Frank Hinshaw, president of Skydive Hawaii, has made 1,200 jumps from planes cruising as high as 15,000 feet, but these days polo is what gives him an adrenaline rush.
"You’re flying down the field at a full gallop, trying to get in position to hit a little plastic ball with a long-handled mallet," Hinshaw said. "It’s a sport that requires athleticism, both to ride the horse and to play the ball."
Hinshaw grew up on a small farm in Boone County, Mo., with a Shetland pony for a pet. When he and his five brothers were kids, they would catch the pony, put a bridle on it and take off on it bareback.
» Opening day: April 6 at Mokuleia Field, 68-539 Farrington Highway. Admission is $10, $8 military and free for ages 14 and under. Reserved seating in the clubhouse is $25.
» Schedule: Gates open at noon; matches start at 2 p.m. Bring a picnic or buy lunch from food trucks on site.
» Information: Call 226-0061 or visit www.hawaii-polo.org.
» Also: Hawaii Polo School offers lessons at Mokuleia Field for beginner and experienced riders. Minimum age is 8, and students must weigh less than 250 pounds. Cost is $125 per hourlong lesson or $500 for five lessons, including use of equipment and a horse. Call 220-5153 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Before I got into polo, I hadn’t ridden a horse in 30 years," Hinshaw said. "I might’ve thought I could ride, but little did I know!"
It’s hard to imagine that just three years ago, Hinshaw was a self-proclaimed couch potato.
In April 2011, he signed up for Nutri system as a 60th birthday present to himself. At the time, he was carrying 265 pounds on his 5-foot-10-inch frame. Over the course of four months, Hinshaw dropped about 50 pounds.
He took up polo in response to a friendly challenge.
Skydive Hawaii has put on halftime shows for Hawaii Polo Club matches in Mokuleia since the 1980s. After providing audio commentary for one of those shows in August 2011, Hinshaw returned the microphone to polo announcer Bob Hogan. As he began walking off the field, Hogan asked over the live mike, "Frank, would you ever consider taking polo lessons?"
"The place was packed, everyone was listening and I knew the correct answer was, ‘Yes, I’d love to take polo lessons,’" Hinshaw said. "Little did Bob know that I was serious."
A few days later, he was wielding a mallet on horseback at Mokuleia Field. Skydive Hawaii operates from Dillingham Airfield, a quarter-mile down the road, so it was convenient having his office and polo lessons in such close proximity.
"I loved polo; I couldn’t get enough of it. I learned on a 20-year-old quarter horse named Chaser who knew how to play the game. We clicked, and he tolerated my lack of skill."
"I loved polo; I couldn’t get enough of it," Hinshaw said. "I learned on a 20-year-old quarter horse named Chaser who knew how to play the game. We clicked, and he tolerated my lack of skill. I quickly figured out that I needed to learn how to ride better in order to play polo better."
He bought Chaser halfway through his first year of playing polo and Havana, a mare, at the end of that year. In August, he added Makina, another mare, to his string.
"Polo is a great form of exercise," Hinshaw said. "You have to use proper body positioning and refined leg commands and be in total synch with your horse. And you can’t play polo sitting in the saddle all the time. You get much more power by lifting your body out of the saddle and incorporating it into your swing."
Hinshaw has maintained his weight at 195 pounds largely due to polo. He asserts the sport also helps clear his mind of life’s daily stress and clutter.
"When I’m practicing or in a match, I have to focus on being in the moment for safety reasons and to do my best," he said. "I’m tired afterward, but it’s the relaxed ‘good tired’ that you feel after you’ve had a great workout."
Hinshaw tries to keep a schedule of twice-weekly lessons and two or three other days of practice even during Hawaii Polo Club’s off-season (Labor Day through March).
"Polo has connected me with wonderful people who’ve helped and inspired me," he said. "I visualize doing the moves that they make look so easy, and talented young players make me want to step up my game. I’m having a blast playing polo!"