Corvallis’ Pucking Narwhals: Underwater Hockey at Osborn Aquatic Center

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What are the Corvallis Narwhals? They’re underwater hockey players who drive from Hood River, Eugene, and beyond each Wednesday night, and they can pull off wearing Speedos in the middle of an Oregon winter. Impressed yet? You should be.

Underwater hockey is a fast-paced sport played six to eight feet below a pool’s surface. Six players with snorkels use a short paddle to guide a weighted puck along the pool’s bottom into their goal. Play resembles a feeding frenzy: flapping fins, big splashes, quick dives, and a mass of flesh. Except afterwards, everyone comes up smiling and the only casualty is the puck. The nature of water levels some land-based advantages so women and men can compete. One Narwhals’ player, Kim Skukas, is a former U.S. women’s team member who is training once again for the U.S. team tryouts. But you don’t have to be a world champion—or even know how to play hockey—to be a Narwhal.

Team members Lars and Loren are devotees who came to the sport as novices. They noted that neither experience nor bulging muscles were necessary for underwater hockey. Once in the water, a first-timer’s skill can be surprising. The lumbering, clumsy guy can become the agile score master. The small, thin woman can become a ruthless power diver. Many might not even know their own skills until they strap on the helmet, duck tape the gloves, and dive on in—which is what the Narwhals will invite you to do. Loren was recruited while swimming at the Aquatic Center. Players popped their heads up and asked him to join. He wondered, “What they hell are they doing?” Then he found out. And so should you. They’re always looking for fresh meat.

The Narwhals meet each Wednesday at Osborn Aquatic and have an active Meetup.com page with information (www.meetup.com/Corvallis-Underwater-Hockey).

by Bridget Egan

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