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Canoe polo makes waves

Canoe polo makes waves

Oct 2013

Words by Nelson Das Fontes, Pics by Frans Fourie

Canoe polo is a highly competitive water sport, which sees players making a range of spectacular moves, rolling and wrestling for the ball, from their short, specially made kayaks. The result is a spray of action that is said to resemble super rugby on water.

A sport for all

Canoe polo is a water sport that anyone can take up, as you compete according to your skill. So, if you are a novice wanting to acquire paddling skills or a frantic white-water paddler wanting to enhance your skills, then canoe polo will do all that and more. 

It’s also a great sport for self-confidence because the more skilled you become, the more confident you will be to battle for the ball and you’ll also start to take more risks. Moves such as the Eskimo roll won’t seem so difficult or scary as you become more accustomed to being under water and more composed when you realise just how much time you actually have. And if you weren’t fit before taking up this sport, you’ll be amazed at how fit you become and how much your upper-body strength improves. Self-confidence and fitness aside, what you ultimately learn from playing this sport is the skills to paddle virtually anything. And the superb social scene that goes with it is an added bonus.

Global appeal 

Although little known in South Africa, canoe polo is played at an international level by more than 30 countries and draws a fanatical following across Europe. The first-ever Canoe Polo World Championship took place in 1994 and is now played every two years.

Game format

It’s played between two teams, with five players in each team. The game is made up of two halves of ten minutes. Teams try to score as many goals as possible in their opponent’s goal, which is suspended 2 m above the water. Although the field is not very big, at 23 m wide by 35 m in length, the work out you get is phenomenal.

Player safety

Canoe polo is a full contact sport, so player’s safety is a high priority. To protect players from getting hurt, they wear protective gear, life jackets, and helmets. The game is also strictly controlled by the rules, and here are few of the basic rules:

1. Players may only have the ball in their possession for a maximum of five seconds.

2. A player in possession of the ball can be hand tackled, by being pushed over on the shoulder or back, and/or kayak tackled by an opposition member.

3. There are many illegal uses of using the paddle, including any contact with an opponent.

4. Any hard tackle that results in significant contact to the side of the kayak, at an angle between 80- and 100 degrees, is penalised.

Come play

Being a relatively new sport in South Africa, there are only a few venues where you can play. However, if there is a venue near you, I encourage you to go and have a look at what this exciting game is all about. 


For more information about canoe polo, visit

Venues and contact details are as follows:

Cape Town: Samantha Braid - [email protected]
Knysna: Nelson Das Fontes - [email protected]
Durban: Kade Burnett - [email protected]
Pietermaritzburg: Kevin Meier - [email protected]
Gauteng: Chad Andrews - [email protected]


Source: DO IT NOW

Do it Now

Article provided from Do it Now - Adventure, Sport and Lifestyle Magazine.