There are no divets to turn and no horses to ride, but Henry Norris can wield a polo mallet like nobody’s business.
The Victoria resident is one of 10 to 20 players who regularly play pickup games of bike polo with the Victoria Bike Polo Club.
The sport, in which two teams of three people ride bicycles as they jockey for a ball with mallets in hand, has gained a lot of attention among cyclists and spectators since it spread through the North American bike courier community 10 years ago.
“People going by say (in disbelief), ‘They’re playing polo on bikes,’” said Norris, who has been playing three years. “I’d stop and watch it if I wasn’t playing bike polo.”
The sport may get a boost when about 24 teams from Western Canada, Oregon, Washington and California face off in the Balls in the City bike polo tournament at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday (June 11 and 12) on Belleville Street in front of Hotel Grand Pacific, marking the end of the Victoria International Cycling Festival.
The four-year-old Victoria Bike Polo Club prefers fun over winning, which organizers hope will help attract newcomers.
“I think we’re too small of a city to become really elite. I think that the club would die out if we didn’t keep having new people coming in, “ said Naomi Adams, who helped co-found the Victoria club with her husband Nick Melchin. “It’s a philosophy that we want to be inclusive. We all were new at one point.”
Part of the draw for players is the challenge involved: players must briefly go out of play if they lose their balance and touch the ground with their feet, known as dabbing.
It’s exciting to play and watch.
Depending on the level of interest following the tournament, the club may seek out a city-sanctioned place to play. Right now informal matches happen at the basketball court at the Fernwood Community Centre on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
“We’ll get there. We have the numbers, then we’ll get the location,” Adams said.