Kayak polo

Kayak polo: a 'three in one' water sport

Health Sport

What happens if you mix the best of water polo, basketball and canoeing? You're playing kayak polo, a sport that combines ball sports and rowing. Find out what this sport is, its origins, how it is played and its main health benefits.

Kayal polo player
Kayak polo is a physically demanding sport in which teamwork and communication are key.

Kayak polo is a sport known in European competitions, gaining more and more followers in other parts of the world. It is a very complete activity that combines ball sports and rowing and allows you to enjoy both water and teamwork.

Kayak polo seems to have originated in the 19th century: the first reference to what we know today as kayak polo is found in an English newspaper in 1880. It describes a game played in the Scottish ports by a group of men with a paddle playing with a ball in the water. The use of the kayak — or canoe — emerged in Germany in the 1920s.

The water sport gradually grew and evolved until its first official rules were published in 1978. In 1993, the first European kayak polo championships were held - Germany took first place - and a year later the United Kingdom was the venue for the first world championship.

Kayak polo is now gradually spreading around the world. As part of our commitment to equality through sport, Iberdrola promotes kayak polo among women and supports the organisations and competitions that promote it.

How to play kayak polo

In kayak polo, two teams compete to score as many goals as possible in the opposing team's goal. Each team is made up of five players, who move around in kayaks or canoes specially designed for this sport. The team that scores more goals wins the game.

The players compete for the ball using their hand or a paddle. Kayaks are agile, stable and have a drainage system to drain the water that may go into the kayak during the game.

The players must use their paddling and manoeuvring skills to move quickly through the water, avoiding opponent's attacks and looking for opportunities to score goals. They must be able to adapt quickly to the changing circumstances of the game. In addition, teamwork and communication are essential in such a strategic sport.

Key elements to play kayak polo

Kayak polo is one of the most strategic and competitive water sports. It is a very complete activity that combines ball sports and rowing. Discover it!


There are two teams, each consisting of five players competing for the ball by using their hand or the paddle. The aim of the game is to get the ball into the opponent's goal. If the kayak overturns, the player must leave the playing area.

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It is similar to water polo and there are two different sizes, depending on whether it is for men's or women's game. The ball can be controlled by hand or by paddle, but cannot be carried inside the canoe; only for passing it to a teammate.

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In addition to the kayak and the paddle, the player must carry a basic safety system: a helmet with a face guard and a numbered lifejacket. The neoprene cockpit cover is used to keep water from entering the kayak.

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The paddle

The paddle may not exceed 2.10 m in length and its edges must be rounded. The longest ones are used by goalkeepers to intercept the ball at the goal.

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The kayak

It is around 3 m long, weighs approximately 10 kg and is usually made of fibreglass, carbon fibre, Kevlar fibre or both. Its edges are rounded and have rubber protection to prevent damage when colliding with other boats.

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The pitch

This sport is played on a rectangular pitch that requires a maximum length of 35m and a maximum width of 23m. The ideal place is an area with calm water and a minimum depth of 90 cm.

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Hitting or pushing an opponent with your hand or paddle, pushing off from another player and touching the ball with the paddle when an opponent tries to catch it with their hand are fouls.

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The game lasts 20 minutes split into two halves of 10 minutes each.

 SEE IINFOGRAPHIC: Key elements to play kayak polo [PDF]

Health benefits of kayak polo

As this is a physically demanding sport, kayak polo has a series of positive effects for those who play it. Some of these benefits are:

Increases balance and motor skills

Thanks to kayak polo it is possible to improve balance, as the player is constantly trying to keep their balance during training, as well as motor coordination.

Increases physical endurance and strengthens core muscles

This sport can significantly increase physical endurance and can even help you lose weight and gain strength. In addition, although it may seem that you only workout your arms, many other muscles are also being used to complete the rowing movement. It is a complete exercise that allows you to tone your shoulders, back, chest, abs and legs.

Reduces stress and improves mood and well-being

We all know that exercise is one of the most recommended activities to reduce stress and increase well-being, but kayak polo has an extra advantage: it is played in full contact with nature.

Develops mental agility

In order to adapt to the changing circumstances of the game, players have to constantly make quick strategic decisions, which facilitates mental agility.

Low risk of injury

Another great thing about kayaking or canoeing is that they are generally low-impact physical activities for your joints and skeletal system, resulting in very few physical injuries. You just have to be a bit careful with your shoulders.

Promoting equality in kayak polo

At Iberdrola, we want to serve as an inclusive force that allows us to foster diversity and fight social inequalities. For this reason, in 2016 we started supporting women's sport as a way to improve women's recognition and promote their empowerment and autonomy.

Kayak polo is no exception, as we promote this sport among women and support the organisations and competitions that promote it. Thus, in Spain – where Iberdrola is the pioneer in supporting women in sport –, we work together with the Spanish Rowing Federation to sponsor the different Iberdrola Women's Canoeing Leagues, including kayak polo.