Canoe/Kayak Polo has been played in countries all over the world for over 25 years. Internationally agreed rules (via the International Canoe Federation–I.C.F.) were introduced in 1987.
Kayak Polo (or Canoe Polo, as it is known internationally) is a team game played in kayaks with water polo ball in a rectangular area approximately 130 ft (40 m) by 80 ft (25 m) of a pool or lake. Goals are suspended 6.5 ft (2 m) above each goal line. Kayaks have padding on the bow and stern to avoid injuring other players. Players wear helmets with facemasks and PFD’s (personal floatation devices) with increased chest, back, and kidney padding for personal protection.
A kayak polo team consists of five to ten players. At any given time during play, five players are allowed on the court for each team. Games consist of two 8-10 minute halves. As in basketball or soccer, the aim is to outscore your opponent. To do this, teamwork and tactics are essential. Paddlers move the ball with either their hands or the paddle blade.
Players move the ball by passing it to a team member, throwing it to the front of the boat and paddling to it (known as dribbling), or shooting it at the oppositions goal. After gaining possession of the ball, a player has five seconds before they must pass, dribble, or shoot. During that five seconds, opposing players will attempt to push over (known as a hand tackle), or ram into the ball handlers kayak (known as a kayak tackle) to force the thrower to lose control of the ball, or make an errant pass. This contact is only allowed on the person with the ball. Penalties are called on any player who strikes (with their boat, body, or paddle) an opposing player who is not in possession of the ball.
One of the best characteristics of Kayak Polo is a team aspect of the sport which puts one team directly in competition against another team. All other kayaking disciplines pit the individual (or individuals) against the clock. Because of the team nature and short playing time, Canoe Polo is a fast-paced and excellent spectator sport that is gaining interest throughout the world.