Kyle Pickett, a player for the Bay Area Breakers, squeezes his broom between his legs to throw the quaffle into a hoop during a quidditch practice at Stanford University in Palo Alto on April 6, 2016. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

Check out photos and video of the spirited Hogwarts-oriented competition on the SF Peninsula.

Quidditch games aren’t just played in “Harry Potter” books — they’re taking place at Mountain View and Palo Alto parks.

The Bay Area Breakers and the Silicon Valley Vipers are two community adult teams that practice the magical sport at Shoreline Athletics Fields and nearby recreational spaces. Last week, both clubs competed in the 12th US Quidditch Cup in Round Rock, Texas.

The game combines elements of dodgeball, rugby, hockey and basketball, but without the flying brooms dreamed up by author J.K. Rowling. Seven players on each team try to score by throwing the quaffle, a deflated volleyball, into one of three hoops. The game ends when the Golden Snitch, a ball attached to a third-party player running around the pitch, is caught by one of the teams. Players must also avoid three bludgers, deflated dodgeballs, that competitors throw their way.

Clockwise from top left: Lauren Sagara prepares to throw the quaffle while holding her broom at a Silicon Valley Vipers quidditch practice; A Bay Area Breakers quaffle (aka — a deflated volleyball); Josh Shawver, a player on the Silicon Valley Vipers, rushes towards a hoop holding the quaffle during a quidditch scrimmage at Charleston Park; Kevin Lam, a player on the Silicon Valley Vipers, adjusts his gloves during a practice at Google Athletic Recreation Field Park in Mountain View. Some players wear gloves to help them catch balls one-handed while holding their broom with the other; Chewy Shaw fights to keep hold of the quaffle during a quidditch scrimmage at the Bay Area Breakers practice at Stanford University in Palo Alto. (Photos by Magali Gauthier)

“The biggest surprise I came across is it being a full-contact sport,” said Cullen Casey, a player on the Vipers. A player can be tackled to the ground when holding one of the four game balls, a move made difficult by the mandatory “broom” between their legs.

US Quidditch, the sport’s governing body, requires players use 32- to 42-inch long wooden or plastic poles rather than brooms that it once allowed.

“It’s been amazing to see the sport evolve,” said Sam Fischgrund, a co-founder of the Silicon Valley Vipers, who started playing the sport at Princeton University in 2008. “When I first started, the snitch was encouraged to be half court jester, half athlete. They came (on the field) with cream pies, bikes and water balloons.”

US Quidditch no longer allows “Snitch antics,” as Fischgrund puts it. Players are also no longer allowed to don capes and are now required to wear mouth guards during games.

One aspect of the sport that has remained constant, however, is its inclusiveness.

“It’s one of the most open communities to people who are different,” said Chewy Shaw, a player on the Bay Area Breakers. “There’s a clear focus on being inclusive of different gender identities.”

Clockwise from top: Sam Fischgrund, co-founder of the Silicon Valley Vipers, looks behind him as he sprints down the field holding the quaffle during a quidditch drill at Charleston Park in Mountain View; Sam Harris speaks to a group of chasers on the Bay Area Breakers quidditch team during a practice at Stanford University; Cullen Casey, a player on the Silicon Valley Vipers, sets up the hoops at quidditch practice; Lauren Sagara practices holding her broom and throwing the quaffle at a Silicon Valley Vipers practice at Google Athletic Recreation Field Park in Mountain View. (Photos by Magali Gauthier)

No more than four players of the same gender can play on a team at the same time.

For people who may want to try their hand at quidditch, the Silicon Valley Vipers hold Sunday morning practices at Eagle Park for beginners.

“Everyone is welcome,” said Fischgrund. “Beginners can even feel free to come by our Tuesday and Thursday team practices now that we’re in the off-season.”

The Silicon Valley Vipers scrimmage as night falls at the Google Athletic Recreation Field Park in Mountain View on April 4, 2019. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

Check out practice times and more on the team Facebook pages:

Bay Area Breakers


Silicon Valley Vipers Quidditch

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Magali Gauthier Profile Photo

Magali Gauthier

I’m a multimedia visual journalist working for the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac.

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