The first time Jorge Filevitch played underwater hockey, he brought along a friend. His friend hated it. The sport was like “drowning over and over,” the friend told Filevitch.
But Filevitch was hooked.
“I said, ‘I love this game. This is like playing underwater and being free and flying,’” he told OPB’s “Think Out Loud” host Dave Miller.
That was more than 20 years ago. Now, Filevitch brings others together to play the sport with Portland’s underwater hockey club. Filevitch is the founder of the club, which is open to men and women of all ages and experience levels.
The game is played on the bottom of the swimming pool with a 3-pound lead puck. Players are divided into two teams of six, with four substitutes. Outfitted in fins, masks and snorkels, players dive repeatedly under the water to the puck. They use short sticks to push and pass the puck toward the other team’s goal at the end of the pool.
Because players have to hold their breath and can only be underwater for short periods of time, their teammates have to support them, Filevitch said. He’s learned to read his teammates’ movements to know when they are running out of air and need another player to dive down.
“There’s this synergy that you build with other players,” he said. “You end up with a level of team play that you don’t see in other sports.”
Filevitch’s advice for anyone who’s intrigued by the sport? Just come try it.
The team will teach newcomers the basics, he said. After that, they will be playing in no time.
“We’ll just put the gear on you and throw you in the water,” he said.
The team meets every Tuesday at the Mount Hood Community College Aquatic Center. More information can be found on the group’s Meetup page.
To hear more from the “Think Out Loud” conversation with Jorge Filevitch, including stories about how the Portland underwater hockey club got started, click play on the player at the top of the page.