Imagine playing an intense, high-speed game while tumbling over your teammates. Now, do it all while holding your breath.
Welcome to the madness of underwater hockey, a decades-old sport that boasts an international following -- but still draws disbelief and chuckles in the United States.
"I think most people hear (about it) and think, 'oh that's not really a sport,' and brush it off," said Chris Docampo of the Swordfish Underwater Hockey Club in Atlanta. "Maybe that's why it's not heard of as much."
Far from a joke, underwater hockey combines speed, agility, strength and strategy -- several feet below the nearest oxygen supply.
"This is for people who are true athletes," said Keith Morgan, DoCampo's teammate.
At 52, Morgan is almost twice the age of Docampo.
But here, age, size and gender don't matter. The water is the great equalizer.
Playing under pressure
Play begins when two flipper-donning teams line up along opposite ends of a pool and race toward a puck submerged in the middle.
Some splash and tear across the surface like speed demons, while others disappear immediately underwater.
If you dive under right away, you might reach the puck first -- only to realize you're out of oxygen and need to come up for air.
Sprinting across the surface allows you to breathe through a snorkel; but someone else will probably reach the puck first.
What happens after the initial face-off can only be described as elegant chaos.
The neon-finned players flip around and over each other like a sphere of tropical fish circling prey.
In this bizarre, three-dimensional playing field, attackers can sneak in from above, the side and even underneath.
At 3 pounds, the puck is about eight times heavier than an ice hockey puck so it can stay grounded underwater.
But such density, combined with the surrounding water pressure, also makes it that much harder to push with a 12-inch stick.
At the bottom, Docampo whips his body around in a tight circle to defend the puck from swarming opponents.
"A lot of (technique) comes from experience -- asking people, 'How did you do that?' And a lot of it is muscle memory," Docampo said.
Moments later, as two opponents battle for the puck midwater, Nikita Gokhale zips across the pool floor like a caffeinated eel and steals the puck from underneath the players.
She scores a goal as stunned defenders watch behind goggles.
Unlike in other team sports, players can't hear what their teammates might say. The deep sounds of swooshing water drown everything out.
"I guess there is no way to communicate in the water. You just develop an intuition of what to do when," said Andrei Savu, co-founder of the Swordfish Underwater Hockey team.
That intuition is particularly important because no single player can swim to the bottom and wage battle without needing to come up for air -- and needing an astute teammate to take over the play.