Octopush is not, as commonly thought, a squid with a lisp, but one of Oxford’s niche sports. Underwater hockey, for the uninitiated, has gone from strength to strength since its introduction to Oxford in 2006, and had the honour of being mentioned in matriculation by the Vice-Chancellor. Cuppers on Saturday 30th May attracted five teams, and was hotly contested, with Lincoln emerging from the depths victorious.
Octopush teams consist of six players, with up to four subs, and substitutions are a frequent occurrence. In terms of stash, each player has a mask, snorkel, fins, water polo hat, and a short stick the size of a spatula. Apparently one of the unique selling points of the game is the ability to customise your equipment, within basic guidelines, so a definite opportunity to accessorise. The aim of the game is to push a 1.2kg puck (or ‘squid’) into the opposing goal (or ‘gull’), which consists of a 3m tray at the end of the pool. The colour of the stick (or ‘pusher’) denotes the team you are on, much as the colour of the hat does in water polo.
The pitch length is typically 25m, though this can vary due to differing sizes of pool. The vital need for substitutions is due to international lengths of games being up to 33 minutes, including a three minute half time, and much of that is spent underwater holding your breath.
Thankfully for the hardy souls who braved the Cuppers competition, games were not quite that long, and they had an hour long coaching session first to practice. In the Cuppers version of the game, there were five people on each team, plus subs, and they competed in short games in a round robin format.
Lincoln was eventually victorious, with St Hilda’s coming second. The other three teams – St John’s, Hertford, and St Anne’s – were all tied for third. In teams where most members had never played before, it was an impressive competition, and, as the captain Eleanor Mitchell surmised, “really fun!”
Though octopush may be a niche and unheard of sport, it is played at all levels, including at the international level, and Oxford is a force to be reckoned with.
They train twice a week in the pool, and also practice their skills on land. Apparently tuna cans make great substitute pucks, who knew? They have two teams, one of which consists of novices, who regularly compete in their own tournaments and have been victorious in several.
Most recently, the main team came ninth at the student nationals in Coventry. Sadly as yet there is no varsity match, but plans are reportedly afoot. Come on Cambridge, let’s beat you at all forms of sport.