OCEANIC WATER POLO
Seconds after a Santa Barbara Premier Water Polo Club member catapulted himself from Stearns Wharf into the ocean, he emerged to warn his friend, “It’s coooold!” This down-to-earth reaction to the water temperature drew sympathetic exclamation (“Awww!”) but also stifled giggles from the audience. Tourists and locals alike formed this giggling crowd.
The friend who has yet to jump seemed anxious while looking down at the water about 15 feet away from him. He didn’t let the anxiety deter him though. Intaking a breath, he launched himself into the ocean and surfaced to groan , “Oh s***!” The audience did not contain the giggles then and everyone burst with laughter.
The two boys were part of the more-than-50 club members out on the water beneath the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center on Friday afternoon to play the sport they cherish: water polo.
IIsabella Moore, Addie Sweeney and Hannah Teurer told the News-Press that jumping into the water was the worst part.
“It’s nerve-wracking jumping off,” said Hannah.
Her friends nodded in agreement. “The anticipation!” Isabella and Addie chimed in.
The goal, according to UCSB water polo coach Wolf Wigo, was to have fun and expose people in the community to water polo.
And boy, were the players having a grand time on the water.
Those who were playing in a game whooped and laughed while treading and swimming across the ocean, with their eyes on the ball. Those who were not playing and waiting for their turns relaxed on two giant blue floats. Three boys played a game of their own, climbing on a paddle board and then flipping themselves back into the water. Seeing the joyful, mischievous boys infected watchers with glee.
Trevor Ricci who was participating in the Stearns Wharf water polo event for the second time, described the occasion as “super fun.” Although, warned Mr. Ricci, seaweed may sometimes end up on the players’ backs and the water has a “super salty taste.” The 18-year-old Mr. Ricci has been playing water polo for half his life.
“I started playing when I was nine years old,” he told the News-Press.
Mr. Ricci will attend UCSB in the fall, and he is already setting sights on playing for the Gauchos under his current Olympian coach Mr. Wigo.
Mr. Wigo competed in the Olympic Games several times in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He is now using his decades of experience to coach UCSB men’s water polo team. In addition to coaching the UCSB players, Mr. Wigo trains the Santa Barbara Premier Water Polo Club members and runs Irvine-based KAP7 International, a water polo goods store.
The New York City-native has been in the Santa Barbara for almost 15 years and has been running the water polo on Stearns Wharf event ever since he arrived.
Mr. Wigo told the News-Press that the special wharf tournament does not always occur on the day following Fourth of July but typically within the first 10 days of July.
Whatever day the event falls on next year, Mr. Ricci is ready to play again for the third year in a row.
“Oh definitely,” Mr. Ricci said with a chuckle.