What the puck? Octopush: It’s like hockey, but underwater

Octopush started back in 1954 in South Sea, invented by divers looking for a way to get fit and keep their club going in winter. Since then the sport has quickly progressed and spread worldwide. Some of the most popular places to play include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the USA, the Netherlands and France.

Octopush is a non-contact sport, played on the bottom of a pool with ‘pushers’ and a lead puck. Players wear fins, white or black hats, a mask and a snorkel. There are 6 players in the water and a further four substitutes on the side of the pool or in the water outside the playing area (dependent on competition rules). The players on the side are continually substituted into play with no limit to the number of subs per match. Players are often encouraged to sub as regularly as every 2-3 minutes to take full advantage of a fresh pair of lungs. A full team is made up of 12 players, which includes two reserves. At the start of play, the puck starts in the middle of the pool while the players wait in the water, touching the wall above the goals they are defending. A buzzer or gong indicates the start of play and teams dive down and race towards the puck on the bottom of the pool.

Games consist of two halves, typically ten to fifteen minutes (depending on tournament rules) and a short half-time interval. At half time the two teams switch ends. After the start of play, players are free to swim anywhere in the play area and try to score by pushing the puck into the opponents’ goal or ‘tin’ while holding their breath. This makes it one of the ultimate anaerobic sports and great for fitness. Play continues until either a goal is scored and players return to their wall to start a new point, or a break in play is signalled by a referee (whether due to a foul, a time-out, or the end of the period of play).

Octopush is played in 2m or 3m pools, so breath-holding skills are a must. The lead up to each tournament involves a high amount of commitment to meet the fitness required for international sport. High stamina is needed just to survive the competitions themselves, which normally last around five days, with two games per day played on the bottom of 3m pools. Although training obviously involves a lot of swimming, it is also advised to train in other sports. This cross-training helps to avoid injury and develop all round fitness.

The Aberystwyth University Octopush team have gone from strength to strength in the last few years, rejuvenated by a few experienced players; in 2009 they started to slowly build up their numbers. By 2010 there was a strong base team and we were able to compete for the first time in the University Nationals, which were held in Durham. This was a massive leap for the club as it put Aberystwyth on the octopush radar. With few funds, the team worked hard together, putting on multiple cake sales around campus so they could also compete in the Welsh National Tournament. 2011 saw octopush added to the Varsity league for the first time. Aberystwyth Octopush Team were also awarded a grant to buy goals and some new equipment. This has set us up for a new year and a new intake of freshers.

Currently the club meet for training twice a week. Anyone is welcome to have a go – Friday 8:15pm at the uni pool and Saturday 1:45pm – make sure you have a sporty card!