It’s not a joke, underwater rugby is a real sport (read full article on Wikipedia). It even has world championships featuring teams from Norway, Italy, Colombia & more. Note that it’s also abbreviated UWR for UnderWater Rugby.
I bumped into it while going to my local swimming pool to try Apnea. After that trial session, the instructor mentioned that I could also join the underwater rugby training a couple of times to “see if it was something I’d like”.
I was not convinced after watching those people – wearing funny (silly) caps & speedos – fighting for a weighed ball 5m below the surface on a single breath hold. See videos of the game on YouTube. But those guys seemed to have a lot of fun while having a great workout & said no-one never ever drown. So I thought “why not?”.
How underwater rugby works
Players wear special gear: a mask, a snorkel, a cap, & a pair of fins.
I commented below on a few quotes from Wikipedia as it explains the rest very clearly.
“It is played under water in a pool with a depth of 3.5m to 5m and goals (heavy metal buckets with a diameter of about 40 cm) at the bottom of the pool. Two teams (blue and white), each with six players (plus six substitutes), try to score a goal by sending the slightly negatively buoyant ball (filled with saltwater) into the opponents’ goal.”
Yes, one must score by putting that weighted ball in a bucket at the bottom of the swimming pool. I know, it sounds nuts.
“It is a fast and exhausting game; therefore, the subs replace their players on the fly.”
Unless you’re not human, you’ll be exhausted after a couple of major “action”. At that point, you swim to your team’s side of the pool & someone replaces you.
“The ball may be passed in any direction but must not leave the water. It “flies” about 2m or 3m before water resistance stops it. This makes good tactics and good (three-dimensional) positioning essential.”
The 3D thing is crazy, it takes a while to get used to having players possibly “above” or “below” you. I’ve played many team games before but never experienced such steep learning curve regarding positioning. It makes this sport even more entertaining.
Training for a year
I ended up getting hooked after several training sessions. The combination of many aspects made it so much fun: team game, novelty, fin-swimming, breath holding, intensity, & more. I ended up playing twice a week for one year before I had to leave for long-term travels.
As mentioned before, the learning curve is pretty steep. A regular person has to train at least 2 times per week to progress at a good pace. I was an average swimmer when I signed up (doing a kilometre crawl in 25 min). I definitely needed some time to get used to using fins, holding my breath & many other things. But that’s what I really enjoyed about it: there was so many new things to get used to & to learn.
The only down side was that I got a couple of small injuries (i.e. twisted finger) when playing as I did silly mistakes. I learned the hard way: don’t put your hand in the middle of 3 players wrestling for the ball! I loved playing this sport so much that it really made me sad to not be able to train for weeks. But hey, that’s part of the game 😉
Freediving: the other outcome
Another outcome was also that I kept going to the Apnea/Freediving training session on rare occasions. The members of this club were super nice so I’d come back to experience something different, see how my performances evolved & just have fun. As expected, when I signed up straight away when saw I could take a Freediving course while in Indonesia.
I loved it even though it was very different from what I expected. It was very unlike underwater rugby or anything else I had done before. It opened up many doors in my mind: it was a very pragmatic way to discover meditation/visualization technics, learn how much someone’s breath holding performances can improve in just a few days, & how extremely accessible this sport is.