bike-polo-in-nanaimo 6739207

Story and Photographs by Randy Hall (ISN)

May 25, 2013, Nanaimo, BC (ISN) – We’ve all heard of polo on horseback, played by the rich and famous, and we’ve all seen water polo, but how many of you have seen bike polo. I had the opportunity to check it out today, and this is one of those sports you have to see to fully appreciate.

I arrived before the games started and took in some of the pre-game activities. Players were out on the “pitch”, in this case a hard-court tennis court, sweeping the surface to get rid of any loose impediments that might cause injury to the participants. The music was playing anything the players had on their I-pods, the barbecue was being set up and equipment was being tweaked.

The Equipment

Basic equipment to get you started is a bike equipped with a one-handed brake system, a helmet, a homemade polo mallet and an orange hockey ball. Some players wear shin pads and gloves, but judging by the talk of “five stitches from the last match” and “were you the one who broke his nose”, injuries will happen.

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Basic equipment – bike, helmet and homemade mallet – Photo by Randy Hall (randyhallphotograghy)

Nanaimo Bike Polo: Coal Town Throw-in Bike Polo Tournament – May 25, 10:00am to Dusk

Time to Play

I asked coordinator when the first game was scheduled to start and he said “when all the players arrive”. They were coming in from the mainland, Victoria, Parksville and Nanaimo, so I’m sure players continued to filter in as the day progressed. Once the courts were ready, one player tossed his mallet over the fence into the middle of the court. This started the game time ritual. Five other mallets soon followed and the players for the first game were set. A “drawing of mallets” determined the teams, equipment was retrieved and the teams retreated to their respective ends. The ball is placed on the centre spot and the game is started with the call of “3-2-1 POLO” and both teams race to take first possession.

The Game

This is where things really get impressive. Imagine six adults riding bikes in a small space with one hand on the handlebars and not being able to put their foot down. There is surprisingly little contact and the play can lead to short sprints or extended periods of balancing upright. The bike becomes an extension of their bodies, as the players have to concentrate on trying to play the bouncing ball.

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Great eye-hand coordination for this shot with a bouncing ball – Photo by Randy Hall (randyhallphotograghy)

Each game lasts 15 minutes with displays of power sprints and finesse in tight spaces. This first game was a close battle with a final score of 5-4. Play is intense, but there is obvious camaraderie between players as the teams are mixed up for each round. After a short break and head count, another mallet flies over the fence…who’s ready for game 2?

For more information about bike polo in the Nanaimo area,

contact Jawn (

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Fred Pakkala stretches in an attempt to steal the ball from Steve Bain – Photo by Randy Hall (randyhallphotograghy)

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Greg Smith breaks away from two defenders. Fred Pakkala (green) is in pursuit while Travis Barrington (black) takes a line to cut him off – Photo by Randy Hall (randyhallphotograghy)

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Intense concentration as Greg Smith lines up a shot on goal – Photo by Randy Hall (randyhallphotograghy)

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Travis Barrington (black) reaches in to prevent Steve Bain (red) from getting a shot on goal while defenders move in on the ball – Photo by Randy Hall (randyhallphotograghy)

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Fred Pakkala (green) attempts to get a wheel between the attacker and the ball to stop the rushPhoto by Randy Hall (randyhallphotograghy)

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Greg Smith gets into position for a shot while his teammate runs interference with an approaching defenderPhoto by Randy Hall (randyhallphotograghy)

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Fred Pakkala (green) tries for position while Greg Smith drives hard for the ball – Photo by Randy Hall (randyhallphotograghy)

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Greg Smith lines up a shot on goal while Fred Pakkala looks on – Photo by Randy Hall (randyhallphotograghy)