Surf polo was originally played by Duke Kahanamoku in Hawaii on flat days with his brothers in the early 1900s. Louis Kahanamoku is credited to be the first to add surfboards to water polo. In 2013, nearly 100 years after its inception, Jeff Brooks and Jacob Kelly Quinlan brought the spirit of Surf Polo to the indoor pool environment to keep the river surf community going while rivers were frozen over for the winter. The river surfers were quick to appreciate the mental and physical benefits of paddling a surfboard in the pool for 60 minutes and often meet up after the game building relationships with each other. The most desired outcome from surf polo was a significant increase in paddle strength for surfers going on winter trips to ride the ocean swell. The surf polos players were able to catch more waves, stay out longer and increase the value of their expensive plane ride.
There are five active players and a goalie on each team with the option to have spares on the side to tag in and out. The game begins with a paddle battle. The teams line up on either end of the pool, the ball is tossed into the middle of the pool and the players race to the ball. Players use passing and paddling to get the ball in the opponent’s net. When a goal is scored the offensive team needs to clear the zone for the play to resume.
Note: Depending on your community keeping score is optional. The activity itself is more of a fitness workout that a game of sorting out the winners from the losers.
Interference / “Dead Ball”
As this is a fitness exercise to level up board control and paddling, the rules state that the player must always be in control of their board to be in play. “In Control” positions are sitting up right on the board like waiting for a wave behind the break or laying on the board in the paddling position. Upright in the water while off the board and with hands or feet on the board is not an acceptable position. A player who loses their board is out of play and therefore interfering if they keep control of the ball or block other players from getting to the ball. Players may shout “dead ball” if a player holds on to the ball after losing control of their board.
Through years of play, the surf polo community experimented with different levels of physical contact. Two options for game play are: “zero contact rule” or “Canadian rules”. “Zero Contact Rule” means you cannot interfere with an opponent’s body or surfboard. “Canadian rules” dictate a player can push or dunk an opponent’s surfboard. The pushing of the board increases core strength and simulates being rocked by a wave in the ocean. No contact can be made with the person. No contact with the goalie or their board is allowed. Players can push a board with an open hand but not grab or grip the board. It is a good idea to use “zero contact rules” for beginners or anyone unstable on their board
Surf Anywhere can pass on the knowledge for organizing, running and booking Surf Polo in your river surfing community. Surf Anywhere has helped with pool bookings, applying for grant funding, obtaining insurance, setting up tournaments and events, and offer letters of support.