Welcome to the world of PreHistoric Paddle, a sport gathering a cult-like following in and around Greater Boston with more people trying their hand at stoning the opposition.
Steven Creelman may very well be New England’s first bona fide rock jock.
With a couple of slabs of granite in each hand, the Wakefield resident has proven to be an unbeatable all-star in a league all his own.
Welcome to the world of PreHistoric Paddle, a relatively new and innovative sport that Creelman helped create over a decade ago. The sport is currently gathering a cult-like following in and around the Greater Boston area with more people trying their hand at stoning the opposition.
The brainchild of Creelman and two of his friends, PreHistoric Paddle has seen an increase in its participants in recent years with as many as 18 athletes turning out for the annual Wakefield PHP Invitational Tournament, which took place June 9.
It’s been an exciting time for the sports inventors, players and enthusiasts alike.
“The reactions we’ve been getting from people while we play has been just unbelievable,” said Creelman, who first developed the sport in the early ‘90s. “It made me think, I have to really revive this.”
Another Stone Age
The origins of PreHistoric Paddle can be traced back over 15 years ago, while Creelman, then a student at UMass-Amherst, was visiting his college roommate and game co-creator Eric Ehnstrom on Cape Cod.
While relaxing out on the beach, the pair decided to play a round of Kadima (a common paddle and ball game) but ran into a small problem.
“We forgot the paddles,” said Creelman, a Longmeadow native, who moved to Avon Street in Wakefield two and a half years ago. “And I just can’t sit at the beach for eight hours and do nothing.”
Looking for an entertaining alternative, Creelman quickly turned his attention to the shoreline. Spotting a couple of big flat rocks along the beach and a tennis ball that washed up along the shore, Creelman was hit with an Abner Doubleday-like idea.
“I just said, ‘Let’s use these rocks as paddles and just try to keep the ball alive,’” Creelman recalled saying. “Sure enough, we were getting really good at it. By the end of the day, I brought 15 huge rocks home with me.”
Since then, Creelman and his friends have led an athletic revolution of sorts, putting a new spin on the term “rock star.”
“I’ve just been playing it through the years,” said Creelman, an account manager for Grainger in Woburn. “It’s kind of like Hacky Sack, keeping (the ball) alive. Next thing you know, we were smashing it, making these crazy saves, and we got good at it.”
A rock and a hard place
Creelman and Ehnstrom shared the excitement of being on the cusp of discovering something special, so they carried their newfound sports concept to friend Stephen Crichton. Together the trio hatched the general rules of the game in Crichton’s Longmeadow backyard.
Two courts were created, spread 20 feet apart, using household items that included a garden hose and an orange extension cord as boundary lines. A team consisting of two-players was to occupy each court, using rocks as paddles in each hand. Unlike most sports, the teams playing PreHistoric Paddle aim to keep their score at zero.
The object of the game is simple: don’t let the ball land in your court. When it does, the offending team is assessed 2 points, which is added to its score. A miss hit adds 1 point to a team’s score. The first team to amass 15 points loses.
Each player can also hit the ball two times on a possession, allowing teammates to pass the ball to each other, much like volleyball’s familiar bump, set, spike strategy.
With the ground rules in place, Creelman and company were anxious to get others involved.
Stone cold success
An enterprising inventor, Creelman introduced his sport to UMass/Amherst administrators, and he persuaded the director of physical education to add PreHistoric Paddle to the gym curriculum. For two years, Creelman and instructor Jon Courtney held court, teaching the sport to a new wave of athletes.
Fresh off another successful tournament run in 2007, Creelman is eager to convince the next generation of paddlers to join in on the craze.
According to Creelman, all you need to be successful in this sport is a little hand-eye coordination.
“I’ve got to get it more into the mainstream,” Creelman said. “I’m working on getting some leagues together.”
He’s already launched the league’s very own Web site - www.prehistoricpaddle.com - and continues to draw crowds with each and every exhibition.
“The coolest thing by far is playing down at the Boston Common,” said Creelman. “I have played a hundred sports before - volleyball, softball - and people never stop and watch, but people stop, sit down and spend time watching this.”
And with more tournaments planned in the near future, PreHistoric Paddle is showing no signs of gathering moss any time soon.
Wakefield Observer sports editor Christopher Hurley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.