The water sport growing in popularity in Bristol that you have driven past without ever seeing

You’ve heard of a canoe and you’ve heard of polo, but have you ever heard of canoe polo?
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You may have been stuck at traffic lights on the Plimsoll Bridge at Cumberland Basin and heard the sounds of shouting and splashing below.

But like thousands of other motorists who use the busy road everyday, you leave without knowing what is happening in the water below.

The answer is a sport called canoe polo, which is growing steadily in popularity with players completing from four clubs in our city.

For underneath Plimsoll Bridge is the city’s only permanent canoe polo pitch where games take place every Saturday morning.

Canoe polo under the Plimsoll Bridge in BristolCanoe polo under the Plimsoll Bridge in Bristol
Canoe polo under the Plimsoll Bridge in Bristol

What is canoe polo?

The new sport has its origins right here in the UK with an early version of the game was created by Oliver J Cock MBE in the late 1940s.

It consists of two teams with five players each.

The aim of the game is to score in the opponent’s net which is suspended above water. The ball, which is the same as the one used in water polo, can be handled by the paddle and passed between players or can be thrown by hand.

The game requires a mix of teamwork, speed and careful strategy. Played for twenty minutes with a three minute break at half time, canoe polo (also known as kayak polo) demands endurance.

Where can it be played in Bristol?

In Bristol we’re lucky to have a permanent canoe polo pitch on the Cumberland Basin.

One of the organisations responsible for the permanent pitch, Avon Canoe Polo Club is one of the oldest going back to the early 1980s. They practice at Kingswood Leisure Centre on Wednesdays and Sundays with the Sunday session open to anyone who is interested.

There are currently four clubs that play canoe polo in Bristol.

Who is suitable?

Steve Watts, from the club, said canoe polo is for ‘anyone young and old’ with leagues that catering youth, women and open (mixed).

The one caveat is that any person interested in trying canoe polo must have basic kayaking skills. The club offers equipment on a first come first serve basis during practice days so you’ll need to be quick if you want to have a go.

What are the benefits?

Besides ‘meeting a great bunch of people [and] learning a new skill’, Steve also said it has ‘all the health benefits associated with keeping active in sport’.

He added that ‘the sport is growing steadily at the moment’ but that ‘there is always a burst of activity after Christmas when people think about getting fit again’.

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