Beach polo: the sport of sand kings

Beach Polo Cup Dubai this weekend proves the old sport of gentry can be as modern as a hipster.

Robert Chilton March 30, 2016

If you find it hard to follow the action in polo matches because the small ball is hard to see, you might want to trot along to the Beach Polo Cup in Dubai. 

The ball in this caffeinated version of the sport that was invented in 2004, is big, pink and bouncy, which leads to unexpected U-turns and mistimed swings of the mallet from the two teams of three players.

Professional player, Argentinean Maxi Malacalza, will be in action at the tournament at Skydive Dubai and told EDGAR it’s a wild ride. 

Is beach polo seen as a bit of a gimmick in the polo world?

No, beach polo is a proper sport. It’s a lot of fun to play, but we take it just as seriously as field polo on grass. We still want to win and we push just as hard as we do on grass.

Is it hard to hit the ball in beach polo?

No, it’s much easier because it’s bigger. It’s lighter and softer than the ball we use on the grass. But in beach polo, the wind takes the ball away so you have to keep it with you under control. Sometimes it goes into the crowd. We say sorry and they throw it back – they love it. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt. 

How does the atmosphere in beach polo compare to field polo?

It’s completely different. In field polo the crowd do not feel so connected. But beach polo is played on a small field 100 metres by 50 metres and the crowd is next to the fence. They can almost touch us and smell the horses and hear the shouts from the players. The crowd kind of feel as though they’re playing too.

Which version of the sport is more tiring?

Beach polo for sure. We play four chukkas of ten minutes non-stop. It’s 40 minutes of fighting. We play man-to-man so we’re all constantly fighting for the ball. You only realise later after the match how tired you are. 

Is the sand surface tricky?

It’s hard and compacted so it’s not hard for the horses. We can still ride very fast. 

Do you play polo on any other surfaces?

We sometimes play polo on snow which is more difficult to play. We use the same ball on the same size field as in beach polo.

Is it cold?

No, we wear long sleeves. Trust me, we get warm pretty quickly. 

Last question. Diego Maradona is a Dubai resident. Have you ever met your countryman?

Yes, I met him in 2014 at the beach polo in Dubai and we got a photo together. I’m Argentinean so it was a great moment for me. Messi is the king of football at the moment but Maradona? He’s a legend. 

Beach Polo Cup Dubai 2016, April 1&2, Skydive Dubai.