By Thomas Shambler
This weekend sees the 12th annual Beach Polo Cup, this year held at a custom-built stadium at Skydive Dubai. Here's what to expect
The Beach Polo Cup is back in Dubai for the 12th year running. It's a key date for social sports fans, who will be flocking to the custom-built venue at Skydive Dubai. While polo season in Dubai is almost at an end (traditionally, it lasts from December until March), playing on the beach offers new thrills over traditional polo.
"If you compare soccer to beach soccer, or volleyball to beach volleyball, the beach version is always more entertaining. It's more social. It's a lot more fun," says Sam Katiela, founder of Beach Polo Dubai. The idea to play polo on the beach originally came from St. Moritz. Each January, polo aficionados flock to the resort town in Switzerland, to watch ponies and riders compete on the frozen surface of Lake St. Moritz. It's the only snow polo tournament of its type in the world.
"We got the inspiration from the snow polo played in St. Moritz. Of course, there is no Snow in Dubai, so we went with sand," admits Katiela. "We made our field much smaller than theirs, so it's more engaging for the audience".
That's not the only improvement beach polo has over its more traditional counterpart, "Regular polo has a much bigger field. We play three riders against three, but normal polo is four against four. That means there is a lot more action on the field, but it's not as serious either," says Katiela.
The Beach Polo Cup puts a lot more emphasis on socialising than regular polo. A raised audience platform gives fans ample views of the sand, but also easy access to sofas and beverage stations. Know nothing about the sport at all? Don't worry says Katiela, "Beach polo is easier to understand. Our commentators don't just tell the audience what is happening, but why it is happening. He explains the game, the rules and the tactics, so the audience can follow along."
The opening ceremony starts Friday, April 1st at from 5-6pm. For fans looking for after-hour entertainment, the party doesn't stop when the ponies do. There are food trucks and premium beverages on offer, as well as an after party open 'till late'.