Feature story contributed by Red Sports reader, Gloria Lee. Pictures contributed by Ong Kheng Boon and Sit Weng San.

For the uninitiated, Canoe Polo is a hybrid sport that fuses the concepts found in water polo, basketball and kayaking to produce a fast paced, high-energy contact team sport. Canoe Polo games are usually held in swimming pools or lakes on a demarcated field of play.

A canoe polo player gets ready to shoot while an opponent defends © Ong Kheng Boon

An official game lasts a maximum of 20 minutes, comprising two 10-minute halves. Two referees preside over the game on foot at the two opposite sidelines of the defined playing area.

Each half starts with 5 players from each of the 2 teams in their respective kayaks lined up on their goal line. A representative from each team would anticipate the shrill of the starting whistle which would command the swift and unflinching sprint to win possession of the ball in the centre of the playing field. The ball, a standard water polo ball, is then kept in play by being passed between the players of the same team, with the opposing team trying to get hold of it. The objective of the game is simple - to score as many goals as possible.

A player shoots for goal. © Ong Kheng Boon

Players have to control the paddle, ball and kayak simultaneously. If this seems impossible, take into consideration the fact that players are allowed to capsize an opponent if he is in possession or within reach of the ball. Top that with a goalpost that is two meters above water. Only then can one begin to fathom the challenge the sport presents.

Despite these, this sport remains relatively injury free, as pains have been taken to implement rules that prevent dangerous play. For safety, all players are required to wear Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) and helmets with metal face grilles throughout the duration of the game. In addition, the bow and stern of boats are padded to ensure that any impact upon contact is kept to a minimum.

To make the sport more interesting, the 5-second rule states that if any player holds the ball for more than 5 seconds, it is a foul and the ball is awarded automatically to the opposing team. In the playing arena, a stunning array of skills is exhibited, making Canoe Polo a spectacular sport for both spectators and players alike.

Capsizing your opponent is part of the game. © Ong Kheng Boon

Curiously enough, Canoe Polo is practiced in many countries around the globe but yet near unheard of to the public at large.

In Singapore, the Canoe Polo community is mainly made up of teams from the local universities, polytechnics, and other interest groups and water sports clubs.

Editor’s note: If you know the names of the players and the teams they represent, please feel free to let me know in the comments section and I will update the captions. Thanks.