In bike polo, the steeds are metal and the culture is about as far from champagne-and-caviar as you can get. After all, the action starts with a joust.
With 64 teams from around the globe competing, the fifth annual World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championships will begin Wednesday, Oct. 16, at Weston Regional Park. The tournament suggests bike polo is booming in South Florida. Four parks host weekly pickup games, and a Dania Beach company, Republic Bike, specializes in bike-polo equipment.
Bike polo teams include three players, and the game begins with players racing to midcourt for the ball. There are constant turns, swinging mallets and probably an elbow or two.
The first world championship of hardcourt bike polo was held in 2009 in Philadelphia. This year, South Florida was named the host venue in an online vote, though Milwaukee was the only other nominee.
Many bike polo matches are held on abandoned roller-hockey rinks, including most of the eight in Weston, where a weekly game has been held for about eight months.
"It's a lot of dads looking for something to do after the kids head to bed," Weston player Wayman Eduardo Luy says.
That contrasts with Holiday Park, where this past Thursday, about 20 players rotated in 15-minute games, including six German students who came to South Florida early for the tournament. Three of them formed a team that finished in the top 10 last year.
"We wouldn't miss playing here," a player named Max Thomas Power says.
While the Germans all are skilled passers and sprint to the ball easily, some newer players at Holiday Park were still working on their coordination.
"If you hit the ball even once the first day you play, you're doing well," he says. "And you have to be alert on your bike, because players are coming from every angle."
There are now 400 clubs registered via NAHardCourt.com. With the growth, the casual, self-officiated nature of the game has disappeared. The world championships will include two officials, two judges, a scorekeeper and a timekeeper.
The Republic World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship will take place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Oct. 16-19 at Weston Regional Park, 20200 Saddle Club Road. A qualification tournament will be held 10 a.m. Wednesday, and a women's tournament will begin 10 a.m. Sunday. Go to NAHardCourt.com.