Words: Allan Taylor
Pics: SUP North
So what is this new division of stand up you have been hearing about? Supposedly a combination of stand up paddle boarding mixed with a football, floating goal posts and paddles with holes in? Sounds strange…Allan Taylor from SUP North sheds more light while telling the tale of when a BBC journalist visited for a knock up.
SUP polo is a team based game where participants race around on stand up paddle boards trying to get possession of the ball to ultimately score in the opponent’s goal. This is made easier with a Wholy Paddle – quite literally a paddle with a hole in it, designed to scoop and carry the ball with ease. To top things off and make the action even faster, a special inflatable twin tip SUP board has been designed. It’s 36” wide and has the same shape nose and tail with small fins at each end – rather like a giant kite or wake board. This makes switching direction a breeze. Paddles, boards and goals are available to buy from your local Starboard supplier. Anyone with links to a SUP club should get involved. It’s an easy way to increase club night meets, have some fun with SUP indoors and maybe increase participation levels?
A question for SUP North.
How do you get Mike Bushell, the sports presenter from BBC Breakfast – renowned for trying over 400 new sports – to come to your local pool?
Just drop him a tweet asking him to come and play a game of SUP polo at your local pool and he will reply with: ‘yes I would be delighted. This is just the sport I’ve been looking for to freshen up Saturday mornings. Can I come tomorrow?’ Needless to say we were all over it.
So, with a few more tweets to organise a date and time and couple of photos to show Mike what the sport is all about, we had BBC sport presenter Mike Bushell on one of our teams at a Friday evening game of SUP polo. Coverage on national TV? Yes please!
We only started playing SUP polo in Southport at the beginning of the year (2016), but already we’re full for every session. With a great mixture of paddlers from all ages and levels of experience giving it their all, as well as plenty of enthusiastic spectators and supporters. It’s great for mass participation SUP. And super fun – let’s not forget that element!
Mike absolutely loved the game and took part fully – passing, scoring and occasionally falling in as two teams battled to snag goals against each other. All the while the action was filmed both from poolside by a cameraman and in the water with several GoPro action cameras (my favourite if anyone follows me online).
After the games had finished Mike took time to interview some of the players; 9 year old local boy Daniel who came to play with his Dad, SUP Sarah who had travelled from the Wirral to take part and Phil, a retired aircraft builder from Yorkshire, who made the trip over just to get a chance to join in with the action. And last but not least SUP North’s Lucy, who was on hand to referee.
Mike also indicated he would love to come and paddle open waters with SUP North on Southport’s marine lake, possibly heading to the sea later in the year. He also vowed he would back to play more SUP polo in the future and can see the potential of it becoming much bigger than it currently stands.
SUP polo is due to feature on BBC Breakfast around the middle of February so keep your eyes peeled. (By the time you read this article the programme will have aired, but we’re sure the episode will be available on iPlayer and the Sup North guys will be posting to social media if you should miss it – Ed).
To participate in SUP polo a little previous experience paddle boarding is essential and many clubs and schools are now offering indoor beginner sessions right through the winter period. These same clubs and schools are also offering SUP polo sessions for people that can already paddle – Central SUP in the Midlands, The SUP Hut in South Wales, Blue Chip in London and our own session with SUP North in the North West. Possibly by the time this article is in print there will be more centres offering the same. Some have even suggested that SUP polo could end up in the Olympics. That’s a long way off so we’ll have to see. The fact remains, however, that SUP polo is a great way to encourage more paddlers to take up stand up with the added element of being involved in a team sport. It’s yet another example of how diverse SUP is – there’s nothing quite like it!
For more info on a local centre where you can take part or to find out about local and national contests go to the new Facebook group SUP Polo UK. <https://www.facebook.com/groups/1648836485367076>