Polo Showcase Draws Hundreds to Brant Beach

Oct 09, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

A cheer went up from the crowd as the horses were first spotted walking down the beach entrance, each ridden or led by a helmeted athlete. Spectators surrounded the arena on the sand, and filled the 68th Street pavilion in Brant Beach. Polo had come to Long Beach Island.

Jim Koslovski from the Tinicum Park Polo Club, based in Erwinna, Pa., was sitting on an LBI beach last summer when he had “a harebrained idea,” he remarked with a smile. He chatted with his Island neighbor about his vision of a polo match on the beach, “to showcase the sport.” The neighbor mentioned the idea to Bayview Park Director Joni Bakum, who then approached Long Beach Township Mayor Joseph Mancini.

“Jim and I put together a proposal, along with the group from Tinicum Park, and brought it to the mayor,” said Bakum. “He embraced it right away.”

This past May, Mancini explained, the club traveled to the township to see how the horses would fare on the sand. “Everything went well,” and the municipality invited Tinicum Park Polo to return for the inaugural polo match on a New Jersey beach.

“Long Beach Township is first, of course!” said the mayor as he took in the Beach Polo Classic this past Saturday with his wife, Julie.

“The sport of polo brings families and friends together for an otherwise charitable cause while providing a high level of competition and entertainment not found in other sporting events,” Koslovski remarked prior to the event. “We look forward to bringing the sport of beach polo to New Jersey and Long Beach Island for the very first time, and specifically to Long Beach Township this year, and hopefully for many years to come.”

While a traditional polo field is 300 yards long and 160 yards wide – larger than nine football fields – the beach arena was much smaller, and the ball much bigger, and softer. In addition, the players kept their ponies at a trot or slow canter; though a roller packed down the sand before the event and between chukkers, as the match periods are called, the club wanted to ensure the safety of the horses.

“A sport unlike any other, polo showcases the powerful bond between a player and his or her equine partner,” notes the U.S. Polo Association, at uspolo.org. “As one of the oldest team sports, polo is an exhilarating combination of horsepower, athleticism and control.”

In polo, says the USPA, “players score by driving the ball between the opposing team’s goal posts using a bamboo mallet. ... The team with the highest score after four to six chukkers of play wins the game. If both teams are tied at the end of the final chukker, play will go into overtime.”

As the Tinicum Park Polo website, tinicumparkpoloclub.org, explains, polo is believed to have originated in Asia more than 2,000 years ago, and was introduced in America by 1876. Today, polo is played in more than 75 countries around the world.

The Tinicum club, the website states, “features a perfect blend of polo professionals and amateurs, male and female players, and multi-national representation from countries including Argentina, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Sweden, Australia, Mexico and, of course, all regions of the U.S.”

As Koslovski pointed out, players of various ages and genders were participating in the chukkers on Saturday.

Abdullah Chaundry, 14, and his father, Talha, of Summit, N.J., were among the competitors. Younger brother Yusuf, 10 – who has picked up the sport as well, and is the youngest player at Tinicum – was there, too, as was the boys’ mother, Ayesha.

Tahla learned polo in his native Pakistan, where “it’s played on many grassroots levels,” he explained. In the U.S., he noted, there is a growing number of grassroots clubs, such as Tinicum, in addition to the fancier, more elite leagues and contests.

Beach polo was a new experience for the Chaundrys, and their ponies. “The horses are kind of like ‘What’s going on?!’” Abdullah said, laughing.

As the teenager stated, he loves the “speed, and the intensity” of polo. Saturday’s match was at a much slower pace, for the benefit of the ponies, but on a field, the horses can approach speeds of 35 mph.

Tahla noted, “For six chukkers, you need a minimum of three horses” to ensure the safety of the animals.

Koslovski said on Monday, each horse will play only two chukkers in the match before they are finished, and never consecutively. Chukkers are typically 7½ minutes in length, so they will only work a maximum of 15 minutes.

“I checked with the other players (about Saturday’s match) and all their ponies did very well – absolutely no issues. In fact, the ponies are on vacation for the next couple of months now. They fared very well in the sand and were a pleasure to be on.”

Bakum, who planned the Beach Polo Classic with Koslovski for nearly a year and a half, was thrilled with the event, and gave credit to everyone at Tinicum Park – “they were wonderful; they were so great to work with” – and to the employees from the LBT Department of Public Works for their “phenomenal job” preparing the site.

She also recognized Neptune Market and Kubel’s Too, which sold food and beverages on the beach Saturday.

“It certainly looked like the spectators enjoyed themselves, and so far the feedback on social media has been outstanding, Koslovski remarked. Fingers crossed, hopefully we can do this again next year.”

According to Bakum, a number of local establishments reported polo-goers dropping in after the event and talking about what they’d just seen – horses on the beach! – and how much they enjoyed it.

With the success of the Classic, she added, “We’re already in the process of tweaking the event” for the future.

For more information on the Tinicum Park Polo Club, visit tinicumparkpoloclub.org.

— Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

juliet@thesandpaper.net

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