A new spin on polo

Polo without the horses
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Mike Rowe's "Somebody's Gotta Do It" airs Thursday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CNN.

(CNN)When you think of the sport of "polo," what comes to mind?

Chances are you've conjured a vision of men on horseback amid spectators sipping on Champagne. If you're a fan of the Summer Olympics, you might be picturing teams in swimsuits and swimcaps, treading water.
But there's another kind of polo that doesn't require access to a stable or swimming pool. One that's been around for more than century but is seeing a resurgence in interest around the world: cycle or "bike" polo.
"Somebody's Gotta Do It": Bike polo
Irishman R.J. Mecredy is often accredited with inventing the original version of cycle polo in the late 1890s at the height of a "bicycle boom." It grew in popularity so much that it was played as a demonstration sport in the 1908 Olympic Games, according to a report on the history of the sport by CNN's sister site, Bleacher Report. However, its following began to decline at the beginning of World War I.
    While the original version was played on grassy terrain similar to field polo, in recent years, urbanites have taken it upon themselves to adapt.
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    "Just as early skateboarders saw their futures in the empty swimming pools of southern California, urban bike polo enthusiasts revolutionized the sport by taking it to tennis courts, street hockey rinks, or whatever other surface was available," according to Bleacher Report.
    Toronto resident Kevin Walsh, like many players, first became aware of the game as a bike messenger in Wisconsin more than a decade ago. Bike messenger culture lended itself well to pick-up games of polo with makeshift mallets and orange street cones as goals.
    Alias Tagami of Washington has been playing since 2011, and is a member of North American Hardcourt Bike Polo Association, an organization that has helped create a unified rule set for the pick-up-oriented sport. Its rules call for two teams of three players and if a player puts a foot down (a "dabbed player"), the player has to ride to half-court and tap their mallet before being allowed back into play.
    In September, 48 teams from Canada, the United States and Mexico will compete in the North American Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship in Lexington, Kentucky. The next World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship will be held in February 2016 in Timaru, New Zealand.
    That's certainly a long way from mallets MacGyver-ed out of ski poles and odds and ends from construction sites. Walsh says there are even companies now that cater specific bikes and gear to the sport, though there's always room for more, he adds.
    With the growth, however, Walsh hopes the sport always retains its DIY- and pick-up oriented nature that got him hooked.
    Tagami echoes that sentiment, saying the sense of community and age and gender inclusiveness is a major draw; all you need is a helmet and good attitude. (And the given of knowing how to ride a bike.)
    "Get ready for a steep learning curve," Walsh says. "It's not something you master quickly so bear with it."
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    "It's more the ability to do a few different things at one time," Steven "Machine" Wilson from SF Bike Polo, told CNN's Mike Rowe when the host visited a match earlier this year.
    But perhaps the most important lesson might sound like a strange one, according to Walsh: And that's how to fall off your bike without getting hurt. It's safe to say Mike Rowe certainly learns how to do that on "Somebody's Gotta Do It," Thursday at 9 p.m. ET/PT.