High fives all round at beach festival
Main event finds it has rivals as a bevy of sports kick up a sandstorm
Hongkongers reclaimed Repulse Bay from the usual onslaught of tourists as thousands descended on the popular beach for the third edition of the Hong Kong Beach 5s event.
Semi-clad bronzed bodies soaked up the sun in the festival-like atmosphere - part sports carnival, part drinking festival - and got a taste of the revelries in store as Hong Kong gears up for the main event - this weekend's Sevens.
Though beach rugby was the intended main attraction, spectators were drawn to a less physical - and more comical - sport debuting on the fringes this year: dodgeball.
"It's a really fun game," said Jeff Floro from team Junk Shot while dressed in a goldfish hat. "It's social, but it can be really competitive - there's a lot of strategy in a game."
Playing outdoors for the first time, Michelle So said sand added another challenge to the demanding sport - but one she'd like to see more of. "I think Hong Kong should have more outdoor dodgeball events," said So, who's been playing for four years in Hong Kong's 600-strong league.
A director of the Hong Kong Dodgeball Association, Floro hopes next year's tournament will see double the number of teams involved. "Hopefully we can get more beginners involved in a second division to introduce more people to the sport," he said.
Meanwhile, 32 netball teams and eight women's rugby teams were also in action.
"I'll be honest, our team's quite competitive - we're here to win," said Krystle Edwards, a lofty 1.89m tall shooter who represents Hong Kong. Despite stacking her team with top players (including two of her national teammates), her team, the Linklaters Pink Ladies, lost to Pretty to Watch in a strongly contested 9-6 battle.
But as the sun descended, all eyes returned to the main field for the showdown between the top men's rugby teams, the intensity cooling momentarily as the sides took part in a wheelbarrow race.
Following two days of strong competition, team Borrelli Walsh Tigers eventually emerged as champions, defeating Hong Kong Scottish 5-3.
In the women's event, team Valley Black came out on top with a 5-1 victory over fellow club side Valley Red.
According to those in the stands, it was not about the outcome but celebrating Hong Kong's rugby passion. "It's a great opportunity for players of different levels to enjoy the sport," says Simon Tasker.
Despite suffering from injury, Tasker - with a jug of beer in hand - said he still managed to play an important role this year as "chief hydration specialist".
His teammates cheerfully agreed.
Sevens blog: The power of Sevens http://www.scmp.com/hongkongsevens