Chasers pass the Quaffle in an effort to score through hoops. Beaters throw Bludgers to derail opposing Chasers. And Seekers wait for the Golden Snitch — a live, yellow jersey–clad human — to be released for a chance to end the game.
The latest sport to gain traction in the Los Angeles area is Quidditch, a co-ed, high-contact, somewhat chaotic game that is equal parts rugby and dodgeball and Harry Potter fandom. For at least the past decade, Quidditch has been a staple on college campuses, but now adult community teams are making inroads into the local scene.
The Guardians scrimmage at a park in Torrance on a sweltering June morning. Coach Christopher Seto shouts instructions at his players as they run drills, resulting in a pell-mell melee of “brooms,” balls and colliding bodies. The sport requires such an intensive level of sprinting and tackling that each player averages only about three to four minutes of game play at a time before subbing out. Think hockey lines but with the sun baking above you and a PVC pipe stuck between your legs.
The L.A. Guardians, I’m happy to report, currently sit atop the Western Division of the MLQ, having handily routed the Phoenix Sols in the last tournament. During the 2016 season, the Guardians edged out the San Francisco Argonauts to win the West, which is more than anything the Rams or the Clippers or the godforsaken Lakers can boast. In fact, now that I think about it, L.A.’s Quidditch team might be our winningest team at the moment. Go figure.
L.A.’s Quidditch scene wasn’t always this way. “For a long time, there were only a couple places that people who played Quidditch came from — USC or UCLA,” says Matthew Ziff, general manager of the Los Angeles Guardians. “A couple years ago, a few guys formed the Lost Boys, one of the first community Quidditch teams in the West.”
At the beginning, the Lost Boys didn’t find much success playing against other U.S. Quidditch (USQ) teams in the region, let alone the country.
“When I first joined, we were going through growing pains of being a team with enough players to hold weekly practices and compete,” says Seto, a longtime member of the Lost Boys and now the coach of the Guardians.
Like so many other things in the city, though, talent arrived. L.A. attracts transplants of every stripe, including athletically gifted, Quidditch-experienced ones. In speaking to members of the Quidditch community, I found that an oft-repeated theme was just how much stark talent exists in this city for a game whose modern iteration appeared only a few years ago. It’s comforting to think that no matter what your passion is, whether it’s entertainment or tech or Harry Potter–themed physical recreation, L.A. holds enough magnetism to capture the best of the niches.
The Lost Boys would develop and expand, eventually placing fourth at USQ’s 2015 national championships.
But of course, what good is a community without a little bit of drama? To round out L.A.’s Quidditch origin story, a few members of the Lost Boys split off to form their own team, the Gambits.
“In the history of Quidditch, the rivalry between the Lost Boys and the Gambits is one of the most interesting,” says Steven DiCarlo, co-captain and co-founder of the Gambits. “It’s a mixture of respect and a little bit of beef. If Los Angeles fans are looking for a way to get into the sport, watching these two teams compete is absolutely riveting.”
That’s right. L.A. has its very own, homegrown adult Quidditch rivalry. “The reason L.A. [Quidditch] has arrived is because there are so many competitive teams in the area,” says Amanda Nagy, a Beater for the Lost Boys and the Guardians. Seto and Ziff echo her sentiment, noting that L.A.’s density of strong teams has allowed the city to blossom into one of the most high-caliber places to play in the West.
USQ wouldn’t be enough for the young sport. A second league, MLQ, was established a few years ago to bring a more professional face to the game. Anyone is allowed to play in USQ, which includes college teams, but only the top 30 players from each region can compete on a MLQ team. Think of USQ (the Lost Boys, the Gambits) as the intimate, regular-season league and MLQ (the Guardians) as the off-season, all-star league.
At practice, I watch as Nagy — who's known on the field as “Turtles” — flings a dodgeball at a Chaser. Her Bludger finds its mark, forcing the Chaser to run and touch a hoop before rejoining the game. The sport is tumultuous from an outsider’s point of view, but everyone involved in Quidditch is more than eager to explain the nuances of what’s happening before me.
“There’s something for everyone,” DiCarlo says. “If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll love it. If you’re not a Harry Potter fan, there’s tackling [and] it’s co-ed. There’s nothing quite like it in the sports world right now.”
You can find out for yourself. The Guardians’ next game takes place against the Salt Lake Hive on July 8 at Westwood Recreation Center. Brooms up.