MILWAUKEE — Besides Summerfest, there’s another big event heating up Milwaukee this weekend featuring a fast-growing sport, bicycle polo.
“It’s kind of like street hockey on bikes,” said event organizer Jake Newborn.
It’s a combination of the act of cycling, the use of a polo mallet and a street hockey ball that encompasses the energetic game.
“There’s a lot of skill involved. There’s a lot of contact,” said bike polo player Eric Madrid.
It’s the skill, the speed and the roughness of the sport that is bringing 200 bike polo players from across the continent to Milwaukee’s Washington Park. They traveled from cities like Miami, San Francisco and Vancouver to compete in the North American Hardcourt Bicycle Polo Championships.
“We have 48 teams who prequalify through regional events,” said Newborn.
It’s not only the court that’s heating up. Temperatures were already in the 90s by the match Friday morning.
“We have a water station. We have 6 large Gatorade jugs that we’ll be keeping filled all day. We have tents up for shade,” said Newborn.
Each game runs 12 minutes. Then the players are given 45 for rest. In this brutal heat, every spare moment counts to rehydrate, relax and prepare for the next round.
“We’re playing in direct sunlight all day. It’s going to be tough on everyone,” said Madrid.
“Water. Lots of water. No beer, only water,” said bike polo player Martin Hauck.
You can call it a climate shock for the Canadian native. He’s used to summers in the 70s.
“20 degrees Celsius, which is pretty much the hottest it’s going to get in Vancouver. 20 to 25, so this is a huge difference. It’s the mugginess, you know,” said Hauck.
While the games must go on, it’s the event at night that will provide the ultimate relief.
“Tonight, we’re having a pool party. We rented out the pool next to the courts,” said Newborn.
The bike polo championships run through Sunday. The top 16 teams earn a spot at the World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championships in Geneva, Switzerland next month.