There’s a new sport that’s catching on around the country, and it was invented right here in Reston. It’s called Paddle Polo, and it’s a combination of lacrosse and stand-up paddleboarding. This sport originates from a product created by local entrepreneur Steve Gurney, who also runs the paddleboarding company Surf Reston. He created a lacrosse stick attachment for paddles that enable paddleboarders to play the game on the water.
Paddle Polo’s History and Its Reston Roots
After chatting with lacrosse players at Lake Audubon in 2012, Steve thought it would be fun to devise a way to play the game on the lake. He began by strapping a standard lacrosse stick to his paddle, tossing around a tennis ball, and observing what worked and what didn’t.
Over the following years, Steve worked with his father, Jack Gurney, and his brother, Wes Gurney, to create prototypes of the Paddle Polo. They made their first prototype out of wood, and then for additional versions they progressed to 3D printers at Langston Hughes Middle School and Nova Labs in Reston. “The 3D printer was invaluable for us the fine tune the design,” Steve explained. “If we not had the benefit of testing and refining the design with the 3D printers, we could have made some costly mistakes.” Now a company in Michigan produces the pocket part of the Paddle Polo via injection mould. The other parts of the product, such as the straps, sticks, and hardware, are purchased wholesale and assembled in Steve’s garage in Reston.
The Paddle Polo product has received a provisional patent, and is beginning to sell around the country. Steve is encouraged by the product’s early success: “Now that we have better determined that there is a market for this product, we are moving towards much higher volume production. This will enable us to customize Paddle Polo even more, and it will eliminate many of the assembly steps, so my family can get our garage back!”
Lacrosse Players Put It to the Test
Dozens of elite-level lacrosse players have been testing the product design, along with the customers at Surf Reston. In the video above, Steve Gurney and a few lacrosse players demonstrate Paddle Polo in action on Lake Audubon. It looks effortless and fun they way these guys do it, right?
At first glance, one might assume that lacrosse-playing paddleboarders are a niche market. My first reaction was, “That sounds cool, but I don’t know anyone who plays lacrosse.”
Then I thought more about it and realized that a lacrosse stick is really just a way to play catch, which anyone can do. People don’t need to play a formal lacrosse game to enjoy a game of catch on the water. And since Reston hosts five lakes and a paddleboarding company, this is a sport that is accessible to most people here in town.
We Put It to the Test, Even Though None of Us Know Anything About Lacrosse
I decided to gather some friends for an evening of Paddle Polo. None of the four of us had ever played lacrosse before, but all of us had prior paddleboarding experience. We strapped the attachments to our paddles, took the floating ball that came with the set, and did our damnedest to throw and catch it. It wasn’t easy. Let’s just say that a video version of our evening would look very different from the video above. But despite our lack of skills, we loved the game.
Here’s what we thought:
- Paddle Polo was seriously fun. Addictive, even. We were disappointed when the evening got too dark to play anymore.
- You don’t have to play an actual game of lacrosse. Playing catch is plenty fun enough.
- Throwing the ball is fairly easy, but catching it is hard — it’s that difficulty that kept us addicted to the game. Each of us was determined to catch it!
- Playing a game kept us motivated to keep exercising, and prevented the monotony that can sometimes result from paddling laps around the lake.
- The attachment is offset from the paddle’s handle, so it doesn’t interfere with paddling.
- The Paddle Polo product is solidly made, with simple and intuitive features. The ball throws easily and floats.
How You Can Try Paddle Polo
If you would like to purchase Paddle Polo equipment, you can buy it online at their website. A single stick costs $33, and a set of two with a ball is $60.
You can also test out Paddle Polo on a Surf Reston session. When you sign up on their website, let them know that you want to try it out during your session. After you have taken an introductory paddleboarding session, you are eligible to take part in discounted practice sessions through Surf Reston. This is a great option for people who enjoy paddleboarding but don’t own a board.
If you want to go beyond games of catch or lacrosse, the Paddle Polo website suggest some fun games to play with their products, including Paddle Polo golf, baseball, or racing. Steve is getting even more ideas from his customers: “The other day we ran into someone at our Surf Reston session who was with their dog. He commented that it would be a fantastic way for him to throw a ball in the water for his dog whether he was on a SUP or in a canoe. I am excited to see what people dream up as our user base increases.”
Steve has found this project challenging but rewarding. “When folks start playing Paddle Polo they seem to lose track of time. They become much better paddlers, because they have to learn how to maneuver their board to get to the ball. This has been a fun and rewarding project that is not without its challenges. However, when I see folks like you and your friends having fun with the product with no experience playing lacrosse, it makes it all worthwhile.”
Despite all the effort Steve has put into running Paddle Polo and Surf Reston (in addition to his full-time job with the Washington Post to Guide to Retirement Living SourceBook), he is already working on his next project. He is currently designing a new product that is similar to Paddle Polo, but is designed for water cleanup. It’s called the Clean Green Paddle, and it’s a net that attaches to paddles to be used to collect litter on waterways. We look forward to seeing how that project develops.
In the meanwhile, you’ll find me on the lake, trying to catch that wily ball again. Have you tried Paddle Polo yet? What did you think?
Photo credit: Charlotte Geary and Mike Pritchard
Video credit: Mike Zorger