HNL Bike Polo looks for support


A bike poloist sets up for a shot at Makiki District Park.

A bike polo enthusiast Jorge Portillo, 21 stood with bike and mallet ready, but stared at an empty volleyball court at Makiki Park in early October expecting to be joined with fellow HNL Bike Polo players.

“People got really discouraged because they’d show up and there would only be a couple of people there and they quit showing because they were discouraged and it was just like the domino effect,” Clark Camp, 23 said.

Members of HNL Bike Polo meet on Sundays to engage in a game of bike polo, talk story and do what they love. HNL Bike Polo is a group focused toward organizing and encouraging bike polo in Honolulu.

“It was a way for me to get off work and let off some steam, get on my bike and sweat with the boys and drink beer and have a good time,” Camp said.

Not having a court reserved also makes it difficult to be consistent. Since summer has ended getting people back out on the court has been a challenge.

Camp first discovered bike polo at Aloha Sunday, a bike event geared toward bringing the fixed-gear community together with activities like races, skid contests, and bike polo. Bike polo essentially is riding a bicycle with a mallet and slapping a ball into a goal. Usually played on hard court, but is also be played on a field.

“It was cool like I borrowed one of the guys bikes and a mallet and fell in love with it from there,” Camp said. “… I liked how it was somewhat of a contact sport where I could get a little rough, but it wasn’t like dangerous.”

Currently most people hear about bike polo from word of mouth or at events like Aloha Sunday.

HNL Bike Polo has also played at the volleyball court in Kaimana Beach Park. This helps awareness because it is a “more high visibility spot,” but more publicity is needed, Camp said.

“It seems like the fixed-gear craze is kind of dying out and that’s where we were getting most of our numbers from,” Camp said. “High school and college age kids that were looking for something to do, somewhere to hangout.”

Bike messengers in Seattle that rode fixed gears, made bike polo popular in the United States in the ‘80s, Camp said.

“Jorge came on the scene maybe about a year ago consistently, and he really brought like an incredible excitement for everything,” Camp said. “… He just has so much energy. … He’s got a little of that like nerdy side that wants to use technology in anyway he can.”

Portillo has taken over the duties of running the HNL website and Facebook page in hopes of increasing awareness and keeping core people connected.

HNL Bike Polo needs more enthusiastic people like Portillo, but to many bike polo seems a little overwhelming.

“What keeps some people from actually playing is being intimidated,” Camp said. “They see it as like full-contact sport on a bike, which is already hard for a lot of people to like control and maneuver.”

Getting your balance and learning ball control can be hard for a lot of people but it just takes time, Camp said.

Camp and Portillo would like to see HNL Bike Polo grow and increase participation. They would  like to travel and compete on the mainland as well, but first a home court needs to be established.

“One thing I really like about it is in between games we’ll sit down, drink a beer, relax, cool off,” Camp said. ” … You don’t have to be super competitive and disciplined to play polo. You can just be an average Joe.”