Polo by the Sea has been a much-loved local event since its introduction to our shores in 2014. On June 2nd the energetic, fast-paced event will once again take place in Main Beach.
We sat down for a chat with the creator of Polo by the Sea, and the Australia-wide Urban Polo Series, Janek Gazecki about the fastest ball sport in the country and attendees chance for their very own Pretty Woman moment.
What do you love about the Gold Coast?
I think the ratio of beaches to population is amazing, you’ve got the biggest beaches in the country, they’re extraordinary. I love my water, fishing, surfing; it’s just a beautiful city. You’ve got the hinterland a short drive away with some incredible countryside and everyone seems to be quite relaxed and willing to have a sensible but good time. And the weather of course. What made you decide to bring Polo by the Sea here?
We started running the Polo by the Sea event here in 2014, we scout the country regularly for locations and we actually identified this location even earlier than that. It was the perfect place to launch Polo by the Sea. Obviously we’re right next to the sea, you can see the water so aesthetically it’s the perfect spot for an urban polo event.
Tell us about the Urban Polo series…
Every sport has undergone a transition to make it commercial and spectator friendly, it’s happened to tennis, soccer, everything. Polo has been around for two and a half thousand years; it was initiated as a training exercise for the cavalry so wasn’t a spectator sport to start off with. Fourteen years ago we undertook the challenge of converting polo into a spectator sport. We devised a short form game of polo, a shorter field, changed the rules around to keep the game flowing and introduced a slightly smaller ball which is more suited to the shorter field. By making the field half the size, all of a sudden the action is closer to the spectators; the players never leave your field of vision. You’re never disconnected from the game. So we’ve condensed it and made it quicker and faster, it’s much better for the spectators. The formula we devised has been embraced across the world. We call that formula Urban Polo. It’s a different code, which is moving the sport into the 21st century.
What can people expect if they come along?
It’s incredibly exciting to watch the action; it’s very fast and furious. You’ve got blokes travelling at 60 kilometres per hour on these horses without any protection except for a helmet and kneepads. It’s actually part of the rules that before you can go to the ball you’ve got to physically push the other player out of the way and collide with them at high speed. That’s exciting to watch. It’s a dangerous thing and that danger translates very well to the audience. It’s the fastest ball sport in the world and that translates to a great spectacle. We also have plenty of activities for the fashionistas, we’ve got the fashions on the field competition sponsored by Hugo Boss with thousands of dollars worth of prizes. Then we’ve got The Dash where members of the audience get to demonstrate their own physical prowess. It’s a hundred metre race, we just make sure people have had a couple of champagnes beforehand. It’s a full contact sport that one. We’ve got a band we’re flying up from Sydney to play in the Polo Lounge. We’ve got the Divot Stomp where everyone can have their Pretty Woman moment, that’s a crowd favourite. The polo is obviously the attraction but we’ve got quite a lot of activities throughout the day.
How did your passion for polo come about?
Maybe 17 to 20 years ago I started playing. One of the things that drew me into the sport is the adrenaline, a love of animals and the excitement of the game itself. I also took it upon myself to find a way to bring the sport to the broader population, I’ve worked hard to break down the perception polo is an elitist sport.
Has Urban Polo been well received?
It’s the biggest polo series in the world. We’re a national event and get 20,000 people across the circuit. We’ve entered our second decade with flying colours and we’re expanding into regional Australia. Pop Up Polo takes us to Rockhampton after the Gold Coast.
What’s the plan for the rest of 2018?
We’re continuously expanding but we’re also starting to host international teams more regularly. We’ve got a little sub-asset we call World Series Polo and we’re trying to tie in with international like-minded events. People who are following the same short form polo formula, we’re trying to work with them and hope to create a global circuit of urban polo.
Got any life advice to offer based on your own adventure?
If I were to analyse the last decade it would have to be to bite off more than you can chew then chew like crazy.