Basic Rules

Kayak Polo is a competitive ball game between 2 teams, each of five players (with up to 3 subs per team). Players paddle polo kayaks, on a well-defined area of water, attempting to score goals against the opposition. The winning team in a game is the team that scores the most goals.

A goal is scored when the whole of the ball passes through the goal frame.

The one defending player most directly under the goal is considered to be the goalkeeper at that time.  The opposing team can't move the goalkeeper's boat.

A game consists of two 10 minute halves with players switching sides at halftime.

The game begins with all players lining up under their goal line. When the referee whistles and throws the ball in at the center of the pitch, a person from each team will paddle towards the ball and attempt to win the ball. This is repeated at the start of the second half.

When a goal is scored, each team retreats to their half of the pitch. The non-scoring team brings the ball forward into the opposing team's pitch when the referee blows the whistle.

When the ball goes out of bounds,  the other team throws in the ball if it went out on the side line.  If the ball goes out on the end line and the defense was the last to touch it, then it is a corner throw.


The playing area shall be rectangular and have a length of 23 meters by 35 meters (most of an olympic sized pool).   One referee is on each side.

Goals are located over the center of each goal-line with their lower inside edge 2 meters (6.5 feet) above the surface of the water. The goals are 1 meter (3 ft) high by 1.5 meters (5 ft) wide hung vertically.

Equipment: The ball should be an official water polo ball. Kayaks shall be no longer than 3 meters (10 feet) and no shorter than 2 meters (6.5 feet). Padding must be firmly fixed to the bow and stern of all kayaks. All players must wear suitable helmets and face masks and a PFD (personal flotation device).


When any foul occurs, it results in the ball given to the other team.  That team starts play again with a "free throw" or "free shot".   The difference is only that a "throw" cannot be directly at goal.
Severe fouls may result in a penalty shot which is from 6 meters without a goalkeeper (near certain goal).

Taking throws: 
The player taking any goal line-throw, corner-throw, sideline-throw, free-throw or free-shot must hold the ball above their head, at arms length, with their kayak stationary, before taking the throw.   The ball must travel one meter before an opposing player can block it.

Here are most of the fouls.

Illegal Possession:
A player must dispose of the ball within 5 seconds of being in possession of it (i.e. with the ball within arm’s reach) either by passing, shooting or throwing it one meter horizontally.

A player may not paddle with the ball resting on the spray deck of the boat.

Illegal Kayak Tackle:
If the defense is not in possession of the ball and the goalkeeper is moved or unbalanced by contact from an opposing player.

Any kayak-tackle that results in significant contact with the opponent's spray deck or the body and/or endangering a player.

Any hard tackle to the side of the kayak if it is at angles between 80 and 100 degrees.

When outside the 6 meter area in front of the attacking players goal line, 1) tackling an opponent who is not within three (3) meters of the ball. or 2) impeding the progress of an opponent who is competing for the ball on the water and you are not competing for the ball.

Illegal Use of the Paddle:
Placing a paddle within arms reach of an opponent who has the ball in their hand. A goalkeeper is excluded from this rule as long as the paddle is not moved towards the opponent at the time of the shot.

Playing or attempting to play the ball with a paddle across the bow of an opponent’s kayak, within arms reach of the opponent in a normal paddling position.

Throwing a paddle.

Illegal Jostling: (between the six (6) meter line and the goal line)
When a player is stationary or attempting to maintain a position and their body is moved by more than half a meter by sustained contact from an opponent’s kayak.

Illegal Holding: 
A player restricting the movement of an opposing player or gaining support or propulsion by playing their hand, arm, body or paddle on the kayak, or holding the opposing player or equipment.