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Monday, January 9, 2012

The Common Man's Sport.

It is rumored that Mahatma Gandhi declared, “bike polo is the common man’s sport, everyone has a bike.” Gandhi’s quote was handwritten and adorned at the door of Eilif Knutson’s room in Corvallis. During the wet winter months, dedicated bike polo enthusiasts would gather at a court under an overpass to explore the sport.

The modern incarnation of bike polo is played on an enclosed court. A plastic street hockey ball is placed in the middle of the court as two teams (three players to a team) tousle with bicycles and mallets. Each team has a goal post set up with traffic cones and the object of the game is to score five points in the opposing team’s goal. Players who dab - touch the ground with their foot - must undertake a penalty by tapping in at a designated point to return to the game.

Geoff Jones, an outreach counselor at Kalakaua Middle School has been playing bike polo regularly for a year in Honolulu. Jones found bike polo through mutual bicycle friends who were curious about the sport. At last year’s Broken Coconuts Bike Polo Tournament, Jones’ team was declared as the champion. Jones encourages “anyone who rides a bike” to play bike polo as it is “an affordable sport and lots of people are willing to loan mallets and bicycles.”

HNL Bike Polo is played twice weekly at Makiki District Park: Wednesdays from 6PM until close and Sundays from 4PM until close. HNL Bike Polo was started by Garrett Rawlins in September 2009. Rawlins considers HNL Bike Polo to be a communal organization, stating “in the world of cycling this is a fun way to compete without the bureaucracy of a larger polo is very do-it-yourself.”

These days HNL Bike Polo maintains an internet presence via the efforts of Mark Lavender, Jorge Portillo, and Christopher Morgado. Lavender, a UH Manoa Philosophy student and glass-blowing artist, remembers attending an Aloha Sunday bicycle event and being encouraged to “grab a mallet and try!”

Lavender would not miss a single bike polo day for three months afterwards. He began gathering contact information from anyone mildly interested in bike polo and informing them consistently that the weekly meet-ups were occurring. As the excitement of bike polo began building, so did the attendance. Lavender hopes to educate the general public that bike polo is a sport and players are athletes. The ultimate goal, according to Lavender, is for Honolulu to host regional bike polo tournaments.

Any bicycle is allowed to be utilized at bike polo. Knutson remembers his first “polo bike” as a bicycle with no seat and duct tape for construction. Knutson has been playing bike polo in Oregon for the last six years and views HNL Bike Polo as “exciting. Its nostalgic because there is an excitement in Honolulu that people are still experimenting with the sport.” Montessori teacher Molly Jenkins is one of those people that has begun experimenting with bike polo.

Jenkins, a recent Honolulu transplant from the Pacific Northwest, has been using bicycles as her primary mode of transportation for nine years. Having heard of bike polo in Seattle but never participating, she decided to spectate the sport in Honolulu. Jenkins never intended to actually play but “everyone was super welcoming and I couldn’t turn them down.”

Nationally, bike polo’s popularity is growing exponentially. Several domestic bicycle component companies are constructing and selling bike polo mallets and related paraphernalia. A World Hardcourt Bike Polo tournament is held annually, drawing participants from afar. Rawlins believes the appeal of bike polo is how a bicycle becomes united with the user. Bike polo entrusts users to do much more then just propelling bicycles in a forward motion.

The collision of mallets and bicycles will resonate. 3-2-1-POLO!

HNL Bike Polo | Makiki District Park |

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