Another underwater sport to play for fun and competition is Underwater Rugby. It is played regularly in the eastern United States and Canada with scattered play elsewhere.

Underwater rugby was invented in Köln, Germany in1961 and became popular in the Nordic countries as ‘UW-Polo.’ The first Championship was in 1978, and, the game has evolved and now involves more than 13 countries. Underwater Rugby is a three dimensional underwater sport. There are 15 players on a team: six in the water with Six ‘exchange’ (substitute) players and three reserves. The reserve players cannot play in a game already started with 12 players.  Underwater Rugby is a popular sport in Europe and is played regularly in the United States. The sport participates at the World level, and the next World Championships are scheduled for 2019 in Italy.


The players wear mask, fins, snorkels, wrist bands and numbered water polo caps and must have matching swim suits - white or dark (dark blue/ black). The Home team wears the dark colors - suits, wrist bands and caps. Ear protectors are required. Fins may be as long as desired.



The playing area is between 3.5 and 5 meters deep (10 - 15’) and 12-18 meters long (36 - 54’) by 8 to 12 meters wide (24 -36’). The goals are basket-like (16-18” or 40-45 cm in diameter) and placed on the bottom of the pool at either end. The goals resemble old fashioned, open wire school waste baskets with padded rims.


The ball is about 10” in circumference - black & white or solid red. A little larger than a softball, filled with salt water, negatively buoyant


Play is started by a water referee placing the ball in the center on the bottom of the pool; each team lines up at their end of the pool along the edge. At a sound, all go for the ball, passing it toward the opposing goal in a leap frogging manner. To score, the ball must be totally below the basket rim, and the ball must never be played totally above the water. The goalie defends the goal but may not hold onto it or put their body into the basket.

There are three referees: two in the water and one chief on the pool deck. During zone or world championships, water referees use scuba. Substitution is on the ‘fly’ from the end of  ‘exchange lanes’ parallel to playing area. The game is two 15 minute halves with a five minutes half time. Penalties are assessed for a variety of fouls and 2 minutes out of the water while the team plays short. Fouls include attack (removal of) on opponent’s mask, fins or snorkel.


There are different team configurations, but generally a team has 2 forwards (center/right), 2 backs and 2 goalkeeper/left wing. The idea is to keep possession of the ball and outwit your opponents by using skill, speed, maneuverability and team work.



The rules are fairly simple. It is a contact sport: a player can attack another player if they have the ball. Kicks, hits, or playing above the surface are penalized. If the referee judges an almost sure goal is stopped, a penalty goal can be awarded.

The rules and game videos are available online. 



  • Official Underwater Rugby Ball: Red or Black & White.... $35.00 @  
  • How to purchase



Circumferences for

   women:            men:                Negative buoyancy:

490-510 mm    520-540 mm   1000 – 1250 mm

Equipment needed to fill uw rugby ball:

1. Football (soccer) pump – if available plastic basketball filler needle (2 mm x 30 mm long) alternative: Spraying pump, e.g. garden spray. A brass tube 2 mm x 30 mm long must be soldered into the spray-jet opening. Such tubes can be bought in any building materials store. Or ask at a butcher shop to borrow their usual liquid-injection pump  and connect a hose adapter with the filling needle. brass tube 2 mm x 200 mm long (tubes must be rounded on one edge), 1800 g common salt with 5 litres water heated to app. 50 °C

Filling Procedure:

2.   Completely dissolve the salt before filling the spraying pump. During filling operation, the ball must be put into cold water to maintain plastic shell elasticity.

Insert (soaped) filling needle carefully into ball valve. Press out all remaining air. Fill football (soccer) pump with salt water and press into ball. Repeat process until circumference has reached 570 mm. After 24 hours, insert one end rounded 200 mm tube (ball valve down). Insert into the ball and allow remainder of air to escape. Also drain saltwater until circumference of 520 - 540 mm is reached.

"Gurgling" must not be heard any more! A filled ball weighs 3000 g ± 20 g.



3. Surface Treatment – to improve grip:

Rub the dry surface with emery paper 600 until no shine is visible when held against sun. Carefully cut away all fringes.

Attention: Use of coarser grained emery paper ruins the ball!

Ball will be ready for use after 12 hours of drying.

4. Handling and Care:

To maintain its roundness, the ball must be hanged in a net! From time to time or before start of the seasonal competitions, ball must be thoroughly cleaned with soap.

CMAS Under Water Rugby Commission August 2011

** Balls are only manufactured in Germany – contact USOA for information and/or purchase.





Joseph Gomes

Bridgewater, MA 02324

email: JSGomes117@aol.com

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Web site last updated 9/06/2015