With fins on her feet for the first time, Veronica Kwiatkowski dove into the Florida Pool and searched for a hockey puck.
The biology sophomore was one of 24 who attended the UF Underwater Hockey team’s clinic Saturday at the Florida Pool.
Using sticks about 1 foot long, underwater hockey players push pucks across the pool’s bottom and try shooting them into the opposing team’s underwater goal at the end of the pool, according to the team’s Web site.
Each team has six players equipped with sticks, goggles, snorkels and headgear.
Rafael Seminario, the club’s president, said the UF team ranks fourth overall in the national competition, and it’s the only college underwater hockey club ranked in the “A” division for the sport.
Seminario has been playing for almost two years.
Although underwater hockey is a non-contact sport, he said he still gets the same workout he would playing basketball.
Some members of the Swordfish Underwater Hockey club at Georgia Tech, including Nicole Mazouchova, came to the clinic to get more practice.
Mazouchova, 28, president of the Swordfish club, said she learned about the sport while studying in Canada.
She created the Swordfish team in 2008 and the team now has between 20 and 25 members.
To gain more experience, her team videotapes practices to improve their strategy in the sport.
She said she would like to send some of the team’s players to national and world underwater hockey competitions in the future.
But UF player Keely Kilduff said new competitors may have trouble adjusting to the sport.
Kilduff, an animal sciences sophomore, has been playing underwater hockey for two weeks.
She said the hardest part for new players is breathing with a snorkel.
Andrei Savu, 28, a player on the Georgia Tech team, said there are two types of people: Those who are comfortable with the snorkel and those who are not.
He said new players should attend a set number of practices before giving up on the sport.
“Don’t judge until you’ve been here three times,” he said.
Andre Thomas, the vice president of the UF team, has been playing the sport for more than four years.
He said the team fosters friendships.
“The underwater hockey community is very close-knit,” he said.