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Two-wheeled mallet-swinging madness 

Lazy Sunday afternoons are nice, but they’re nothing to write home about.

Better stories start with action, adventure, and bike polo, which is why Santa Margarita resident Dustin Cocco organized a weekly get together where people can beat boring to death with wooden mallets.

- GET IN THE GAME :  Players (left to right) Dustin Cocco, Russell Kwong (on the ground), Ted Andreas, and Maya Land classy up the game of polo—with bicycles. -  - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • GET IN THE GAME : Players (left to right) Dustin Cocco, Russell Kwong (on the ground), Ted Andreas, and Maya Land classy up the game of polo—with bicycles.

“Scoring a goal is the best feeling in the world,” Cocco said. “I was hooked after the first time.”

Cocco is an avid cyclist and bike mechanic who came across bike polo while living in Arizona. The game looks like a chaotic combination of cycling and hockey, with people riding in circles trying to whack a ball between two goal posts, but Cocco told New Times that the “fringe” sport is played across the world with three-person teams, standardized rules, and even tournaments.

“There’s a huge degree of camaraderie to it,” he said. “People let you stay at their houses for tournaments and show you around the city. Bike polo players are like
a big family.”

Since moving to the San Luis Obispo area, Cocco hasn’t had much luck finding work, but rather than getting discouraged or depressed, he dedicated himself to building a local bike polo league.

It started about a month before this writing with just four or five players, but the weekly gathering has grown to around 15 regulars, some already adapting their bikes to the game. Cocco suggested low-gear bikes for quick starts and stops and said it’s best to switch the rear brake to your weaker side, freeing your strong arm for mallet swinging.

“Everyone is welcome, and you don’t have to be in great physical condition to play,” he said. “Once you get used to riding and braking one handed, it’s like you’re gliding out there.”

Though the competition is intense and the game played on concrete, Cocco said major injuries are rare. He’s been to nine tournaments and seen only one sprained ankle. Still, he suggested that players wear helmets and prepare themselves for a few scrapes and bruises.

“Most of us don’t have health insurance, and no one wants to hurt anyone else,” Cocco said. “The No. 1 rule is ‘Don’t be a dick.’”

 He also stressed that players need to respect the places where they play and clean up after themselves to avoid any problems with property owners.

“It’s a really positive sport,” he noted. “We just want to encourage people to come out and have fun.”

Cocco brings mallets and goal markers to the parking lot at the San Luis Coastal Adult School on 1500 Lizzie St. every Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. Participants only need to bring a bike and preferably a helmet to play the thrilling game.

Fast facts

Animal Shelter Adoption Partners and SLO County Animal Services are holding a pet adoption drive at the SLO Lemos Feed and Pet Store at Broad and Orcutt streets. People who adopt will receive discounts at the store. Call 489-0689 for more information. …

The Rotary Club is gearing up for its yearly “Coats for Kids” drive by setting up several collection sites where people can drop off any gently used jackets or coats to share with needy families in anticipation of winter. Visit slorotaract.wordpress.com/coats-for-kids for details. 

Calendar Editor Nick Powell compiled this week’s Strokes & Plugs. Send your business and charity news to strokes@newtimesslo.com.

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