Twenty years of baggage

UWH gear
UWH gear
Some of the underwater hockey gear I’ve accumulated.

Preparing for my annual trip to the Australian Underwater Hockey Championships I found myself rummaging through my spare gear. Sitting on the floor in living room of our Carlton North apartment it dawned on me that a full twenty years earlier I would have been sitting in my parent’s house in Wonthaggi doing the same thing. In December 1993 it was a skinny little freckle faced squirt getting ready to play in his first National Championships. The butterflies in my belly have faded as the bats, fins and snorkels strewn across the room have aged and worn but the list below is a physical remainder of two decades spent chasing a lead puck around the bottom of a hundred different swimming pools across the world:

  • 11 pairs of fins (three unbroken Breier Carbon Fibre open heels, one pair of Najade, four pairs of Technisub Ala – one good and three clapped out – one pair of Technisub Stratos FP, a pair of F1s shitboxes and two pairs carbon Leaderfins)
  • 10 left handed gloves (three silicone Boney, four silicone South African, a latex TruBlue, one Slovenian and a latex Stu Parko special)
  • One right handed latex TruBlue glove
  • Five masks (two Reef teardrops – fuck! things are getting dire – one Cressi Big-Eyes, one TUSA SplenDive II and a Cressi SuperOcchio)
  • 20 Waterpolo caps (1s, 2s, 8s, 10s, 2 pairs of 11s and 13s plus a singe 1 (red), 6, 9 and 11)
  • About 30 odd sticks (3 pairs of Arnold Piccoli endorsed wooden monster hooks, 1 pair plastic Dorsels (unused), 1 pair CamAm Gav Wise plastic (I tried them once), 1 black South African Sharkie  (Unused), about 10 pairs of assorted homemade wooden bats and one right handed wooden Razor white ‘appropriated’ from Parko or Nick Martyn by the looks of it)
  • 17 pairs of bathers
  • Four pairs of Victorian branded tri-vests (thank god those days are over)
  • Three pairs of Lycra socks
  • Three medium fin keepers
  • Four pairs of swimming goggles
  • Three snorkels
  • Three gear bags (one Australian branded, one Hockeysub and one cricket bag)
  • 20m of 3mm utility cord
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Bastard file (rusty)
  • Swiss Army knife (unusable)
  • Bag of zip ties
  • Three rolls of Quick Eze
  • Voltaren (both tablets and gel)
  • Two black Textas
  • One White paint pen
  • One and a half rolls of Duct tape
  • Three rolls of Electrical tape
  • Three orange Super Soft Trueblue pucks
  • Three green Trueblue pucks
  • One Pink Trueblue puck
  • One Simms puck
  • One Lead puck
  • Two Elite Men’s World Championship gold medals
  • One Elite Men’s World Championship Bronze medal
  • One Australian Nationals Men’s division gold medal
  • A shoe box full of Australian Nationals Men’s  division bronze medals

Rummaging through twenty years of underwater hockey memories was an opportunity to reflect on my time in the sport. The act of cataloging my spare gear led me to the following realisations:

  1. Nearly two-thirds of my life has been spent playing Underwater Hockey
  2. I’ve had some amazing experiences and met a bunch of fantastic people along the way
  3. I have enough spare gear to allow two teams of left handers to play on another
  4. I am still passionately in love with the sport

It’s what we leave behind that’s tough

70 McKenzie Street, Wonthaggi
70 McKenzie Street, Wonthaggi

Saying goodbye isn’t the hard part, it’s what we leave behind that’s tough.
– Unknown

The house of my childhood is being demolished. Strangers in HiVis jackets and steel capped boots have already been through with sledgehammers and crowbars to gut the interior and once the bulldozer comes only a pile of rubble will remain. While the house isn’t much to look at from the street – plain cement sheeting, veranda cast in shadow and rusty red paint clinging to the roof’s corrugated iron – I didn’t realise how much it meant to me until Mum and Dad said they were knocking it down. Continue reading “It’s what we leave behind that’s tough”

Memories of Cambodia

Everything is negotiable. Lime and black pepper dipping sauces. Groin grabbingly great Fried Crab and Green Kampot Pepper. Ankor Larger and ice. The strip of dreams for the discerning diner, Street 278. Badminton being a really shit sport. The fortunes of an entire family revolving around a compressor. The newspaper girl who smiled. Never buy a Lexus. Tuk Tuk rides. Tuk Tuk and moto drivers. The water festival crush. The worlds greatest music store, Boom Boom Records. Living the unemployed expat dream. Ankgor Wat. Drinking coffee and cheap icy beer. Reading Moby Dick in a hammock on a nearly deserted beach at Koh Tonsay. Discovering the Phnom Penh Flyer. Eating barbeque beef, tripe and liver prepared over hot coals on the dirt floors of packed ramshackle restaurants. Corruption. New friends. The quickly diminishing waters of Boeng Kak Lake. Discovering Leonard Cohen, Dostoyevsky and the balcony of the Foreign Correspondents Club. The ruined French seaside villas on the Kep coastline. Aerobics Cambodia style. Deep fried crickets and tarantulas. The horror of Toul Sleng.