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Located at the Mokuleia Polo Field on a fairly remote stretch of Oahu’s fabled North Shore, the Hawaii Polo Club was established in 1963. Polo may be considered a sport for international elites, and perhaps rightly so. But the Hawaii Polo Club has made it accessible to regular folks in a way that is uniquely Hawaii in its presentation. It’s a tailgater’s dream.
The Sunday matches are enjoyed by families and friends from all over Oahu (and savvy Hawaii visitors). Cars, trucks, and picnic tents and tables line the length of each side of the pitch for a day-long barbeque and sporting spectacle. Popular live local music concerts follow each Sunday’s matches.
For the uninitiated, polo is a fairly easy sport to understand. The simplest way to think of it is a kind of hockey. Only instead of a puck, a wooden ball is used. Instead of sticks, long mallets are used. And instead of ice skates, players ride atop finely bred and trained polo ponies (make no mistake: they may be called “ponies,” but these are magnificent and massive horses).
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Their muscles ripple and shine as they thunder from one end of the pitch to the other, their riders swinging mallets that would be considered weapons in any other context. The thrill of the earth shaking under you is gripping, as riders gallop after a ball that seems impossibly small on such a large playing field.
The players themselves comprise a group that includes local and international riders well known in polo communities around the world. It is a truly competitive sport, and more than just a pastime. More importantly, it is very dangerous. Riders wear helmets and protective leggings, and the horses’ legs are carefully wrapped for their protection. Injuries to both riders and their steeds are not uncommon.
The Sunday matches offer food booths from a variety of local eateries, many of which focus on using locally-sourced ingredients. Attendees also have the option of a more refined experience with Clubhouse Seating near the announcers’ booth.
Polo matches are broken up into “chuckers,” which are not unlike “periods” in hockey or “quarters” in American football. “Round robin” Sundays feature multiple matches, with each team playing each other team for a trophy awarded at the end of the action. Between match attendees get out onto the pitch to “stomp divots,” the many clumps of dirt and grass inevitably churned up by eight charging horses. Kids and grown-ups alike delight in participating in the action.
The live music starts up immediately following the final chucker, and the concert goes until the sun dips below the horizon out toward Kaena Point. This season’s entertainment features performances by legendary local musicians, including John Cruz, Taimane, and Quadraphonix. The breeze whispers in the ironwood pines that line the field as attendees pack up and get ready for the lazy drive back their homes and hotels.