Diving in: What is Underwater Hockey?


Image provided by Underwater Hockey WA

Underwater Hockey

Mason Smith, Reporter

Every now and then, between going to work, socialising and working on assignments, I find myself enthralled in a YouTube deep-dive.

On my most recent descent down the online rabbit-hole, I discovered something that piqued my interest. Something so captivating and different to anything I had ever witnessed before.

Thank-you internet for helping me discover Underwater Hockey.

Underwater Hockey (also known as ‘Octopush’) is a team sport, invented by the British Navy back in 1954 as a way to keep their divers fit and improve their mobility underwater.

Described as a hybrid between field hockey, water polo and a plethora of other sports, Underwater Hockey has quickly grown into a fast-paced, exciting sport, played by incredibly fit people worldwide.

Each game consists of two 15-minute halves, punctuated by a three-minute break.

The aim of the game is similar to soccer; most goals wins. To score a goal, players are required to push the puck (made from lead and plastic) into a goal tray with their stick (made of plastic).

With all this information in hand, I decided that I needed to see the game played up-close and personal.

I got in touch with Josh Mackenzie from the West Coast Divers Underwater Hockey team, who invited me down to watch an ‘elite’ scrimmage.

Walking into Belmont Oasis Leisure Centre, I didn’t quite know what to expect from the night ahead. What will the game look like? What will the players be like? How hard can this game really be? Were questions that came to mind as I made my way across the pool deck.

I took my seat on the grandstand and began observing the goings-on of the scrimmage. Although it was difficult at times to truly appreciate the intricacies of the game, I still managed to keep an eye on the underwater action, and boy was it something else.

Players seem to glide effortlessly across the water, then disappear in an instant. After the last head descends under the water, the action starts, with players taking mere seconds to ascend and take a breath through their snorkels, before diving back down for more.

While Underwater Hockey is technically a non-contact sport, I can assure you there is plenty of bumping, nudging and jostling going on under the surface.

I have to admit, a lot of the time spent spectating, I found myself thinking “what is going on?”. Thankfully, Mackenzie took the time to sit with me once the scrimmage finished and walk me through exactly what I had seen, as well as the tactics and strategies behind the game.

“It’s not just a free-for-all, not in our country anyway.

“In Australia, we typically play a 3-2-1 style, which means we have three forwards (in line with the puck) and three backs (two just behind the puck and one covering the goal). So that’s how we play to keep maximum numbers around the puck and utilise all the strategies we have,” Mackenzie detailed.

With all the strategy and thought that goes into each game, it’s no surprise that the Divers have a good understanding of one another and the game. To go along with the representing the Divers, Mackenzie revealed that he, and many of his team mates have represented Western Australia and Australia.

“Throughout the year we play social, club-level games as training sessions and then competitions are held a few times a year. We also go away to national championships and world championships (if selected), so, we get a fair bit of game time in together.”

With training sessions and scrimmages running most nights of the week, it’s no surprise the group gets along so well, even considering the difficulties they face each time they get into the water.

“Our A grade side is fairly consistent. You get a few people dropping in and out, but most of us have played together for a long while now.”

“We also hang out with each other a lot outside of hockey… it’s very social,” Mackenzie said.

When asked what the biggest difficulty Underwater Hockey players face, Mackenzie’s response was quick and simple.

“Easily not being able to communicate within the team [when underwater].”

With a passionate bunch of players, who care for the game’s growth as much as their friends and team mates, it’s no surprise Underwater Hockey is growing in Western Australia.

“In the last year, we have formed a new club; Mosman Park Underwater Hockey Club.

“Additionally, we’ve got 200-odd people all through Western Australia who play consistently, with ages ranging from 10 to 60 years old,” Mackenzie revealed.

So, if you’re like me; sick of falling down the YouTube rabbit-hole, how about trying something new and challenging?

Dive in and give Underwater Hockey a go, it may be what you’ve been looking for all along.