By Tim Hancox
For adventurous students, the Rhodes Underwater Club is the answer for something completely different. In the club’s recently held splash day at the Rhodes’ pool, underwater hockey was promoted, as the club looks to create awareness about this unusual sport. There was also the opportunity for students to try their hands at scuba diving.
The splash day included several interesting challenges, with prizes up for grabs for those brave enough to dive in. In the event for the underwater swim with no fins, the eventual winner managed an impressive 44 meters on a single breath. There was also an underwater obstacle course and a styrofoam fish for a spear fishing challenge.
Mask, fins, a short stick and the ability to hold your breath for extended periods of time are the vital requirements for an underwater hockey player. There is the national inter-club tournament, and with the mixed gender nature of the sport there is an enjoyable social aspect combined with the competitive nature of the game itself. The club’s hockey rep, Tara Booth explains that “A lot of people don’t realise how tough it is, playing so hard and holding your breath at the same time.” Although Rhodes has a small group of players, there has been some success, seeing three Rhodes players attending nationals. The game is a unique team game where no individual can dominate, as everyone needs to pass the puck and surface for air sooner or later. Andrew Dunlop found that in his experience, “Once you play its addictive.”
On the scuba side of the club, there are regular dives on the coastline, with both day trips and weekend camping trips organised with affordable student prices. Equipment for this expensive sport is provided by the club, together with Naui diving courses, with an open water one course starting on February 26. The club chairperson, Andrea Bernatzeder explains her interest in diving as to “Put yourself in an environment not many people get to see or experience. My favourite experience was diving in the kelp beds in the Cape.” There is also the environmental aspect, with so much to see from the beautiful coral to the incredible creatures of the deep. It is because of these wondrous sights that Booth describes diving as “Absolutely fascinating.” The club also works with fish watch, in order to assist the conservation programme and help record species spotted in different areas. The Eastern Cape offers tough but rewarding diving conditions, which is why Booth believes that if you train here you can dive anywhere.
There are big events for the club like the Noordhoek dive fest and a series of spear fishing competitions during the year. The club are also looking to promote awareness about underwater hockey to the schools in the area, as it is a relatively unknown sport, which makes it difficult to be very competitive at university level, with so many people still inexperienced.
The club has also got a big social drawcard, with a weekly bring-and-braai on the Great field, where non-members are welcome to come and ask questions. There are also the club’s spit-braais during the year, where members get to indulge in good food, good company, and more than likely a drink or two.