April 23, 2014

Jul 8, 201008:38 AM

Polo not just for the horsey set any longer

Polo not just for the horsey set any longer

Three-on-three hardcourt bike polo offers a good workout in a relaxed and fun atmosphere, not to mention teaching riders the proper way to fall, ahem

ORIGINALLY AN after-hours indulgence for bike messengers looking to log some social time on their seatposts, bike polo is going mainstream and is fast becoming one of the coolest new sports in the city.

One needs only to head down to Scadding Court at Bathurst and Dundas armed with, well, a bike and a pound of moxie. A homemade polo mallet also helps, but veterans on hand should have a few to spare for newbies.

Kevin Walsh, 32, grew up in North Toronto and has spent the last five years in the sport he discovered while living in Madison,Wis.

“I came into it because it is also a team sport,” says Walsh, who played a lot of soccer and hockey before taking up bike polo.

“It is growing exponentially really,” says Walsh. “The League of Bike Polo has about 250 clubs the last time I checked.Two years ago, when I started the site, there were maybe 30.”

Nick Iwanyshyn, 22, commutes from his home in North York to the downtown bike polo court three or four nights a week.

“When I started, less than a year ago, people were playing with a piece of plastic plumbing pipe fastened to a ski pole for a polo mallet,” says Iwanyshyn. “Now companies are moulding their own mallet heads and machining their own shafts.”

Bike polo is played on a court, two teams of three players scoot around on bikes with mallets whacking the ball through a goal to score points. There are a few additional rules, including not being able to put your foot down.

So bike prowess is a must. And, yes, contact is allowed.Ouch.

Iwanyshyn has played the sport for less than a year, but he says it has “already taken over my life.”

“It’s such a social sport, on and off the court. You spend half the day just texting people, seeing who will be down for polo,” says Iwanyshyn. “Between games everyone hangs out, talks bikes, talks life.”

Iwanyshyn and a few local players are heading to Madison this month to compete in the North American Hardcourt Championships held July 16 to 18.

“I think you just have to try it out,” says Iwanyshyn. “It’s such an interesting sport. I’m not willing to say it is for everyone, but it’s such a bike-friendly city, why not?”

 

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