Kayak polo is played 5-on-5 (each team can have subs).
The aim is to get the ball in the net – the team with the most goals wins (but who counts on Saturdays?).
To start – teams line up with the stern (rear) of their boats on their goal line.
The ball is thrown onto the mid-line, and one player from each team sprints to gain possession of the ball. Whoever gains possession is in attack; the other team is in defense.
After a goal is scored, the game restarts at the mid-line with each team’s players on their own side; the attacking team holds the ball in the air and play begins.
When the ball goes out of bounds (side lines or goal lines), play resumes at that point with the team that last touched the ball in defense; the attacking team holds the ball in the air and play begins.
Breaking the game rules (see below) leads to fouls – this means a stop in play, and possession of the ball for the other team.
Basic 1-3-1 Defense
One player under the goal with their paddle up to block shots – this is the goalie. Anyone can be the goalie, and the goalie can change throughout the game.
Three defenders sit in front of the goalie – the 2 wings (right and left) and the center. Their job is to maintain a zone and not let attackers get through the zone.
Defenders need to talk to each other: call positions, call when they need help, call when it makes sense to switch positions, etc. It helps if the goalie calls some instructions, too.
One defender sits in front of the zone – the chase. Their job is to plug holes that form in the defense and stop drives on goal from attackers.
All 4 defenders jostle attackers with their boats to keep them from getting inside the defense, and can put paddles up to block shots.
Other Important Game Rules
Players may never hit other players’ hands or bodies with their paddle blade. Absolutely no hand chopping! Paddle blades must be out of arms reach (very important when players are reaching for the ball on the water).
No hand tackling the opposition players on Saturday nights – i.e., no pushing people over.
No driving your boat into another player’s cockpit area, riding up on their sprayskirt, or hitting their body with your boat.
No T-boning (driving a boat hard at 90 degrees into another boat).
No attacking player can touch the goalie’s boat with their boat or push a defender into the goalie.
No attacking player can prevent someone who is trying to be goalie from getting to goal.
Players must get rid of the ball within 5 seconds – either pass to another player or dribble to yourself (the ball must move 1 meter horizontally).
You may not touch or lean on the other team’s boats – you can reach across the bow or the stern to get the ball, so long as you don’t touch the boat.
You may not block the opposition getting to the ball unless you are going for the the ball yourself and get to it first; if another from your team gains possession while you were obstructing an opposing player from doing so, a foul will be called.
No paddling with a ball on your sprayskirt or under your arm.