the playing area as there is no off side rule however shepherding and obstruction are not allowed, and a player cannot interfere with another player with their free hand.
Play continues until either a goal is scored, and players return to their wall to start anew, or a break in play is signalled by a referee due to a foul, a time-out, or the end of the period of play.
Modifications are often made to the game while it is played recreationally, such as allowing more than six players per team in the water.
Brett said recreational games often had no referees, so penalties and free pucks were decided by the players.
Bundaberg Underwater Hockey welcomes new players
Bundaberg Underwater Hockey is played on Wednesday nights from 5:30pm to 7pm at the Norville Pool, 148 Enterprise Street, Bundaberg from September through to May.
To find out more information go to the Bundaberg Skindivers website.