Roly-Polo Primer 

The basics of a geeky motorized pursuit.

The average Segway polo spectator, generally a hiker or biker who happens to be passing by the park, immediately wonders, "How do they avoid hitting each other in the face?" The spectator who lingers is rewarded with the answer: They don't. (The whacking comes with an appropriately satisfying slapping noise.)

So that's why the players wear helmets — it's not just to try and look like Prince Charles on horseback. Even accounting for the absence of royalty, the game bears little resemblance to the equestrian sport that inspired it — no thundering of hooves, no English accents, no silly pants, no cleaning of manure. There's just a bunch of funny-looking guys on funny-looking gadgets trying not to collide as they poke a little orange ball toward a set of orange cones.

Gear includes a Segway with maximum speed capped at 12.5 mph (around $5,000 to $5,500 new); a helmet with chinstrap; and a mallet, which has to be between 38 and 42 inches long, and the end covered in taped foam to prevent serious bloodshed. The ball is a mini soccer ball made out of a kind of foam called "rhino skin."

Segway polo has five players per side, including a goalie to defend the eight-foot-wide, five-foot-high goal. At the start, the scooters line up facing each other and the umpire tosses the ball through the middle to get things, ahem, rolling. They play four eight-minute "chukkers," or quarters, with short breaks in between.

The right-of-way rules read a bit like the instructions for the recreational sailing classes you took back in college. For instance: "If two players are attempting to take control of the ball, and are equal distance from the ball, the player with the smaller angle has right of way to continue riding in the same direction."

You can "hook" someone else's mallet, but only when the other player is on the downswing and about to hit the ball. And if your machine breaks and you can't just hop right back on, you've got to drag it — and yourself — off the field to fix it while play continues.


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