Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friendlies, helmets, and boards


[Everyone from midwestern's before the final match. Click for large.]


First and foremost-- there will be intercity "friendlies" between the St.Louis and COMO crews on DECEMBER 5th, and Edwin, me, and that spectre named Rinzin will be making the trek over for some quality polo with quality peoples. Hopefully a few more Bloomingtonians (that sounds akward) will ride over with us- anyone is welcome to come! Should be good practice before the JANUARY 19th Lock-In in St.Louis. I also hear there might be some polo happening up in Indianapolis again. Hopefully I can find out more about that soon.

Here's something kinda cool. Doug from NYC posted that video I shot of the midwestern final here on his polo blog. If you're not familiar with HardcourtBikePolo.com then you should bookmark that shit right now. His blog is basically north america's primary polo news source, and I believe he's even the one who coined the term "hardcourt" bike polo (to distinguish our sport from its grass polo forefather). Great site that I check daily and to see that video on there was pretty sweet! Check it out if you haven't yet.

And of course don't forget the forums at bikepolo.ca, which is an equally important website. While you're at it sign up on the Bloomington club page here.




Now on to local stuff. As always lots of new people are showing up and great fun is being had by all. We're also been up-ing the ante as far as equipment goes...


^Shot of my newer mallets. The two golf/conduit ones I broke at midwestern's really opened my eyes to the durability required for "real" polo. Thankfully the ski poles and mallets we brough back from como have worked out beautifully! Again, thank you lucky and nick!





6Rinzin has been collecting random ski poles and we finally got the chance to turn them into some mallets. The hdpe we got from the COMO boys has been working out splendidly! We're actually almost out of it, so if you want a piece to make your own mallet just hit me up at pickup- I usually bring an extra one or two for people who want 'em.






^Two new things have been implemented at pickup- boards and helmets. The boards, though rudimentary, have kept the ball inside the court and allowed games to go on continuously! Very nice. I already have some ideas for much better boards and even a free standing court. Helmets... why the hell have I not been wearing one the whole time? Everyone takes the occasional spill (me more than others) and it's just a safe thing to do. My $20 kid's bmx helmet works fine and I don't even notice I'm wearing it. Best part is everyone's been dusting their helmets off and now at least half the players on the court at any given time are wearing 'em. And 5 out of 6 mallets are now ski poles! Nice.





^Courts have been wet though. The boards are meager but functional; though my friend Ryan plowed into and broke one of these immediately after it the photo was taken. It was kinda funny though, so it's all good.

And if you look closely you can see a ghost in the background. Seriously.


That's about it. See you at pickup!

-W.





And just for fun, I'm gonna post this photo of a sweet beater bike that I saw online. All I could think was "that'd make a great polo bike!"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Midwestern Champeenships!!!!!


It's Wednesday but I'm still recovering from this past weekend. After warming up at Thursday night pickup it was off to Columbia, Missouri on Friday for the Midwestern Champeenships. Three days straight of the most intense polo I've ever seen or played. Ashley, Evan, and I represented Bloomington well (i think). We made lots of new friends, learned many new skills (wheelie shot!), and even brought back a plethora of mallet making materials (thanks Nick and Lucky!).

I don't know how much I'll write as there is just too much polo-related awesomeness to convey over the interwebs; so I'll just post some of the random, shitty photos I took and you'll get the idea.

First though, here's the video I took of the final match between Chicago and Milwaukee. The camerawork and video quality sucks, but you can get a good idea of tournament level play from these two quality teams.




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And now for some crappy photos that don't even begin to convey the magnitude of the event.

^Overview of the stands at midcourt. Everyone spent most of the weekend propped up against the side of the hockey rink (street hockey court, hardcourt polo field, or whatever the hell you want to call it).



^Bikes of the St.Louis team King Shin Way featuring two brothers (Lee and ?) and another guy named Jake. We played them in our first match and holy shit were they good. While waiting for our match to start we told them this was our first match and Lee was like "oh cool, well maybe we shouldn't get physical just yet". Sure, they beat us soundly 5-0, but we got some good stops and Evan and I only wrecked a few times. But later... dear god these St. Louis boys may as well been playing hockey. Full body checks, ceaseless mallet hacking, leaning in with the shoulders and elbows at every moment. The Como Arigato vs. King Shin Way match was to most brutal and exciting of the entire tournament. Too bad my video camera died two minutes in...



^Vince (left) gave up playing in the tournament to organize and run it. Same with Drew, who you can see at the beginning of the final match video. Chris (right) also was instrumental in making the Midwesterns happen. He hooked us up with his teammate Nick, who's house we stayed at. Add a tall lanky kid named Charlie to Nick and Christ and you've got the Columbia A-squad. Hell of a team to watch play.



^Curtis (far right) was Nick's roomate and local Pedicab driver. Nicest guy ever. Lucky is the dog who hung out in the shade all weekend. Local kid getting a free lift.



^Down court from behind the goals. Love the hockey nets. They wouldn't work on our small courts, but on the big ones they'd be nice. There was never a debate as to whether the ball went in or not.



^Local bike shop "Klunks" set up an open air bike shopo and offered free repair work. It was mostly truing wheels and fine tuning before matches, but a few major wrecks made this little workshop indespensible. Cool Danish cargo bike too!


^Crowd along the wall.



^Teammates. Did I mention we could drink right on location?



^After party. Joy Division cover band called Joy Revision. Fun times. There was an after-after party too at an abandoned warehouse called the Hair Hole. Or was it Hare Hole? I have no idea cause I passed the fuck out.


