I have an unusual routine every Thursday night. I pull on a pair of swimming trunks, a dive mask and snorkel, and a pair of fins before diving into the deep pool at Putney Leisure Centre. I am an underwater rugby player.
Underwater rugby is played in a 3D-environment where attacks can come from anywhere: above, below and all around you.
Underwater rugby (UWR) started life in Germany in the 1960s as a way for divers to stay fit during the winter. It quickly took on a life of its own and today, it is played in much of Europe, as well as the US, Australia, Colombia and Singapore. There are 6 players on each team and the aim is to put a salt water-filled ball into your opponent’s goal basket at the bottom of a 3.5-5m deep pool.
Scoring a goal in UWR involves carrying the ball to the other side and placing it in the opponent’s goal basket
In London, I play with PURE Underwater Rugby, the only UWR club in the city, and my time with them has led to some of my most treasured experiences here.
First, joining a club outside of Imperial means I get to meet people I wouldn’t normally encounter. Londoners from all walks of life play with PURE and our roster includes a hairdresser, an accountant, a stand-up comedian, a future Catalonian firefighter, and a British anthropologist who hitchhiked his way through the Congo in early 1990s. We also have players who come down from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, to play with us on Thursday nights. That’s a three-hour drive each way and makes me embarrassed I ever complained about the commute to training back in Singapore.
Some of PURE’s players travel three hours each way to make it for Thursday night training
Being in London has also allowed me to pit my UWR skills against players from all over Europe and it has been a truly eye-opening experience. My club in Singapore is the only fully-established one in Asia so we don’t normally have much variation in opposition. By contrast, since I started playing in London, I’ve faced players from Hungary, Italy, Spain, Colombia, Finland, and of course the UK. I’ve also had the privilege of taking part in international tournaments with PURE, where we’ve faced teams from France, Germany and Spain. Perhaps my most memorable experience this year will be clinching third place with PURE at the Coupe de Gascogne in Bordeaux.
Taking 3rd place at the Coupe de Gascogne in Bordeaux with PURE, one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in Europe.
Finally, playing with PURE lets me be at the forefront of growing the sport in the UK. Compared to other parts of Europe, where there is a formal, fully live-streamed Euroleague, underwater rugby is still a new sport in England. To raise its profile, I have been given the chance to drive the club’s social media efforts, launch its Instagram account, and lead recruitment efforts for the 2019 UWR World Championships in Graz, Austria. Not only has this helped to hone my marketing skills but it also means I have extra reason to cheer when Team GB plunges into the pool next year.
Ever wanted to represent Great Britain? Team GB underwater rugby is looking for new recruits to train up in time for the 2019 World Championships in Graz, Austria. Give me a holler if you’re interested.
Ultimately, if there is one take home message I have from my experiences with PURE, it’s this. Get out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to look for experiences outside the safety of Imperial. Your time here will be so much the better because of it.