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Australia’s best beach party

Playing in Broome was “heaven on earth” claimed Major Vishal Chauhan, Captain of the team from Jaipur, India, in 2013. This feeling of happiness also was confirmed by the six teams participating in the Pinctada Cable Beach Polo tournament in 2014. Located about 2,000 kilometres to the north of Perth, the nearest capital city with an active polo community, Cable Beach Polo indeed is the most remote beach polo event in the world, but also without doubt a tournament played in one of the most remarkable parts of the world.

Organizer Marilynne Paspaley explains what makes the tournament so special: “The history, culture and natural wonders of Broome make it a unique and extraordinary destination for visitors in itself. Add to this some of the finest sand conditions in the world, position a beach polo tournament on the sands of Cable Beach with the azure Indian Ocean as a backdrop and the famous Kimberley sunsets as the curtain call for the day’s play, and the spectacle becomes an unforgettable experience rich with unforgettable memories. Without a doubt, it has become Australia’s best beach party.”

In 2010 the chukkas on sand were held for the first time at Cable Beach, back then as a two-team exhibition match. One year later the event became a two-day tournament for four teams. By now Pinctada Cable Beach Polo is without doubt one of the highlights in the event schedule of Broome and the Kimberley and grants the town and the region active tourism during May, which traditionally is a “shoulder” month with low occupancy, plus draws important media attention and provides a major financial boost to local suppliers and businesses early in the season. During the beach polo tournament the hotel occupancy increases from the mid-60 % to over 99 %. In the past year, 2,000 spectators witnessed the chukkas on sand on the paradisiacal beach of Broome and were thrilled by the speed, energy and tactics of the fast sport. In the Kimberley Challenge, the two low-goal teams in the match included three young aboriginal stockmen who had been recipients of the Cable Beach Polo Scholarship. The Paspaley International Beach Polo Cup II was won by team GPG Group. The patron was Paul Webb (-1) with the New Zealand professionals Ross Ainsley (+5) and Sam Hopkinson (+6). They defeated team Hutchinson Real Estate with patron Neville Stewart (0) and professionals Matt Grimes (+6) and Glendon “Tex” Webster (+4) from Western Australia. In 2014 a total of four teams fought for the Paspaley International Beach Polo Cup II.

The transportation of the polo ponies the 2,000 kilometres from Perth to Broome is a logistical challenge that must be faced each year, and requires the grooms, equipment, feed and drivers to accompany the horses for the journey both ways. Ponies and players are being rewarded for coming the long way with the best playing conditions. Marilynne Paspaley explains the reason why the sand conditions in Broome are particularly fine: “There is very large tidal movement along Cable Beach and the Kimberley coast. The tides can be as high as 10 metres but we prefer to plan our tournament for when the tides are between 7 metres and 8 metres. This tidal flow washes the field twice a day and compresses the sand, giving it a firm and even surface that does not dry and is not too deep, making it an ideal surface for the horses.” During several months prior to the tournament there is much measurement of the beach on various tides to allow the organisers to predict the precise tides for the match days. This is important to make sure that on the weekend of the tournament there is both a good playing surface for the polo and also that the marquees and infrastructure do not become inundated with seawater. At the end of each day’s tournament, the seaside barriers and scoreboard are dismantled to allow the high tide to wash over the field before the next day’s tournament. After the high tide, the barriers are replaced and the field prepared for each day. Garry Grbavac: “In other places (such as Miami and Dubai), the sand arenas are above the high tide zone and their arenas need to be prepared using water which is pumped onto them … not achieving the hardness of sand which is created naturally by a high tide. As far as we can tell, the beach polo played in Watergate Bay in the UK and also in New Zealand at Porangahau also use the natural tide like we do at Cable Beach in Broome. We believe that a natural tide is the best way to produce a hard and fast surface for the players and results in superior match play.”

As it is the first time for most players and horses to play on sand, practice sessions are included in advance of the tournament. Patrons and players are invited by the organizers to spend one week in Broome to get to know the great lifestyle and the unique activities of the North of Australia. This includes fishing trips, golf at the unusual Broome Golf Club, which has sand greens rather than grass greens, and visits to the Paspaley pearling fleet for a “behind the scenes” view of the Australian pearling industry. One of the highlights of the week is the dinner under the stars, held at a long-table on Cable Beach under the Kimberley night sky. The menu focuses on the excellent seafood produced from the Kimberley region. Marilynne Paspaley: ”It is the only private dinner permitted on Cable Beach and we are delighted that this year, the event is sponsored by Macquarie Private Bank.”

Entrance to the public area of Pinctada Cable Beach Polo will again be free in 2015. To enable more spectators to be up close and personal to the matches the viewing areas on both sides of the beach polo field will be lengthened. Let’s start the beach party!

POLO+10 tournament magazine

The tournament magazine contains more than 50 pages and gives an overview of the development of beach polo from a small exhibition match to a international much-noticed event, presents the Cable Beach Polo Scholarship, which offers young aboriginal stockmen access to the sport of polo, lets you dream of unique adventures in Australia’s wild north, contains an interview with Alex Webbe, one of the most important polo personalities in the world and funder of the International Beach Polo Association (IBPA), and descends into the fascinating world of pearls.

The tournament magazine available for download (13.5 MB)
>> POLO+10 Tournament magazine Pinctada Cable Beach Polo 2015

Video from the first practice sessions

Video from the first practice sessions on Gantheaume Point, the first day for the horses to experience the beach and the ocean:

Eight teams participate in the 2015 Pinctada Cable Beach Polo. Overview of all teams, sponsors, players and handicaps. The team Rodd & Gunn were winners of the NZ Open in 2014 and they are competing at Cable Beach Polo 2015 to claim the Paspaley International Beach Polo Cup title in 2015.

Saturday, 30 May

Team Blacklock (+9)

Clinton Wheatley (0)
Jack Archibald (+5)
Matt Welsh (+4)

Team Rodd & Gunn (+10)
Ross George (+1)
Sam Hopkinson (+6)
James Lester (+3)

Team Merchant Shipping (+4)

Matt Grimes (+6)
Carl Manfong (+2)
Paul Banks (0)

Team Ainsley Polo (+2)
Ross Ainsley (+5)
Ian Long (-2)
Justin Couper (-1)

Sunday, 31 May

Team Bunnamagoo Estate Wines (+5)

Erin Wheatley (-1)
Matt Grimes (+6)
Paul Banks (0)

Team The Creech (+5)
Justin Couper (-1)
James Lester (+3)
Eru Barlow (+3)

Team Merchant Shipping (+11)

Clinton Wheatley (0)
Matt Grimes (+6)
Jack Archibald (+5)

Team Rodd & Gunn (+12)
Ross George (+1)
Sam Hopkinson (+6)
Ross Ainsley (+5)

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