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A Group Of Marine Raiders Created An Underwater Sport For Training — And It’s Gaining Traction
It looks like a submerged version of the Thunder Dome, or a very rowdy game of water polo, but with more moto-tats. Pioneered by some of America’s most elite warfighters, it requires extreme stamina, athleticism, and confidence. And it’s gaining traction far beyond the special operations community where it began.
Called Underwater Torpedo, the sport was developed by a group of Marine Raiders as a swim-training tool to help them remain calm underwater. But if you’ve watched any of the gameplay footage, or seen the photos, it’s hard to imagine this has a calming effect on anyone:
Underwater torpedo was pioneered by a group of Marine special operators as a way to practice remaining calm and controlled while diving.Courtesy of Prime Hall/Underwater Torpedo League
“In training sometimes you get these instructors that are strictly sink or swim, and there’s definitely times you need that, but in pool training — a lot of people have had bad experiences in the pool — it’s best to have a ‘calm breeds calm’ training approach,” Prime Hall, a former Marine Raider and the game’s creator, told Task & Purpose.
The genesis for the sport began simply enough: Tossing a torpedo underwater and watching it zip across the pool gives you something else to focus on. You’re less concerned with your air, and more interested in making precise passes — one, two, five, ten, and so on.
“The reason why the torpedo is effective is that everybody has anxiety as soon as they go under the water,” Hall said. “They think, ‘where’s my air source.’ But if you have a focus, something that takes your mind off that, it eases that anxiety. It almost blocks it.”
The next logical step was to make a game out of it, one that would replicate the some of the rigorous training Hall underwent as a water survival instructor, and that would prepare him for the training he’d face as a Raider. In 2009, that’s precisely what Hall and his fellow instructors did at Camp Horno, San Diego, California while awaiting Raider selection.
Here’s how it works: Two teams of five square off on either side of the deep end of a pool, with substitutes waiting on sidelines. The aim is to get the torpedo into the other team’s goal in order to score. Each game is broken down into three matches, with five rounds each — the team that wins the most matches wins the game.
But that’s easier said than done: The sport takes place almost entirely underwater. Players can surface to catch a breath, but they can’t surface with the torpedo — otherwise, there’ll be a penalty drop and the torpedo will go to the other team. What this means in terms of actual gameplay is that players need to precisely time when they’ll surface for air with everything that’s taking place on the “field.”
As for what’s happening in the water, it comes out looking like a darting, diving, free-for-all, with any player in possession of the torpedo fair game to be tackled, or grappled with.
“We played it every day, and we got really proficient at it, and built the framework of the game,” Hall told T&P.; “It was obviously my passion, and I was the one who was making deals with my captain so I could get all the guys in the pool so we were ready for dive school, but really, I wanted to play the game.”
In the years after the game was created, it spread from Hall’s team, to other Raider units, and to the wider SOF community. When Hall was medically discharged in 2017, he kept playing, eventually founding the Underwater Torpedo League, which runs one and two-month camps at a number of Southern California pools. The UTL includes more than 100 vets, professional athletes, and service members — including some of Hall’s former teammates, Rick Briere, Derek Herrera, and Don Tranand — and has even earned a bit of limelight, appearing on ESPN during this year’s championship game, called the Aqua Bowl.
PLAYOFFS - TODAY 4-6PM at the Shark Tank, 14ft Deep End of the San Clemente Aquatic Center. Teams: Irvine, Oceanside, and San Clemente. We will be testing out livestream for the summer bowl next week, as well as the spectator booth poolside. Go Deep. Live Empowered. #utlnation #playoffs #scubacam @nullgravity_media
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But for all the underwater acrobatics, the game has a pretty good track record on injuries Hall said. Since it’s played without fins, a player’s momentum builds slowly, and the blows are softened.
“We’re only down there with our natural swimming ability,” Hall explained. “I only have so much force coming at you even swimming at full speed, so you’re coming from zero to one arm action under water toward your opponent, and there’s so much weight you have to pull through under water to impact with them, that we don’t really see anyone hurt.”
Plus, each match has a dedicated referee in the pool to keep an eye out. “The water keeps everybody honest,” Hall said. “We played with Raiders, SEALs, everyone for ten years, and we haven’t had anyone get significantly hurt, to my memory.”
Beyond the physical stamina required for the game itself, Hall puts his players through some rigorous fitness, both in and out of the water:
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“At the end of it,” Hall said, “you drive away in your car and you’re like, ‘holy shit I just scored over these guys,’ or ‘I never thought I’d be walking a kettlebell underwater with three people riding on my shoulders for 45 seconds,’ or ‘I felt like I was Superman when I was riding on that guy’s shoulders.’”
A Marine grunt stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina is being considered for an award after he saved the lives of three people earlier this month from a fiery car crash.
Cpl. Scott McDonell, an infantry assaultman with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was driving down Market Street in Wilmington in the early morning hours of Jan. 11 when he saw a car on fire after it had crashed into a tree. Inside were three victims aged 17, 20, and 20.
"It was a pretty mangled wreck," McDonell told ABC 15. "The passenger was hanging out of the window."
‘I made promises to the people that I lost’— How the Iraq war forged a Navy SEAL’s path to Harvard Medical School and NASA
Navy Lt. Jonny Kim went viral last week when NASA announced that he and 10 other candidates (including six other service members) became the newest members of the agency's hallowed astronaut corps. A decorated Navy SEAL and graduate of Harvard Medical School, Kim in particular seems to have a penchant for achieving people's childhood dreams.
However, Kim shared with Task & Purpose that his motivation for living life the way he has stems not so much from starry-eyed ambition, but from the pain and loss he suffered both on the battlefields of Iraq and from childhood instability while growing up in Los Angeles. Kim tells his story in the following Q&A, which was lightly edited for length and clarity:
New Vietnam War movie 'The Last Full Measure' takes some well-deserved shots at the military’s award process
Todd Robinson's upcoming Vietnam War drama, The Last Full Measure, is a story of two battles: One takes place during an ambush in the jungles of Vietnam in 1966, while the other unfolds more than three decades later as the survivors fight to see one pararescueman's valor posthumously recognized.
With ISIS trying to reorganize itself into an insurgency, most attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq are being carried out by Shiite militias, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.
"In the time that I have been in Iraq, we've taken a couple of casualties from ISIS fighting on the ground, but most of the attacks have come from those Shia militia groups, who are launching rockets at our bases and frankly just trying to kill someone to make a point," Grynkewich said Wednesday at an event hosted by the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.