A quick history of Hardcourt Bike polo by Matt Messenger Bikepolo Guru Seattle Washington-
Where bike polo began is pretty self explanatory. But where, what as known as “hardcourt”, street, urban, etc. is another story. I suppose that once the millennium was close to thee end, there had to be something great about to happen for the next generation to enjoy. While we live in the crowded urban jungle that we do. For this Hardcourt bike polo was enjoyed. While a lot of young men were sent over seas to fight oil battles, the revolution was gaining interest. Back in 1998, Seattle was full of bike couriers. Life was great, summers were long. Then the dot com phase was showing its face. Growing with a big smile. A little company called Kozmo.com came to town and some ex-messengers worked there after being off the bike for a while. I ran into a few and they said, “You should come up and apply, its money”. So I did. This was around the spring time 1999. Meanwhile there was this new itch around in the messenger/ courier community about bike polo. Not sure who brought it up or who started getting people to play, but it was happening. In the fall of ʼ99, polo was played in the “sunkinʼ” parking lot next to Seattleʼs Kozmo HQ. When I started @ Kozmo, there was a lot of “down time”, which the company anticipated a boom in orders any day now. In the mean time the twenty or so couriers on the clock would either, build, repair bikes, drink, play polo or hang at our girls house. Sometimes all at the same time. As competitive as the messenger community was, we started playing more intense polo games. We started outlining that the goal should be a bike width instead of just using a UPS mail tote bin. Also that we could only score with the end of the head on the mallet. We figured that 3 on 3 was best as to many bikes on the court gets crazy for smaller spaces.
In the fall of ʼ99, I hosted my first “Messquerade” as its called now. A costumed alley cat race and scavenger hunt. The race was short. So I had a little polo tournament afterwards in the “sunkinʼ” parking lot. I canʼt remember how many team there where. I do remember the winners of the tournament were, (still playing in Portland) Tim Mason, Dillon Canfield, and Chris Baker CB.
Bike polo is played in Seattle on a semi regular basis for the next few years. It was dying somewhere in one of the long winters between 2000-2002. I tried to get some people to rally but the appeal wasnʼt there yet. Then Kozmo collapse in March of 2001. There werenʼt a lot of downtown messenger jobs to go back to. I got a job at a bamboo importer in Seattle. Learning about there huge inventory of product, I gleamed towards the solid bamboo pole from Vietnam call tam vong. I could use the end of the pole that was somewhere around 3/4” diameter and the other end of the 18ft pole that was approximately 1 1/2” to 2” diameter and construct the perfect bike polo mallet. Using the awesome shop that was in the warehouse, I would mill out the head with a forester bit. Sand the polo to snug fit. Tap it in and 1/8” drill thru the head and tap in a bamboo doll pin with glue. These mallet would last a long time. I made a ton and was giving them away to get people to play polo. Then I was selling them for $10 with a lifetime guarantee! I was making them at the end of there use with abs on the end instead of the solid bamboo. Then Portland were using the ski pole as the shaft instead of the bamboo. A lot of people converted to this.
About the summer of 2002 or so, bike polo was really picking up. especially as courier/ messenger events in Seattle and Portland. Old time rivals of the sport. I remember
when an all girls team from Portland kick the boys of Seattle but at a tourney. This is when Rev Phil does his first polo documentary called POLO INVASION in 2006.
2003, Seattle hosts CMWC XI, I and other polo nuts, rallied couriers to come check out bike polo at one of the best spots Seattle has ever had to play polo on, on top of a build in the south lake Union neighborhood just a block away from main events. Only a keg of beer at that time was enough to get some people to check it out. A hand full of couriers from around the world might of actually played on the that weekend in September, but it must have sparked something that was prevalently obvious from the next couple years to come. We had a sad display on the last night after the awards in the street in front of the venue where we hosted. Big load generators that powered the light for just a few games of demo where I remember mostly bmx and stingrayʼs were used. The only 2 photos I can find are on Flickr under bike polo at cmwc 2003.
From here the launch and interest of bike polo on the hardcourt grew in some fashion and there was that competitiveness on bikes that was appealing. As well as the social scene that tagged along with it. Something that could be watched and enjoyed by the community while drinking and hanging out.
Thats what I can remember about the last decade of the sport/pass time. I hope many people give it a shot. Come Play Polo.