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    Tsunami Water Polo: Fierce in the Pool, Sexy on the Bench

    johnsportsAfter attending a few practices and interviewing a number of San Francisco Tsunami Water Polo (an LGBT non-profit) players, I came away with one major epiphany: water polo players, men or women, LGBT or straight, touch significantly more breasts than anyone on this planet!

    “Any woman water polo player will tell you she had her boobs felt, grabbed and touched,” one told me. “I’ve had my boobs touched many, many times,” another said. This was followed by yet another admitting: “I’ve inadvertently touched a few boobs.”

    In reality, breast touching in this context is no laughing matter. It is one of the more effective and necessary leverage and positioning skills used to gain a competitive advantage over opponents in the water. To the casual observer (or in our fantasies), water polo is a sexy sport played by physically appealing men and women thrusting their scantily covered bodies against one another in an attempt to score.

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    Although there is some truth to this, our perception is far from the actual sport. According to Matthew Johnson, Tsunami Vice-President, boob touching is a necessary evil. In a game, your eyes “are constantly following the ball and the only way to know the positioning of your opponent is reaching out with your hand(s) and oops, there it is.” As Nathan Corbin, a 10-year Tsunami veteran poignantly puts it, “The only thing sexy is the players on the bench. In the pool and above water, all you see are elbows and hands coming at you. There is nothing sexy about that!”

    In 2000 a few members of the San Francisco Tsunami Aquatics Club started a Tsunami water polo team that eventually became its own free-standing organization. Today, Tsunami Water Polo is a healthy club of over 50 men and women (LGBT and non LGBT) complete with structured coaching and instruction, practices, scrimmages, a plethora of social gatherings and events, as well as competitive teams. Current President Nick Davidson works hard, as he said, to “improve the overall water polo experience for all Tsunami members,” bringing in the best coaches and ensuring the most welcoming, positive social and competitive environment. Tsunami Secretary Michael Ducker is especially proud of the fact that their “LGBT identity is special and shows up in our club composition, in the way we market, the way we fundraise and the way we socialize.”

    A player named Matthew, who hails from Oklahoma, never heard of water polo until seeing teams compete at the 2012 London Olympics on television. With a minimal swimming background (basically splashing in the community pool growing up), Tsunami transformed him into a lean, mean, muscular water polo-playing machine! Now you can’t pry him out of the pool.

    On the other end of the spectrum is Juli Monahan, who was a diminutive high school swimmer until one fateful day a male teammate opened his mouth and said girls shouldn’t play water polo. Juli went on not only to make the boy’s water polo team, but she also then competed for the University of California, Santa Barbara’s women’s team.  One of the fiercest as well as funniest Tsunami water polo players, Juli was unabashed of the fact that some guys in the heat of the game, trying to gain an advantage over her, reach all the way in and down to the (censored) end of her suit. Not to be outdone, Juli admitted that she has perhaps reached for a guy’s (censored) region, “but accidentally, and only once.”

    Tsunami coach Erik Koland, who was a collegiate athlete, explained, “Water polo is an ultra-physically demanding sport where players must be fundamentally efficient and strong swimmers just to start.” Players then learn leverage, throwing, jousting, positioning and spacing in the water through various techniques. In fact, water polo combines numerous transferrable skills from other sports, according to Head Coach Jon Wiener.

    For example, baseball teaches the ability to throw, soccer instills the importance of collective spacing and movement, basketball ingrains the fundamentals of one-on-one defense, and wrestling impresses the use of physical leverage. Although barrier to entry is relatively high to play water polo successfully, Tsunami is equipped with excellent coaches, such as Erik and Jon, and strong organizational management for anyone interested in playing water polo to succeed!

    For more information on Tsunami Water Polo: tsunamipolo.org or San Francisco Tsunami Water Polo on Facebook.

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball and football teams.