Bump. Set. Paddle.

“Anybody can play,” Mary Ballantine says.

Kayaks gently collide and paddles go up in defense as Scott Koerner

“Anybody can play,” Mary Ballantine says.

She should know. At 56, the school teacher from A.G. Bell Elementary heads to Kirkland’s Marsh Park almost every Wednesday to do battle with 40-year-old firefighters from Seattle and 30-year-old tech nerds from the Eastside in a friendly game of kayak polo.

“And here’s the killer,” she says. “It’s free. You just don’t get that anymore.”

As long as it gets enough players, the group meets every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Marsh Park (the second park on the right on Lake Washington Boulevard heading from the downtown toward Bellevue) for a game that lasts 2-3 hours. Founding member Steve Wormser brings the paddles and kayaks — the kind with the rounded edges that you sit on, not in — and everyone else just shows up.

The group plays year around in any weather and has been a Wednesday night fixture at the park since the early 1990s. But lately it has struggled to draw the minimum of six people needed for a game, and Mary said organizers are always on the look out for new blood. She says interested people of all ages and athletic ability are welcome to come down and join the game (current participants range in age from 30 to 60) as long as they don’t mind getting a little wet, suffering a few bruises and not keeping score.

“The game always ends tied, 0-0,” she says.

With paddles swinging and, predictably, the water not always dampening the heat of competition, Mary said dings and bruises are common and it’s advisable to bring a helmet and some elbow pads.

Kayak polo is actually a real sport (see www.kayakpolo.com). The rules? Not many. Players can use their hands or paddles to move the ball, but, much like ultimate frisbee, are not allowed to travel with it. Goals are scored by hitting buoys placed at either end of an aquatic field. Whacking an opposing player with a paddle is frowned upon, but boat-to-boat contact is allowed. Mary called the game something like “organized chaos; like two warring tribes going at it.”

To join the group, either show up at the Marsh Park dock on Wednesday evening or get in touch with organizers through e-mail at kayakpolo@yahoogroups.com. Be warned, however, that it might not always be possible to get in the game. The game accommodates 12 at the most at one time because, well, Wormser’s trailer only accommodates 12 kayaks at a time.

Marsh Park kayak crew meets weekly for quirky sport — and you’re invited.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@kirklandreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kirklandreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Life

Washington State Fair cancelled

COVID-19 outbreak claims another event

Decorated statue at Marina Park in support of Black Lives Matter efforts. Reader submitted photo.
Ribbons for Black Lives Matter

The display at Marina Park coincides with statewide efforts of the local King County Black Lives Matter chapter.

Kirkland Wednesday Farmers Market will run every Wednesday from June 5 through September 25.
Kirkland farmers markets are ready for shoppers

Both Kirkland Wednesday Market and Juanita Friday Market are practicing social distancing during their reopenings.

TLG Motion Pictures CEO Erik Bernard and TLG founder Courtney LeMarco on a set. Photo courtesy TLG Motion Pictures.
Local production company seeking film, TV pitches from young minority creatives

The Big Pitch competition, put on by TLG Motion Pictures (“Hoarders”), started about six months ago.

Local musicians hold virtual benefit concert for mental health

The stream-a-thon supports NAMI Eastside and nonprofit Hold Your Crown

Hannah Scholes. COURTESY PHOTO
Waste reduction from home

A monthly column from Waste Management.

Medic One Foundation’s Gratitude Meals offer support to first responders, local businesses

The initiative provides hearty lunches to first responders staffing the COVID-19 testing sites as they work to test their colleagues.

UW students create Spira app to gather COVID-19 data

The app was created to screen for respiratory diseases but the teen creators shifted their focus once the COVID-19 outbreak began.

Showing their appreciation for EvergreenHealth workers

First responders from Kirkland, Bothell and Woodinville stopped by the Kirkland medical center to show their support for their colleagues.

‘Don’t assume it can’t happen to you’

Federal Way resident Evelyn Allcorn shares story of her husband’s battle with COVID-19 after he tested positive on March 28.

From left, Evan Shouse, Lauren Shouse and Ellienn Tatar stand outside their Kirkland residence. Courtesy photo
Making ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic

LWTech Foundation COVID-19 Student Emergency Fund lends a helping hand.

Savannah Lynn and Will Chadek in the Second Story Repertory of Redmond’s production of “The Fantasticks.” “The Fantasticks” had been performed three times by the organization until coronavirus concerns resulted in the cancellation of the remaining dates. Photo by Michael Brunk
How is the coronavirus affecting the arts?

Representatives from Eastside arts institutions discuss their experiences.