League of its own

Feb 102011
Authors: Kari Pills

Fort Collins’ EPIC Pool is no stranger to splashing bodies and shouts over the water. But toss in kayaks and the scene is a foreign one.

But this is the case every Thursday night when athletes ages 25 to 35 strap on their helmets, slide into their 6-to-8-foot kayaks and begin battling it out in a game of kayak water polo.

These athletes are members of the Mountain Kayak Polo Club of Fort Collins, a league established in 1998.

Most of the players are avid kayakers in the summer months but enjoy getting in shape year-round playing the sport.

Many of the team members discovered the league through association with players already on the team. But League Organizer Heather Bean said it’s been difficult getting college students to join.

Amanda Washburn had been kayaking for 12 years before relocating to Colorado from San Diego and joining the league. The concept of kayaking in a pool while playing the game was not familiar, though.

“We tried to have it in a pool once or twice in San Diego, but it got too expensive,” Washburn said. 

The sport was originally started in New Zealand by Marty Bell, but moved to Fort Collins when Bell came to the city.

Kayak waterpolo is played like regular water polo and is just as physical. 

Two five-to-eight player teams compete against one another by racing up and down the length of the 100-foot by 66-foot rectangular area, roped off in either a swimming pool or lake. The goal is to score by launching a water polo ball into the goals at each end.

Each half is 10 minutes long and the teams typically play multiple games every week. 

The equipment and amount of time put into the sport is also more than expected. At each game the league has referees and equipment that protects them from rough hits.

“We have special life vests,” Bean said. “They are used for impact protection, like an armor.”

Although kayaking is a sport that takes skill, to play in this league players need little to no experience.  

“We help people from scratch,” Bean said. “It’s a steep learning curve.” 

Mountain Kayak Polo Club is currently the only league in Colorado, although two reside in Nebraska.

Staff writer Kari Pills can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Interested in playing?

  • Contact: Heather Bean at Heather@kayakpolo.com or visit www.mkp.kayakpolo.com for information about joining the league or learning more about the sport.
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