National kayak polo competition coming to Tega Cay

The biggest kayak polo event in the country is heading downstream.

Originally set for McDowell Nature Preserve outside Charlotte, the USA Kayak Polo Nationals now will be held in Tega Cay over the Labor Day weekend. The event still will be hosted by Carolina Kayak Polo Club.

“No major changes, basically just location,” said Carolina club and women’s national team member Kim Parker. “It will be at the beachfront area near the pool.”

The club announced earlier this year it would host the tournament, which annually brings teams from across the country to its training home at McDowell. The club hosted nationals at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center in 2007 and McDowell in 2010.

“The park didn’t have availability to allow us space for the weekend,” Parker said.

Tega Cay City Manager Charlie Funderburk and Parks and Recreation Director Joey Blethen have been supportive.

“We are excited for the opportunity to host such a unique event at the national level right here in our own backyard,” Blethen said.

The club obtained required permits from state Department of Natural Resources to hold the event on Nivens Creek, Funderburk said, and the city helped by providing a staging area and parking.

The tournament runs Aug. 30-Sept. 1, with up to 10 clubs and about 60 athletes competing.

The women’s national team will be preparing for September’s world championships in France.

The Carolina club began play in 2006, with practices and competition at McDowell during seasonal months, adding workouts at the aquatic center during winter. They have won multiple second-level national titles since. Nationals will include competition for Club A, Club B and women’s titles.

Kayak polo is a cross between water polo, basketball and hockey.

Each team has five players on the pitch, who compete to score in their opponents’ goal, which is suspended 6 feet above the water, and is 3 feet wide and 5 feet long. A game is 14 to 20 minutes long consisting of two 7- to 10-minute halves.