A former North Northumberland schoolgirl is taking the plunge with the Great Britain underwater hockey team at the U23 world championships later this year.
Lauren Aisbett, who used to attend school in Wooler and Alnwick, was a keen swimmer before taking up the unusual sport.
Now she is preparing for this year’s world championships, which are to be held in Tasmania in July.
Lauren attended Wooler First and Middle Schools before transferring to the Duchess’s High School in Alnwick.
“I have swum all my life, initially having lessons at Berwick, then joining Alnwick Dolphins at the age of six. I also trained with Eyemouth Swimming Club,” she said.
This year Lauren is due to graduate from Stirling University with an honours degree in physical education.
She said: “I first learned about underwater hockey in a swimming magazine, but with no local club there was nowhere I could go to give it a go.
“As soon as I started university I attended a taster session for underwater hockey and was instantly hooked.
“My natural determination to succeed and push myself helped me to progress rapidly in the sport.
“After my first year of playing I became vice captain of the uni team and was asked to join the Glasgow team for training.
“For the past two years I have been captain of the uni team and progressed to the Glasgow A team.
“I’m so addicted to the sport that when I’m home from university I travel to Sunderland every week for training.”
She added: “I was thrilled when my coach suggested I trial for GB and put my all into it.
“After months of hard training and going through the selection process I’m absolutely over the moon to have been selected to represent GB on the ladies’ U23 team in Tasmania this July.
“In the previous world championships, held in Spain, the ladies’ U23 team came home with the bronze medal – we obviously aim to improve on that so the pressure is on.”
Underwater hockey was first played by divers in the South of England in the 1950s to help them keep fit over the winter months and was first known as octopush.
It is a challenging team sport as in all other sports participants are allowed to breathe as they play. Underwater hockey is played on the bottom of the swimming pool so the players breathe through a snorkel on the top of the water before diving down to do battle with their opposition, before returning to the surface.
There are 10 team members, but only six in the pool at any time, so it is a fast game with quick rolling substitutions.
As well as a snorkel, players wear fins, a face mask, polo hat and a glove to protect themselves from the lead puck, which weighs about 1.2kg. They use a small stick to push the puck into the opposing team’s goal, a metal trough at the other end of the pool.
“I am very excited about playing in the world championships,” said Lauren. “As a team, we will be training hard over the coming months.”