The old adage about that which is good for people in the plumbing supplies business not always necessarily being also good for the owners of multi-storey car parks has never been truer than today, and so it is that the resurgence of hardcourt bike polo continues in its failure to show any indication of having reached terminal velocity.
The veritable salad bowl that was the recently held 2010 World Hardcourt Championships in Berlin saw just short of 100 teams converge upon the German capital for a chukka-packed 48 hours designed to establish the pecking order among players from an estimated 250 cities with so-called “active scenes” across the globe.
The last couple of years have indeed seen polo develop rapidly from a fun courier pastime to a genuinely competitive, bona fide sporting activity. Here’s how it happened, at least here in Europe.
In 2005, on a summer trip through Berlin, Basel, and Warsaw, a friendly Portland bike messenger named Hazel built sets of mallets and required that the bike messengers play bike polo. ( I know this because she built them in my apartment in Berlin.)
Following that, I believe the first actual tournament was after at the 24-hour Alleycat (part of the SideShow) in Zürich in 2006, then the ECMC 2006 Basel, and the 2007 German Messenger Championships in Frankfurt and the ECMC 2007 Helsinki. And somewhere in the middle was another tournament in Basel, if memory serves. After that came other tournaments, culminating with the Shoreditch Invitational in 2008. All precursor to the first Hardcourt Polo World Championship.
(the comments section of this blog would be an appropriate location to dispute any of these facts, btw)
During this time, riding fixed wheel ceased to be unknown to the popular press, no small thanks to the invention of bicycle-themed coffee shops selling actual fixed wheel bicycles. By 2007 we found ourselves with a burgeoning global army of locked cog enthusiasts who were bored of using their steeds just to stylishly get to and from work, with little else but an occasional traffic-light trackstand or backward circle en route to brighten their day. Cue bike polo.
The chances are it will take about a year or so to find yourself approaching the top of the fun-filled learning curve that a fixed wheel can offer a virgin to the discipline, unless you have good reason to ride your bike for eight or ten hours a day. (and many people who had bought fixed wheels around this time became bike messengers to do just that). Of course if you are smitten by the playing of bike polo, this process will be accelerated dramatically, as is easily witnessed at today’s bike polo tournaments worldwide.
As for this years’ particular tournament, depending on whom you asked, the Americans were excessively robust, or the Europeans simply weren’t looking after themselves properly. And whichever of the two viewpoints approximated more closely a version of the truth, it cannot have escaped the attention of many that the newly crowned World Champions happen to hail from probably the most famous brewing city on the North American continent.