Sink or Swim: Students clash in the deep end

Video shot and created by Gage Hoffman

“Get out of the middle!”

“Block the water!”

“Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!”

Spectators line the balcony of the Elmen Center swimming pool, shouting tips and encouragement as junior Justin Kooiman and sophomore Josh Schumaker slosh water from white five-gallon pails into the bottom of an adjacent fiberglass canoe, causing it to shudder.

With their two teammates, junior Kali Ryan and sophomore Brynn Hanna, sitting on the middle of the canoe using paddleboards as shields against the crash of incoming water from their opponents, Kooiman and Schumacher work to fill the parallel boat with water and send it teetering into the chlorine-filled depths below.

It’s Saturday, Mar. 30. Students have been counting down to the date—marked in the annual Recreational Services calendar with a bold, green font—for weeks now, waiting for their opportunity to participate in Late Night Battleship.

The goal of the event is the same as the board game, but the rules and execution are different. Four students are given command over one of four canoes in varying shades of blue, green and red. They are given two paddleboards, two buckets and a pool noodle. Their objective: sink the other canoes by filling them with water.

This is the sixth year of the event by Rec Services director Mark Hecht’s estimation. And every year, students seem to have a blast.

“There is a number of times where there are admissions tours going through with prospective students, and I’ll hear one of the admissions counselors going, ‘The Late Night Battleship is my favorite event,’” Hecht said. “There’s a lot of people that talk about it.”

The numbers are proof of Battleship’s popularity. Over 210 students made their way to the Elmen Center, beating last year’s record of 207.

Well aware of Battleship’s popularity and hoping to keep an organized schedule, Rec Services left sign-up sheets at the desk and posted a Google form online for teams to fill out. As a result, 30 teams took advantage of signing up early, a staggering number that does not include students who signed in at the door.

Because so many people applied, rounds were shortened from 20 minutes to 15 and the starting time was bumped forward from 10:00 to 9:30.

The rules of the game are simple. Players must use the supplies that their teams were given to sink their opponents. They cannot bail water out of their own canoes, make physical contact with members of other teams or touch walls and pool lanes. Also, any players who fall out of their canoes are not allowed back in to participate until that round is over.

The intense competition follows a “King of the Court” format. If a team wins, they are allowed to stay in the pool for another round against new teams.

The winners of each round all receive tickets for three raffle drawings, with first-place receiving 15, second-place receiving 12, third-place receiving 10 and fourth receiving eight.

Much like the board game, the life-sized version relies a lot on strategy—just not the A7, D5 coordinate-plane kind.

“For our team strategy we put the two girls in the middle blocking and then we had the two guys on the ends throwing the water,” said Kooiman. His team, U.S.S. B.J.J.K., lasted five rounds, the top record for the night.

“We just have really good teamwork,” Kooiman said. “We worked together, we had a lot of fun with it and we stayed positive.”

Several other teams had prepared their own strategies, but didn’t always have the opportunity to use them.

“We had someone who was designated to jump out of the canoe when we thought we needed to lighten the load,” sophomore Jace Woodward said.

Woodward’s team, Boaty McBoat Face, decided to put the paddles in the middle of their canoe to block water and to keep their buckets at the ends of the boat. They had made other plans for certain situations but ended up getting their canoe stuck in the middle of the other three and were “poured on.”

The action was intense, drawing involvement from onlookers. Previous unsuccessful participants and eager hopefuls lounged in the water on the other side of the pool watching intently, while others looked in from behind the glass separating the pool from the Elmen Center lobby or peered down from the balcony looking down on the water.

Battleship wasn’t the only entertainment that the spectators were able to witness. Another big highlight of the night was the Belly-Flop competition.

At 11, around 25 participants took turns dropping into the pool belly-first with the hope of making a big enough splash to take home the first-place prize of 10 tickets. The contest was made up of two rounds of elimination, judged based upon the applause of the spectators. All but three people were sent away with three-ticket participation awards after the first round.

In the championship round, Mason Blue out-flopped his opponents by trying for height and extension.

“I had that last flop in my head after the first one, so I’m really happy I got my second chance to show my virtuosity in the pool,” said Blue.

Video shot by Harrison Kuhn

Though he took home the grand prize, the pain that Blue experienced from the flop made him reconsider his choice, but ultimately, he did it for the fans.

“I kind of regret it, because it hurts,” Blue said. “Hopefully I win a prize so that something good comes out of this. But, you know, I do it for the fans and I do it for the people.”

Ultimately, Blue did not win a prize. Kayla Van Meeteren took home a $50 Scheels gift card, while a movie and several bags of candy went home with Rachel Ochoa, a self-care box went to Uyaruun Purevdorj and a “bulk-up” box full of Gatorade went to Alli Fox. Alex Looyenga and Jace Woodward each won $15 gift cards to Bagel Boy and Buffalo Wild Wings, respectively, and Ericka Kim was able to snag a Yeti Water Bottle.

For students who wanted to stay dry, a variety of activities like karaoke, dodgeball, volleyball, spike ball, ping pong and corn hole were scattered across the Elmen Center gym. Karaoke was especially popular.

“Karaoke goes with battleship, so [students] always look forward to that,” said Recreational Services team leader Cole Tessendorf, who co-led the team that organized the battleship event.

For Woodward, while the other activities were fun, Battleship was the main focus and the most fulfilling part of the evening.

“I think all the stuff on dry land is great, but they’ve really done a great job of opening up the deep end for people just to hang out and see this is where it’s at,” he said.

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