Day 104: The Sandy Sports Page

originally published April 13, 2012

I thought I’d found a goldmine with today’s Wiki-selection. “Beach sports” could be such a fascinating topic, a tome of strange and fascinating goings-on from around the world, a stash of quirky time-killers employed by those fortunate enough to live in much warmer, much more awesome places than I.

Unfortunately, beach-goers appear to suffer from a disappointing lack of imagination. Sure, beach volleyball is a logical adaptation of an already-existing sport. And from what I’ve heard, watching the women play in those skimpy bikinis is quite the visual spectacle (I, of course, prefer to engage in more scholarly sporting pursuits on television).

Most beach sports – at least the ones that are listed here – are simply sandy variations of stuff that already exists. Beach basketball is just basketball in a round court with no out-of-bounds rules. The ball gets passed a lot, and there’s no dribbling, due to sand’s stubborn refusal to be bouncy.

Beach soccer is – surprise – soccer played on a beach. The pitch is smaller though, and the gameplay is considerably faster, so you probably don’t end up with all the 1-0 games you get in regular soccer. The article mentions that it’s a contact sport, but probably not enough so to satisfy my inner sports-nut’s bloodlust.

Beach handball looks to be like beach soccer, except you can pick the ball up and throw it into the opposing team’s goal, ideally off an opposing player’s head. I might watch this one if they showed it on ESPN.

There isn’t a lot of organized beach rugby, but the sport gets its own Wikipedian page. I think beach rugby is simply an excuse for bored guys at the beach who want to inflict some sanctioned violence on fellow beach-goers. Were it plausible, I’m sure Traffic Rugby, DMV Rugby and Pre-Christmas-Shopping-Mall Rugby would also be popular.

Beach tennis once again removes the bouncing element, so it simply becomes beach volleyball with a smaller ball, and racquets instead of hands. If you can’t afford a net and for some reason only find yourself with a squash ball, you can play the official Israeli sport of Matkot. Matkot’s article includes none of the official rules, so I assume you simply hit the ball back and forth with your opponent until you get bored and decide to check out what’s on TV.

If you’ve been playing beach volleyball all week and just want something different without having to invest in little wooden paddles, you can always try the Brazilian pastime of footvolley. That’s just what it sounds like: volleyball with your feet. It sounds like a lot of effort to me, though in all fairness I’d probably get winded playing the punch game on The Price Is Right.

Beach cricket, which is also known as backyard cricket, street cricket, gully cricket, garden cricket, or deef (no explanation on that last one), is completely out of the question. I can’t fathom what’s going on when they play cricket on grass – kicking a bunch of sand all over the proceedings isn’t going to make things any clearer.

Actually, beach cricket is even more bewildering, as often there aren’t even teams. Players take turns at bat (or wedge, or paddle, or tallywacker… I don’t know what they call those things), and often no one keeps track of pedestrian notions like ‘scores’ or ‘bugger-wickets’ or ‘twiggy-muckles,’ or whatever they keep track of in regular cricket.

I should vow to never talk about cricket again.

Beach golf is a great idea if you love the beach but find you don’t spend enough time walking along the sand, looking for a lost object. A typical beach golf hole – and a beach golf event is generally only one hole – is about 2km in length, or about 1.25 miles. The beach isn’t cleared of normal, non-golfing, sane people. You play over them and through them, gambling on their self-restraint and hoping you don’t clock an angry-type drunk guy in the side of the head.

The good news is that your ball probably won’t kill anybody if it hits them. The bad news is that it will still probably hit somebody, and they may seek to do you bodily harm because of it. Beach golfers use a 3-inch polyurethane ball until they reach the green, at which point they switch to a regular ball, non-goofy-looking ball.

Beach polo requires horses, which are somewhat more expensive than matkot paddles or brightly-colored beach golf balls. For that reason, I’ll just mention that it exists, and move on from there.

For the Canadian beachcomber (and those Canadians who watched TV in the 80s will appreciate the double-meaning of that term, and they’ll hopefully tune in daily from now on to marvel at the depth of my prose), there’s always beach hockey. Invented on a Manitoba beach (a lake-beach, of course), this is standard 4-on-4 hockey in the sand.

Pro Beach hockey was a short-lived ESPN experiment that really had nothing to do with a beach – it was inline-skating hockey on an outdoor rink that just happened to be next to a beach. So it doesn’t count.

If you want a sport that’s less of a sport and more about knocking your friends on their asses, you may want to give beach flags a try. This is a conditioning exercise for aspiring beach lifeguards, so it’s only going to be as fun as a conditioning exercise can be. It’s simply a matter of sprinting across the sand and grabbing flags. Except there are fewer flags than people, so you can expect this to become a contact sport pretty quickly.

I think this could be televised if we upped the stakes. Make the flags live snakes, and whoever doesn’t grab a snake gets cast into the ocean or fed to sharks.

A lot of options. Too many to choose from. The best answer might just lie in the Asian Beach Games, a biannual multi-sport beach-lympics, featuring a number of the games I already mentioned, plus dragon boat racing, wrestling, roller skating and… jet ski races? Am I wrong, or do full-contact jet ski races not belong in the Summer Olympics?

I think I’ve just inspired myself. Warm weather is coming, and I’m going in search of a beach.

And on that beach will be born the sport of beach curling.

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