OCEANSIDE — It is not easy to start a new sport, let alone address a clamoring to spread the game.
Prime Hall, Rick Briere and Don Tran, all former Marine Raiders, started the Underwater Torpedo League last year and have quickly seen its popularity spread.
The game uses a small “torpedo,” and players must throw it into a goal at the bottom of a 10-foot pool. There rules are minimal, Hall said, but the league also incorporates becoming more confident in the water.
“I was wanting to close some gaps with my water confidence so I had to get in the pool,” Hall said of his decision to get into Marines special operations. “We developed this as a competitive league so they can take away their focus and anxiety away because a lot of people have problems being in the pool.”
The trio quickly formed four teams with the University of San Diego, Oceanside, San Clemente and Irvine. Teams consist of 12 to 20 players, subbing out at will with five-on-five action.
Teams practice once a week for about two hours and compete in an eight-week season including a postseason culminating with the Aqua Bowl, which was featured on ESPN’s SportsCenter. Last year, USD won the inaugural Underwater Torpedo League championship.
The workouts consist of land-based training such as Cross-Fit-style exercises, along with water training including deep water.
The action can be rough, but Briere and Hall said it looks worse than it is. One reason, Hall said, is due to the resistance of the water, so players can be very physical, but injuries are rare.
Even though the sport is rough, lifeguards and safety personnel are on-site during all games.
“It’s a fun way to develop your abilities without worrying about the stress of failing,” Briere said. “Our main goal is to bring together people from all walks of life. Have a form of community and drive they may never have experienced before.”
For Hall, one reason he brought the sport to the masses was to encourage comfort underwater, stronger swimming abilities and camaraderie among the players. Another aspect is controlling breathing, training carbon dioxide tolerance and learning to function while underwater.
Briere, meanwhile, said he struggled with his confidence in the water and swimming until he started the training. While he, Hall and Tran have been playing for years, their motivation is to give the same confidence to others.
Additionally, the workout is so intense and beneficial that professional athletes, including Olympic swimmers and coaches, train with Hall, Briere and Tran.
“You need that initial water confidence,” Hall said. “We’ve only been operational for 10 months and we have more momentum than we know what to do with. We are actively working our expansion plan.”
Those expansion plans were jumped started as the Underwater Torpedo League receives hundreds of emails and communications each week across the country and world to expand the league.
With just five employees, league is beginning to train more instructors, which takes about three days to receive the certifications. Still, plans are in place to grow and expand into new pools.
Despite being a league, Briere and Hall said walk-ins are welcome and the league is working on adding a spring season as well.
Also, those wanting a workout and not wanting to join a team can do so, Hall said.
Video by Coast News photographer Shana Thompson: