Tom Marosz was totally confused as he was watching the local community
access channel one lazy afternoon.
It was airing a video that showed a bunch of people dipping and diving
for a puck on the bottom of a pool. Marosz thought those people had gone off
the deep end.
"I first thought it was a joke," he says.
It was not. Marosz was watching a game of underwater hockey, and within
a short time he was playing, too.
"It's great exercise, it's great fun," says Marosz. He has been
a competitive player for 13 years and is current president of an underwater
Underwater hockey is played on the bottom of a swimming pool by two teams
of six. Players use foot-long sticks made out of wood to fish after a lead
puck that weighs about three pounds. Goals are made out of rope and anchored
by lead weights.
A game has two 15-minute periods. Players line up at each end of the pool,
then race towards the middle where the puck is placed to start a game. And
this is when things get really interesting. Underwater hockey requires a set
of mental and physical skills unlike any other sport.
Being able to swim and dive are obvious requirements. More importantly,
you must know how to divide your time above and below water, says Marosz.
"That's by far the most difficult thing for beginners to learn," he says.
Marosz developed his timing and technique quickly because he snorkeled
a lot during his youth, and he worked briefly as a commercial diver in the
late 1970s. But he needed some time to learn another important skill -- shooting
Carrying the puck along the bottom of the pool is easy as long as you and
your teammates have enough air. But you can carry the puck for only so far
and so long before you have to come up for air.
But if you can shoot the puck underwater, you do not need to spend much
time underwater. You can just flick it down the floor of the pool, then swim
after it on the surface. This allows you and your teammates to save energy
and air for the times when you really need it.
Marosz says a top player can fling the puck up to 82 feet. But you may
have to play for several years before you can shoot that far.
But you do not have to have a great slapshot to enjoy playing underwater
hockey. It stresses strategy and teamwork. So anybody can play it, regardless
of size or strength. Torque is more important than muscle. This means the
sport is also accessible for those with disabilities.
Jennifer Macdonald is a past president of the Flounders Underwater Hockey
Club. She remembers a disabled man playing with the club some years ago. He
was suffering from paralysis in one leg, but held his own.
"Basically, if you can swim in the water, you can play underwater hockey,"
Playing underwater hockey will also help you recover from serious injury,
says Macdonald. Three years ago, she hurt her back. Her doctor told her to
exercise in the water, and a friend recommended she try underwater hockey.
She has been enjoying it ever since. "It's actually therapeutic,"
says Macdonald. "It's a really good for my back, and when I don't
go, I notice it."
It is also a great way to network because the sport attracts a great number
of established professionals, according to Macdonald. But do not expect to
make a living off underwater hockey.
Any skills that you learn playing underwater hockey may only lead to seasonal
jobs such as lifeguard or instructor.
There is no consensus about who invented underwater hockey. Some say a
group of sports divers in Great Britain developed it to stay warm over the
winter when the water is too cold. Others say it developed out of a military
But all those who play it agree on one point: it is a lot of fun. If you
are looking for something different, something extraordinary, underwater hockey
Just ask Marosz. "It's a very interesting group of people because
you have to be a little tipped to play this game."
Teams will welcome you with open arms because they are always looking for
new players with whom they can share this quirky sport.
You need the following pieces of equipment: diving mask, snorkel, ear protectors
(water polo caps work well), fins, a glove (heavy gardening gloves work well)
and a stick. Most teams will give you a stick. The rest you can probably find
in your basement, or at a good garage sale.
Don't worry about drowning. Nobody has yet, and everybody takes safety
in and outside the pool seriously.
Yes, you can get hurt in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways. If your
mask is too tight, you may end up looking like a raccoon when you take it
off. A lead puck can leave some nasty bruises, and you can pass out if you
come up for air too quickly.
This point is obvious, but cannot be stressed enough. You have to be comfortable
in and around water.
Underwater Society of America
Underwater Hockey at Ohio State University
Includes video footage
Underwater Hockey in the U.S.
Includes rules, training manuals and lists of upcoming tournaments
Underwater Hockey Tourist around the Worldy
Check out this big list of links