^Bikes, bikes bikes.... saw so many great polo-specific bicycles this weekend. Here are a few of my favorite.....



^
I'm pretty sure this one belongs to Chris from COMO. That kid had amazing skills. On more than one occasion he abandoned his mallet on the ground and played with just his bike-- blocked multiple goals and one time took out all three players from the other team! And his wood laminate disc cover is totally my style. Might have to steal that idea....



^ Best wheel cover of the tournament.... yes, those are porno playing cards.


^ Favorite bike I saw. Quality frame and parts but with the "primary colors" of gold, pink and sky blue. Belongs to one of the best players I saw, Kremin from Milwaukee.




^All girl pickup game on one of the side courts. Bunch of gals from Austin, TX showed up, along with a decent female crew from Colorado Springs and Denver, CO.



^1st Place - Machine Politics (Chicago) On the far right is "Lefty Joe", the tournament MVP. First place got some sweet Brooks saddles. Notice the smoke in front of the camera? That's one of the "victory cigarettes" that were lit promptly after the match finished.



^2nd Place - the Beaver Boys (Milwaukee) - MKE's A-squad, winning their Milwaukee messenger bags. This team was intense and fun to watch.



^3rd Place - Hot Sauce Enema (Milwaukee) MKE's other squad with the beer homebrewed specifically for this event by COMO Megan. There was a third team from Milwaukee that was super nice and we hung out with a bit. Apparently the trifecta of Chicago, Madison (WI), and Milwaukee seems to yield the highest level of competition and therefore some of the best players in the Midwest. We've gotten the invite to come up and play at any time. Like I said, nice peoples.



^Here's Chicago Ben attempting to "herd cats". After the results were announced and the trophy handed out he took a moment to try and do some group organization. Mob rule decided that the next of the biennial midwesterns will be held in Minneapolis, MN this spring, while the autumn installment will happen in Lexington, KY. Both places sound great to me as I have lots of friends up in Minnesota and Kentucky is super close. Also a formal organization called North American Hardcourt is in the works.


^Goodbye beautiful street hockey court commandeered for bike polo!

6 hours later we were back in Bloomington. I caught a few hours of sleep before waking up and building a slew of boards and mallets for our tennis courts. We used all the new gear that night and it made a world of difference! (aside from the mallet I took to the face, ouch) After the quality of courts and play I experienced at COMO I want to bring that same quality here to our regular games. But more on that later.

I have more film from the tournament, but I'll have to try and edit that into something that's not so incomprehensible. Evan took a million pictures too, so more on this amazing tournament weekend to come.

-W.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New court, new people!

I've noticed the title of every post I make usually includes an exclamation point. I think that's a good indicator of how excited I am every time I talk about bike polo. Tonight is no different!!!

The biggest piece of news is our new court. Well, not 'ours' per se, but as citizens of Bloomington they're ours to use I cannot say how amazing this is to play on after months of tiny tennis courts. This is just the north end of it...


...and here's a look at the south end.


Yeah, it's big....really big. Three full sized basketball courts side by side. I'd guess 200 ft maybe? It's also pretty wide. I'd bet you could fit three of our regular courts just inside this one. Anyway, the important thing is that it is amazing to play on! Concrete siding around most of it, quality chain link fence with no big gaps, excellent location (right across from the hospital ;) and its even right next to a small park with parking, bathrooms and a playground! Polo is just more fun to play when you have room to maneuver and space to make breakaways. Everyone was instantly passing better, using more control, and generally just playing better. Guess that's the advantage when you're not running into each other every 5 seconds and chasing wayward balls every 10.

In the first photo you can see some high school kids playing pickup football in the field next to the courts. This space would be so perfect for grass polo that we're about ready to give that a try any day now!



^Even the corners are nice. Note my feet in the picture, the concrete barrier I'm on is about 3 1/2 to 4 ft high and wraps around 50% of the court. Great for rebounds. And the quality fence means we're not chasing balls every five minutes. The autumn leaves made some fun obstacles and we even started a few games by hiding the ball in a pile of leaves in the middle of the court! Fun times.




^And since we were playing on Halloween, Ashley decided to come in full regalia! Cool costume, cool girl, cool bike.




^Some of the players hanging out between games... Ok, now for the bad part- we can only play during the day. The court has a couple lights, but they're pathetic and in no way meant to illuminate the courts for use. For now we'll just use this as our Saturday afternoon spot, but a neighbor told us the city was thinking of putting lights anyway.... maybe we can help urge them in the right direction.

I don't want to get to far ahead of myself, but I this could be an amazing location for a tournament. Or at least some springtime friendlies.





Second thing I'm really excited about is all the awesome new people! Some enthusiastic new guys came tonight, the second-third timers are already really good, and the regulars are honing their skills.


^You can't really tell, but a goal is about to be scored in this pic. This is about as good of an action shot as I can get with my shitty camera

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^Edwin's war wounds from a high mallet tonight. His glasses protected his eye but it was not cool at all. Gotta remember to keep them sticks down!



Good times were had by all! And this kid named Brent stopped by and told us about a night ride that occurs every full moon! A great idea that had just been mentioned by a fellow polo player not one hour before! The internets tell me that the next full moon is on December 2nd, so hopefully we can all join forces by then and enjoy some moonlit night-cycling.

Midwesterns at COMO this weekend. Very excited, we'll see how it goes.

-W.