I thought I would take a moment to address equipment for new players. I don’t profess to be an expert on underwater hockey gear (yo-yos yes, zombies yes, UWH gear no), but I have had the opportunity to waste a lot of money on gear, and you can profit from my mistakes.
The below are my personal favorites, links for buying and commentary (whether you want it or not).
I have no financial disclosures to make from the following recommendations, but kickbacks are always welcome.
Here are the basic pieces of equipment you need:
Snorkel mouth guard
Water Polo cap (ear protection)
Mask – A low volume-wide field of view mask with two lenses is best, and no, swimming goggles won’t work. First they are illegal in tournament play and second you will get inner ear squeeze if you use them (been there done that – no fun). No single lens masks are allowed either (think Lloyd Bridges in Sea Hunt).They say they are not safe, but I am not sure if this means medical trauma or just fashion sense. Either way, go with a two-lens mask, you may not play any better, but you will look cool.
My favorite is the Aqualung Sphera it has low volume and a great field of vision. I sometimes wear mine to bed at night and definitely if I am out late partying. One word of caution, do not throw it in your gear bag loose, the lens comes out easily and the skirt sometimes gets misshapen and leaks. No problems if you store it in a rigid container. You can order the Sphera here http://www.canamuwhgear.com/Aqualung-Sphera-Mask-p/mask-sphera.htm
Snorkel – The first thing newbies say is “I’ll play better without a snorkel” (I said the same thing when I was young and naive too) and no you won’t (unless God has equipped you with a blow hole in the back of your skull. They look kind of gross so I had mine surgically removed years ago, now I wish I hadn’t). UWH is a fast moving game and you will lose sight of the puck every time you lift your head to breath. You need a pliable snorkel (no hard plastic) without gewgaws such as splash guards and purge valves, but you got to love those old ping pong ball in a cage splash guards from the 60s. Front mount snorkels don’t work well either (except for the Strike). The first time you curl the snorkel twists out of your mouth.
Stick with something simple and basic . My favorite is the kinky snorkel as it has a built in snorkel keeper. It is extremely easy to take on and off your mask. Plus, I love to say “I play with a kinky snorkel”. You can buy a kinky snorkel here.
Snorkel mouth guard – Completely not needed until a puck hits you in the mouth and causes $10000 worth of dental damage. Most dentists with holes in their appointment books recommend not using a mouth guard, even though it is required for tournament play.
I attach mine to the snorkel with plastic zip ties. You can buy one here:
Snorkel keeper: The little rubber thing that looks like an 8, but is frequently taken from your gear bag by evil swimming gnomes. If you can find one, it is used to attach the snorkel to the mask, or you can say screw it and get a kinky snorkel (see above – swimming gnomes hate me). You can buy them here:
Fins – Yes, size does matter! Fins need to be big enough to give you speed, but not so long and inflexible that you can’t curl easily. If you start with ones that have a large blade you may end up with leg cramps. You also need ones with a foot pocket not the adjustable strap on back. My favorite for starting out is Mares Avanti HP fins
and after you have played for a while the Mares Quattro Power fins.
Fin keeper – Ok I didn’t know what a fin keeper was for the first few months that I played, and I spent an inordinate amount of time chasing down free floating fins. (Lucky’s Rule: A fin will come off only during a critical moment in play). Worth the small investment, and if you wear them on your ankles between games at a tournament you will look like a cool veteran of the sport. You can buy them here:
Glove – A good glove will protect your hand, allow quick movements underwater and will stroke and console you if you screw up a play. Yes, you can make your own (I tried, it looked like something that came out of a B-horror film from the 5o’s and it eventually crawled off into the woods to die or feed on runaway children). Now, I buy mine. I love the Solvenian Euro gloves. I wear them on both hands not only when I play UWH, but for formal dining as well. You can buy them here.
Stick – Finding a good stick is like finding a good spouse. You got to date a few losers to find the right one (at least that’s what all my former girlfriends told me as they were getting married). For newbies, I think you could use a small tree branch and it would be just as useful as a high-end stick. My suggestion is to borrow teammates sticks and see what ones feel the best before you buy. I play with an ambidextrous stick (because I wear two gloves and you just can’t discount the coolness factor of that). So my recommendation isn’t pertinent in this case (at this point you may be saying to yourself none of my recommendations are pertinent). Some say the stick picks you. (In this case you will need to go to Ollivanders stick shop) Otherwise here are some excellent companies that sell sticks.
Ear Protection – Again, required for tournament play, and no, it’s not your external ear we are worried about it’s your eardrum. Catch an accidental kick of a fin to your ear and it will rupture your eardrum. So two choices: water polo cap or wrestling headgear. I have worn both while complaining to city commissioners and I have found you are much more likely to be arrested wearing the wrestling headgear, so I play with a water polo cap. You will need two colors white and blue. You can order them here.
Swim Suit – I am sure in the history of UWH there has been a game played without suits so don’t bother correcting me when I say you need a suit to play UWH. You can play in just about anything but swim racing suits are the best. If you can’t stomach the thought of wearing a Speedo, then wear surf shorts or whatever your modesty index allows. Remember though, the bigger and bulkier the suit the more drag it will have and the slower you will move through the water.
Hope this helps and see you underwater.