Finding football flat? Not getting that buzz from badminton? Sinking when you swim? You might think you’ve tried just about every sport out there, but if none of them are clicking for you, then it’s time to broaden your search a little and try something you probably haven’t considered: unicycle hockey.
It might sound as though the sport has come straight out of a circus – but don’t let the comical images you’re currently thinking of fool you – unicycle hockey is a fast and exciting game that requires a vast amount of technical skill to be played well, especially if you plan on staying on your unicycle for the entire match.
While skills such as staying balanced on the unicycle will take you more than one session to master, learning the rules of the game will not. The scoring, for example, is as simple as hitting the tennis ball into the small goals. Well, simple in theory.
In fact, other than the very obvious difference, unicycle hockey is not too different from regular hockey, though the ability to play the ball off walls and travel behind the goals make ice hockey the closest sporting relative of unicycle hockey.
And while unicycle hockey might not be quite as aggressive as it’s wintery cousin, the possibility for wince-worthy wipe-outs is not dissimilar, mostly down to the fact that most unicycles are not equipped with the luxury of brakes. Even a gentle training session has people falling off their bikes and careering into walls in an attempt to be the first to a loose ball.
But if you were thinking of turning up just to force your competitors into the sides of the arena or smash into them in a series of (admittedly hilarious) take-outs, then the rule book will be thrown at you. With the added element of the unicycle comes a new set of fouls to be avoided.
Raising your stick to a dangerous height will be penalised, as will intentionally using your stick to trip someone off their unicycle. Most ‘accidents’ see people land on their feet, as they almost simply walk off the unicycle and on to the floor, but elbow and knee pads are advised when it comes to the unpredictable world of competition.
So once you and your unicycle are ready to take on the world, where can you compete and who against? To date, there are twelve competitive teams facing off in the UK, one of which is right here in Hampshire, but the current niche nature of the sport means that you can’t exactly pop round the corner for your next big match; for competition, you’ll have to be ready to travel.
Other teams exist in places such as London, Exeter and Cardiff, and each of these teams take part in a national league. But because heading halfway across the country for a match every week would be ridiculous, a different system had to be devised. So each location hosts one tournament per season, where each side has the chance to earn themselves league points based on their performance in that tournament.
It’s a simple enough process, but it makes for a hotly-competitive league between the teams up and down the country, the most local of which to any Hampshire hopefuls is the Southampton Penguins. The side, established around six years ago, is led by Peter Harrison, and managed a fifth place finish in their most recent national league campaign.
If you want to find out more about the Penguins, or simply have to see unicycle hockey in action to believe it then the accompanying video is for you: a short insight into the world of unicycle hockey.