Polyester, South American exotica and retro chic

The Australian U23 Men's team trying not to look like a bunch of poindexters.
The Australian U23 Men’s team trying not to look like a bunch of poindexters.

Team uniforms, Australian underwater hockey players are passionate about them. Everyone’s got an opinion and you can never keep everyone happy. Getting the uniform right can improve the awesomeness of any team. A decade of Australian dominance was built on over-sized florescent green and gold parachute tracksuits.

Still, a large group of people deciding to wear exactly the same thing at the same time is a little strange. You often see big groups from one sport or another, rocking out together in matching crop tops and short shorts. Sometimes they look good, most of the time they don’t. Irrespective, they always stand out.

Jack's happy being an athlete but imagine how much happier he will be when he's wearing the official Australian uniform.
Jack’s happy being an athlete but imagine how much happier he will be when he’s wearing the official Australian uniform.

This is especially true in our sport. A bright yellow t-shirt with UNDERWATER HOCKEY plastered across the chest is pretty hard to miss. Wearing an official looking uniform does have some upsides. For example, it adds credibility when trying to get an upgrade while flying. It might even trick someone into thinking that wearing budgie smugglers and flailing about on the bottom of the pool is a legitimate way to spent three weeks. Despite all of these upsides, something about wearing my team uniform on the plane over here just didn’t feel right. Wear your uniform while traveling by yourself and there is a fair chance that you’re going to look like a genuine squeezer. The “look at me” factor is just too great. Basic hygiene is another consideration. A competition like the World Championships is a long haul and your uniform is your home for most of that time. Wear the same clothes for two weeks and you’re bound to cultivate a decent stink no matter what you do. Soiling your uniform for an extra 40 hours on the plane on the way over isn’t going to help.

This year’s Australian team uniform seems to be going ok. Self appointed style guru Stewart ‘Parko’ Parkinson has been shooshing about with Catalina Chica Perez, Sandra Milner and Kirsteen “Chooky” Reid. They have managed to overcome Stewart’s passion for double denim to deliver a creative masterpiece that combines polyester, South American exotica with retro chic. Hopefully, it is a uniform to inspire another generation of Australian players to do great things.

All aboard for another weirdo convention

Underwater hockey?
“Yes, underwater hockey.”
“Really, never heard of it. How does that work?”

This conversation, and its many variations, is replayed over and over across the world. Every underwater hockey player approaches this situation differently.

My response has changed over the years. Early on, I would talk up the sport to anybody and everybody. Naive enthusiasm like that can only last so long. Cynicism and fatigue eventually crept in and I either ignored the question or directed people to look it up on YouTube. That kind of response doesn’t really promote the sport so I’ve been searching for a happy medium.

After a recent conversation I finally think I’ve found it. My reply went something along the lines of, “Get a bunch of weirdos together and throw them into a pool.” I wasn’t being derogatory. I’ve always considered myself a first class weirdo and the marginal nature of our sport has some big upsides. Underwater hockey isn’t really that much different to other recreational activities. It is no weirder than a bunch of blokes chasing a bit of leather around a field or people picking heavy stuff up then putting it back down. Less people play underwater hockey that’s all. One of the things I like about our sport is that it draws people from different backgrounds. I have traveled the world playing underwater hockey and have met all kinds of new and strange people. I wouldn’t have had these are experiences if I didn’t play underwater hockey.

The good times are set to continue over the next couple of weeks. The international weirdo convention that is the 2013 Underwater Hockey World Championships is about to kick off. Hundreds of like-minded people from around the world will converge on the little Hungarian town of Eger to scuffle about on the bottom of a pool.  I’ll be there. I’ll be going around with the Australian boys having a whole heap of fun in the process. It will be a chance to meet a whole new bunch of weirdos – people who found their way to underwater hockey just like I did. I’ll be writing some frivolous notes about my adventures.

Felt good the first time, maybe better the second time round

Rees Quilford with the CMAS World Underwater Hockey Championship trophy
Sneaking out of the building with the CMAS World Underwater Hockey Championship trophy. Image by Jozz Hart

Athletes are motivated by all kinds of things but from my perspective, sport, particularly at the elite level, is the pursuit of satisfaction. Athletes compete to test their expectations of self. Pain, sacrifice and disappointment are often central to the journey but satisfaction comes from pushing your physical and mental boundaries and testing yourself against the best in the world. A privileged few emerge from that test having unequivocally met the expectations they set for themselves. Those rare moments when the stars align and you find yourself at the pinnacle of your chosen pursuit provide a fleeting but deeply fulfilling glimpse of soul savouring satisfaction. Continue reading “Felt good the first time, maybe better the second time round”

World championships and big-breasted women

Despite my obvious physical disabilities as well as my genetic disposition toward alcohol I have managed to achieve something worthwhile in my life, as I am now a World Champion. Some have questioned the validity of Underwater Hockey’s claim to be a legitimate sport; to them I can only respond with the words of one far wiser than I, “What the fuck would you know? You pig-ignorant wanker.”

The Australian Open Underwater Hockey team defeated New Zealand 5-4 in the final of the world championships held in Calgary, Canada. The masses rejoiced.

Canada was as I expected. The drive from Calgary to Vancouver consisted of pine trees, mountains and lakes. The experience was accentuated by listening to the lyrical brilliance of the Canadian icons of song – Celine Dion, Bryan Adams and Alanis Morrisette – whose songs receive constant airplay. In most countries this would be considered a form of mild mind torture. Not Canadia.

Braved the icy waters of Lake Louise near Banff. Came to, locked in a basement at a house party in Jasper – made my escape guided by the pale light of the moon via a skylight then wandered back to the hotel where, lacking a key, I had to scale three storeys to break in the balcony door. Discovered the joys of bacon and maple syrup on flapjacks. Only saw one Mountie, which in retrospect is quite distressing.

One thing that I will say about Canadia is that they have enormous trucks and trailers (they make Australia’s 4WDs and caravans look like pathetically pimped minis) as well as a huge amount of big-breasted women. There must be some abnormality in the Canadian gene pool or an environmental condition that is favourable to the development of abnormally large breasts amongst the women. Some businesses have even attempted to encourage this trend. One of the bars that we went to in Calgary paid half the cost of any breast surgery undertaken by their employees. A glance around at the punters quickly confirmed this to be a sensible business strategy.