Back on March 8th, the tennis courts at Northeast Portland’s Alberta Park hosted the nation’s best bike polo players at the first annual Oregon Bike Polo Championships.
For the uninitiated, bike polo is like traditional polo on horseback, except it’s played on a bike. The bikes are usually modified to have only one brake (usually on the left side so your strong hand can swing the mallet) and one, easy gear (so you can speed up quickly). Many players add covers to their wheels to keep mallets from flying through them, to deflect a competitor’s shot, or to bank their own shots.
The main rule is that you cannot put a foot down. If you do, you must stay where you are and ride in a complete circle (once) before re-joining play. (I realize there are more rules, but that’s about the only one I know off the top of my head).
Polo is a thrill to watch. At times, it takes the patient balance of a ballerina (like when players tussle for a ball caught up in the fence) and at other times it takes all the speed of a sprinter on the final lap of a criterium.
At the Oregon Championships, 19 teams entered the competition. Prelims were at Pier Park up in St. Johns and 16, 3-person teams made the double-elimination finals held at Alberta Park.
Portland is blessed with a lot of polo talent and much of it was on full display that Sunday. Polo combines everything I love about sports and biking; stamina, teamwork, bursts of speed, and ninja-like moves that make it seem as though players have a sixth-sense reserved just for polo.
The solid crowd of spectators that showed up were treated to a tremendous show of skill and panache from teams that came from as far away as Vancouver BC, New York City, and Los Angeles.
At the end of the competition, a team from East Vancouver BC took home 1st place (a summer ago I had the pleasure of watching them on their home court), with Seattle and Oregon rounding out the top three.
Enjoy the slideshow above for more of the action and faces in the crowd and on the court. You can also view all the photos in the BikePortland Photo Gallery.
East Van?! Oh, the indignity. I love what a thriving polo scene we have here and how polo continues to be pretty intensely regional (from rules to surface to bikes). Great pictures, Jonathan. Thanks for your diverse coverage.
we’ve been playing since 2002 and this was the largest turny ever. Very competitive and a lot of fun.
Not enough can be said about the players who were capable of bringing a fierce intensity to the game but were still very gentlemanly throughout the weekend.