They literally took the plunge to try something new. They had initially joined the First Asian Team Underwater Rugby (FAT UWR) Singapore as a way to keep themselves fit and maintain their physiques but grew to love the sport.
Meet teammates and Operationally Ready National Servicemen Corporal (CPL) (NS) Aizad Shahari, CPL (NS) Marcus Chua, CPL (NS) Cumaran Kamalacum and Lance Corporal (LCP) (NS) Winston Lee.
The four men, who met in FAT UWR, now want to promote the sport and raise awareness of underwater rugby.
Dipping their toes
"I first found out about the sport from my Lifesaving Co- Curricular Activity (CCA) friends from Nanyang Polytechnic," said LCP (NS) Lee, a signaller from 62nd Combat Service Support Battalion. After much thought, he decided to join the sport during the third quarter of 2017.
For CPL (NS) Aizad, he first found out about underwater rugby through an old friend's social media page. "The pictures posted on his Facebook page got me curious about the sport," said the 28-year-old Military Policeman. "I then decided to join FAT UWR Singapore in April 2016."
The duo got to know each other in FAT UWR Singapore, along with CPL (NS) Chua and CPL (NS) Cumaran. CPL (NS) Chua, a Navy Medic, joined the team in 2014, while CPL (NS) Cumaran, an Admin Support Assistant from 9th Army Maintenance Base, joined in late 2015.
During the second quarter of the year, the four of them decided to participate in this year's Carvivor Challenge as a team to raise public awareness of underwater rugby. Organised by So Drama! Entertainment's 88.3Jia FM and Power 98FM, Carvivor participants (in teams of four) drive around Singapore to complete challenges at different locations.
Winners are determined by the time that they take to complete the challenges, not the first team that crosses the finish line.
What is underwater rugby?
It is a fast-paced team sport that started in Germany where the players attempt to place the ball into the opponent’s goal, which is positioned on either side at the bottom of the diving pool in a depth of up to (or down to) five metres. The ball can be passed in any direction but it cannot leave the water.
A player can attack another player if they are in possession of the ball, or if the other player has the ball. Each team will field six players, and will have six rolling substitutes.
The players will don fins, a mask and a snorkel.
"Each of us had different motivations for participating in the challenge, but we all had one similar motive: to raise the profile of underwater rugby in Singapore." said CPL (NS) Chua.
With that in mind, they did their best and emerged overall first runners-up. "It's important to be able to communicate under pressure to do well in Carvivor and that's one of the skills we picked up from playing underwater rugby" said CPL (NS) Chua.
For example, players have to "talk" to each other underwater via hand signals while keeping an eye out for opposing players and their own desire to surface to breathe (players do not carry air tanks). It's like running a marathon while holding your breath.
"To be able to remain underwater and be efficient is a feat in itself," said CPL (NS) Aizad.
CPL (NS) Chua agreed and said: "It is important to keep your cool throughout the game. By keeping control of your mental state, you are better able to focus, make better decisions and ultimately win the game."
Added LCP (NS) Lee: "Underwater rugby also trains our mental strength as well as discipline.
"We have to constantly fight our urge to surface and breathe — especially when we see an opportunity during the game and need that last burst of speed to carry the game through. Having to do that repeatedly helps to boost our mental strength and also knowledge of our own limits."
CPL (NS) Cumaran also agreed with his teammates, and said that teamwork, communication and resilience were key life skills learnt from National Service and underwater rugby.
Calling it the best sport he's ever played, CPL (NS) Cumaran said, "It is the only truly three-dimensional sport."
Added CPL (NS) Aizad: "It can get very tactical too — being able to exploit our opponents' weaknesses is something that I find satisfying."
CPL (NS) Chua also hopes that the team will be able to garner more support and awareness for their sport and team through similar challenges in the near future.
To find out more about underwater rugby, head over to their Facebook page. Just search for First Asian Team Underwater Rugby Singapore. See you in the pool!