Slayer Spotlight is a new Davis Bike Polo blog series to highlight the amazing people that make up our world-wide bike polo community. For our debut of the Slayer Spotlight, we’d like you to meet the wonderful and inspiring Chandel. She’s amazing and has done a lot for the bike polo community over the years. Read on to learn more about Chandel!
First, I want to say a big huge thank you for giving me this opportunity, Jennifer! Honestly, your work towards bike polo is commendable on the highest of platforms! Helping Sam get to LA8, and with Mikaela and her being able to go to Mexico, with Davis Bike Polo in general, and for all of the organizing and tournament help/photos/general great attitude. You’re a gem of a human and bike polo is fortunate to have you.
How did you first get involved in bike polo?
I was introduced to bike polo in 2007 by Shane Murphy in Toronto, ON CA. There were a bunch of guys playing and they wanted their female partners or friends in on this great game, so we had an WTF [Women/Trans*/Femme] intro night where 6 of us showed up on random bikes and got in some time with helpful [off-bike, off-court] coaching from the guys.
What was your first impression of bike polo?
I started playing in a really great time for community development. It was a time when there wasn’t as big an emphasis on highly competitive levels but rather on developing the sport and spreading the game to new cities. Lots of travel and lots of friends made all over the world. To me, it was the best balance to find in a sport. One that incorporated cycling but also community and competition. I loved it from the moment I got on the court for the first time.
Where do you currently play? What’s your club like?
I’ve been fortunate to have played in many cities over North America. Started in Toronto, lived and played in NYC, Philadelphia, Austin, and am now back home again in Toronto. Our club is growing with a superb rookie night, the diversity is back in our pick up nights, and we have a great community facility for our club to call home.
What’s it like to be a bike polo player?
I imagine it to be the same in any niche sport culture, you feel a little special knowing you’re involved in this really great thing that’s widely unheard of, it’s sort of a secret amazing club worldwide! You’re willing to take the risks, spend the money, and live an affirmed lifestyle seeing so many others involved in the same way with similar passions. It’s inclusive and welcoming to be a bike polo player. It’s also challenging and rewarding.
How are you involved in the bike polo community?
As a player, currently, I’m focused on playing solidly again after a recent knee injury and surgery to fix it. As an individual, I have been and tend to be deeply involved with the development of the sport. Previously, I was the Tournament Chairperson on the board of directors for the North American Hardcourt Association. I held that post for almost 5 years. In my time, there were many different aspects to the growth of bike polo addressed and worked on, but ultimately I pride myself on helping more cities and communities throw successful tournaments. I also contribute now as a business owner, having developed a comprehensive cycling denim product for women [and soon to expand], I hope to continue to be able to sponsor riders and tournaments, as well as provide products geared towards bike polo specific needs in the future.
Tell us about something you did (something polo related and something life related) that makes you proud.
Honestly, the continued progress through my company, RYB Denim Inc., is something that I’m very proud of. Overcoming the many challenges related to starting not only a business, but one that operates specifically to address technical needs of a lifestyle but has to exist in the realm of the fashion industry, has been one of, if not the, biggest challenge of my life and every day that I get through and move forward is a moment of pride. I credit the community of bike polo for allowing me the opportunity to present my ideas and for its continued support throughout my process.
What do you find most challenging about playing bike polo?
The most challenging thing about bike polo is how to plan to play as much as possible on a trip that makes sense! There’s so much great polo worldwide that dividing the time and capital it takes to make it all over the world and play is a challenge, but it’s one of the best to have. 😉
What are some challenges you’ve had to overcome when playing bike polo?
Currently, my challenge is getting back on my bike and being comfortable playing. Injury and having to have surgery as a result, has been an emotional and physical setback. Nervousness and anxiousness while first getting on the court is something I’m having to face now, and will be a challenge to overcome that I happily accept.
What do you like best about bike polo?
I’ve answered many an interview question like this and it’s always the same: the community of people that is bike polo.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about trying bike polo?
Come out to our rookie night with a bike and a positive attitude! All are welcome! It’s a great thing to at least try out, you will only lose by not trying at all. =]
What’s your favorite bike polo and/or bike brands and gear?
I really respect all of the companies that have started as a result of bike polo, or that have incorporated bike polo elements into their product line. I have to tip my hat to Fixcraft and what they’ve done for the sport of bike polo. I know full well the depths to which they’ve sacrificed and happily given to the growth of this sport, both in products and the community cultivation of our entire sport. Thank you Fixcraft!
Oh my! I’ve seen so many great players from all over the world, past and present, it’s really hard to pick even just a few! Off the top of my head, I’d put the team Mosquito in the polo hero category. Why? They’re Canadian [!!!], they’re gentlemen on and off the court, they help develop the middle region of bike polo in Canada, and they are genuinely willing to help out at tournaments doing whatever you need them to do. Oh! And they kill it as a team on the court! Shining examples of great polo players. Their extended family are also heroes: Andrea and Greg!
If you weren’t playing bike polo, what would you be doing instead, or what would your life be like?
I doubt my life would be anything like it is today. I know I’d still be riding a bike, but I moved across the continent and have traveled the world with the community of bike polo. Nothing I am would be the same had I not found bike polo. The only other activity I’ve dedicated myself to recently has been axe throwing. It’s a competitive league as well. I didn’t stray very far in concept though, another great community of people enjoying time together as well as a healthy level of competition. I think niche sports are my thing.
What do you do when you aren’t playing bike polo?
Relaunching RYB Denim Inc is all I’m working on besides my physiotherapy and recovery to being fully healed.
Any goals you’ve set for yourself this coming season?
Oh my yes! This is 100% related to recovery! My goal is to be playing in the Ladies Army 8 tournament in June in Guadalajara, MX! This is a VERY big goal to reach and so far so good! After that, it’s a bit of a gravy train. Just get back in and get some new equipment upgrades to level up a bit.
What piece of advice would you give someone just starting out in polo?
Stick with it! Hopefully you can see yourself as a member of the community of people around you, this will keep you coming back! The skills all come in time.