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Underwater rugby: What it is & how to play

Underwater Rugby is a competitive snorkeling underwater sport with two teams of players aiming to score goals by placing the ball into the opponent's basket.

Have you ever imagined combining the thrill of rugby with the exhilaration of being underwater?

Welcome to the world of underwater rugby, a sport as intriguing as it sounds! 

Unlike anything you've encountered on land, this aquatic adventure takes rugby to a whole new level – literally, beneath the surface. 

Imagine holding your breath, diving into the depths of a pool, and chasing a ball in a three-dimensional playing field. It's not just about strength and speed; it's a test of endurance, strategy, and, most importantly, the ability to stay calm under pressure. Intrigued?

Let's dive into the captivating world of underwater rugby, where every match is an underwater ballet of agility and teamwork. 

Whether you're a seasoned swimmer or just looking for something new and exciting, this sport has something for everyone. So, take a deep breath, and let's explore the depths of this unique aquatic sport together!

Source: Russel Charters from Flickr

Introduction of underwater rugby

Underwater rugby is not just a sport; it's an innovative twist on a traditional game that challenges players in ways they never thought possible.

Originating in Germany in the 1960s, it has evolved from a fun training exercise for divers into a fully-fledged competitive sport, enjoyed in pools across the world. 

The game ingeniously combines elements of swimming, diving, and the ball-handling skills of rugby, all within the unique environment of a swimming pool. At its core, underwater rugby is a test of aquatic agility and strategy. Played in a deep pool, two teams vie for control of a saltwater-filled ball, aiming to score goals at the bottom of the pool. 

This three-dimensional playing field adds a layer of complexity unseen in traditional team sports. Players must navigate not just horizontally across the pool, but also vertically, diving down to score or ascend to catch a breath.

It's this blend of physical prowess and tactical thinking that makes underwater rugby both challenging and exhilarating.

But it's not just about the physical challenge. Underwater rugby is also a sport of inclusivity and teamwork. It attracts a diverse range of players from different backgrounds and skill levels, all united by their love for the sport.

As a non-contact sport, it emphasizes skill and strategy over brute strength, making it accessible to a wide audience. And with its growing popularity, underwater rugby is not just a sport but a community, bringing together people who share a passion for this unique aquatic adventure.

Equipment list for underwater rugby

Diving into the world of underwater rugby, you'll find that the right equipment is key to both performance and safety. The essentials are surprisingly simple, yet each piece plays a crucial role in the game. Let’s take a look!

1. Mask and snorkel

The foundation of your gear, a mask and snorkel are indispensable in underwater rugby. The mask ensures clear vision beneath the surface, while the snorkel allows breathing when floating. Look for a comfortable fit in the mask with a broad field of vision and a snorkel that's easy to use.

2. Fins

Fins are crucial for movement in the water, providing the speed and agility needed in the game. They should offer a balance of power and comfort, enhancing your underwater mobility without exhausting you quickly.

3. Special ball

Unique to the sport, the underwater rugby ball is filled with saltwater for neutral buoyancy. This design keeps it suspended in the water, adding a distinct challenge to the game. Handling and passing this ball effectively is a skill in itself.

4. Protective gear

Safety is a top priority, so protective gear is essential. Ear guards, often part of water polo caps, help protect your ears, while mouthguards are advised to prevent any accidental injuries during play.

5. Swimwear

A comfortable, close-fitting swimsuit is important to reduce water resistance. Some players may choose to wear neoprene shorts or vests for extra warmth and buoyancy control, but this is based on personal preference.

Incorporating these items into your underwater rugby kit will not only enhance your performance but also ensure a safer and more enjoyable experience in this exhilarating sport.

Source: Russel Charters from Flickr

How to play underwater rugby?

Mastering underwater rugby is both challenging and thrilling. It's a sport that requires not just physical strength but also strategic thinking and teamwork. Here's a basic guide on how to play this captivating sport:

1. Understanding the objective

The main goal in underwater rugby is to score goals by placing the ball in the opponent's basket, which is located at the bottom of the pool. This requires a combination of swimming, diving, and ball-handling skills.

2. Team composition

Each team consists of up to 15 players, with six players in the water at any given time. The team is typically divided into forwards, who focus on offense, and backs, responsible for defense. Rotations and substitutions are key to maintaining energy and strategy throughout the game.

3. Starting the game

The game begins with a 'jump ball' at the center of the pool. Both teams line up at their respective ends, and at the signal, players dive to reach the ball placed in the middle.

4. Gameplay dynamics

Players must maneuver the ball underwater, passing it to teammates and advancing towards the opponent's basket.

Unlike traditional rugby, there's no running or kicking; it's all about swimming and diving skills. Players can tackle opponents holding the ball, but must do so in a manner that is safe and follows the rules of the sport.

5. Scoring

A goal is scored when the ball is placed in the opposing team's basket. This requires precise teamwork and timing, as defending players will be guarding their basket.

6. Breath control

A unique aspect of underwater rugby is breath control. Players need to strategically manage their air, deciding when to dive for the ball and when to surface for air.

7. Game duration

 A standard game consists of two halves, each lasting about 15 minutes, with a break in between. The team with the most goals at the end of the game wins.

Source: Russel Charters from Flickr

Where to play underwater rugby?

"Finding the right place to play underwater rugby is key to enjoying the sport to its fullest. This unique game requires specific facilities and a supportive community. Here’s how you can locate the perfect spot to dive into the action:

1. Public swimming pools

Start by checking your local public swimming pools. Many pools are equipped to host underwater rugby, especially those with diving areas. Pools with a depth of at least 3.5 to 5 meters are ideal for the sport.

2. Underwater rugby clubs

Look for clubs dedicated to underwater rugby. These clubs often have regular practice sessions and welcome new members, from beginners to experienced players. Joining a club is also a great way to learn the game and become part of the underwater rugby community.

3. University and college teams

Some universities and colleges have underwater rugby teams as part of their sports programs. These teams often compete in intercollegiate tournaments and can be a great avenue for students to get involved in the sport.

4. Community centers and sports club

Local community centers and sports clubs sometimes offer underwater rugby or can point you in the direction of nearby facilities or teams.


As we wrap up our dive into underwater rugby, let's remember what makes this sport so special. It's not just a game played underwater; it's a whole new way to challenge your body and mind. Whether you're already a sports lover or just curious about trying something new, underwater rugby has something for everyone.

What really stands out in underwater rugby is how it brings people together. It's more than just swimming around with a ball; it's about being part of a team and joining a friendly community that welcomes everyone, no matter where you're from.

For anyone excited to give underwater rugby a try, go for it! It's a chance to learn, stay fit, and have a lot of fun. The sport is growing, and there's always room for new players to join in.

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Do I need to be a good swimmer to play underwater rugby?

While being a proficient swimmer is beneficial, beginners are also welcome. Basic swimming skills and comfort in the water are enough to start, and you can improve as you go.

2. How long does a typical underwater rugby game last?

A standard game consists of two halves, each lasting about 15 minutes, with a break in between.

3 . Can underwater rugby be played in any pool?

Ideally, it should be played in a pool with a depth of 3.5 to 5 meters to allow for proper three-dimensional movement and gameplay.

4. Is underwater rugby a team sport?

Absolutely! It's a sport that highly values teamwork and strategy, with each player playing an important role in the game.

5. Is underwater rugby suitable for children?

While it's more common among adults, there are junior versions of the game suitable for children, emphasizing safety and fun.


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