Octopush — also called Underwater Hockey (UWH) — is an aerobic underwater sport characterized by aspects of both swimming and ice hockey.
Using short, hand-held sticks called "pushers," players representing two opposing teams compete to gain control of a weighted puck to score goals against each other across a swimming pool floor. A typical game of Octopush happens entirely underwater and is defined by a universally recognized set of official rules and regulations, outlining factors such as playfield dimensions, fouls, and valid goal parameters.
Although considered a "limited-contact" sport, Octopush is highly physical and can result in injury if players are careless.
When Was Octopush Invented?
Though underwater games of skill have existed for centuries if not millenia, Octopush is a relatively new sport, dating back to 1954. Invented by a British diver by the name of Alan Blake, Octopush was originally intended as an exercise for training divers and British commandos. Over time, "underwater hockey" as it began to be called caught on as a leisurely exhibition-style game; today, it is played in over 40 countries throughout the world, with championship competitions that draw participants from a range of nations.
Did You Know?
- Unlike in ice hockey, there are no goalies in Octopush—though this doesn't necessarily make the game any easier given its underwater constraints.
- The puck is weighted with lead alloy in Octopush so as to stay on or near the floor of the pool.
- Winning an underwater hockey match requires significant strategy, as players must surface for air regularly.
What Do Octopush Players Wear?
A typical Octopush player will enter the water wearing a swimsuit, swimming cap, goggles, and large fins that are worn to aid in movement. Players wear a thick glove in one hand only and carry a small stick (called a "pusher stick") used to maneuver and control the puck.
A snorkel is also worn in most cases, which allows the player to remain below the surface of the water while simultaneously getting air and keeping an eye on the position of the puck.
Where is Underwater Hockey Popular?
Though Octopush may have gotten its start in England, the sport has grown to support an estimated 15,000 participants across the globe. Underwater hockey is particularly popular in places such as Great Britain, France, New Zealand, Turkey, Columbia, South Africa, and Australia, but it can be found somewhat active in many additional countries as well.
How Do You Play Octopush?
A typical game of Octopush consists of two opposing teams, each made up of six players. Team members work together to both defend and score, not unlike a typical game of ice or field hockey. As Octopush is considered a no-contact sport, pushing, pulling, grabbing, or otherwise making contact with opposing players is not allowed and can result in fouls.
Each match begins with players beginning at opposing ends of the pool, who must race to the center to gain control of the puck once the buzzer is rang. Two referees watch as players use their pusher sticks to direct the puck, keeping track primarily of fouls and goals.
To score a goal, players must guide the puck into a trough (the "goal") nine feet in width. One of the main differences between underwater hockey and other variations on the game is that Octopush does not include the role of a goalie, which means players must take extra care in defending and maintaining possession of the puck throughout the game.
Octopush may not be popular enough of a sport to gain a spot in the Olympic games anytime soon, but it remains a niche love for swimmers, divers, and hockey enthusiasts alike.