What is it?
 
Underwater hockey - also known as Octopush - is a non-contact sport played by two teams. The objective is to manoeuvre a puck into the respective goal at the base of a swimming pool.
 
Where did Support through Sport UK try Octopush?
 
Support through Sport UK’s Helen and Colin tried the sport at the Guildford Spectrum Pool in Surrey. The Guildford Underwater Hockey Club were kind enough to coach us and then let us loose on a junior game.
 
How did we get on?
 
We turned up and were kitted out with diving masks (so our noses were covered as well as our eyes), snorkels, fins, water polo caps (to protect our ears) and gloves. We were told that the gloves (which were to be worn on our ‘playing hands’) would protect us from any abrasions at the bottom of the pool. In addition, we were each provided with a ‘stick.’ Unlike above-water hockey sticks, underwater hockey sticks are short and plastic. The colour of your stick indicates what team you’re in (as do your hats).  
 
Before launching into a game, our very nice (and patient) instructor - Keith Hadland - ensured that we were sufficiently competent with a snorkel. To begin, we did some underwater widths of the pool; the objective being to get our bodies as close to the bottom of the pool as we could. We took deep breaths before diving down - until Keith pointed out that not taking such deep breaths would actually make us less buoyant and hence it would be easier for us to stay down on the floor of the pool. Next, we learnt how best to use the stick in order to make the (1.2 kilogramme) puck move as quickly as possible and become air / (water?)-borne. We then attempted (attempted being the operative word) to learn how to turn on the base of the pool - and this was followed by a series of other drills.
 
Training over, we prepared for our big game. We were put in opposing teams and were each joined by five, erm, 10-year-olds. However we were wrong to underestimate these children as they were like piranhas - ravenous for the puck. The puck is placed in the middle of the pool and the game starts with each team touching the walls on their side of the pool. The goals are three metres long and sit on the bottom of either side of the pool. The game was fast and furious and great fun - so much so that one of us (of the female variety) struggled to control our laughter - laughing not being advisable when trying to hold one’s breath whilst underwater. After our game with the juniors, we were invited to watch the adult game, which contained a visiting member of the GB squad. We were blown away by the fast pace of the game and the silky skills that were on display.   
 
Who can play Octopush?
 
Pretty much anyone who can swim! Guildford Underwater Hockey Club fields both junior and senior teams and mixed sex teams.
 
Would we recommend the sport?
 
We really would! Not only does Octopush keep you physically fit, it keeps you mentally fit as you have to judge exactly the right moment to dive down and tackle your opponent or attempt to pass, push or score.
 
Useful information
 
Find your nearest Octopush club here.
Find out more about the Guildford Underwater Hockey Club.