Float your boat: Kayak polo players make a row in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Canoe believe it?: Every Sunday, kayak polo players duke it out on the waters of Brooklyn Bridge Park.
for Brooklyn Paper
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They’re making a splash!

Crews of competitive kayakers ship out each Sunday for a splashy water sport in the river off of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Kayak polo is a ball game that appeals to those who love being out on the water, but want a slightly more pulse-pounding option than simply sculling along the East River, said the event’s organizer.

“Kayak polo is an alternative activity which is pretty rigorous, a little bit more competitive,” said Tom Potter, the park’s program adviser. “It allows people who get interested in kayaking an additional, aggressive way to get better skills and have fun.”

Kayak polo combines elements of basketball, water polo, and kayaking. Two five-person teams take to the water, competing to hurl a large polo ball into the opposing team’s goal — a net suspended a few feet above the water. A winning team is crowned after two eight-minute periods, with a “golden ball” overtime session resolving any ties.

The game is especially good at helping young people develop their skills on the water, said the park’s executive director.

“In terms of our kids’ program, it’s a really fun way to develop advanced boat-handling skills,” said Nancy Webster. “You need to be able to turn quickly. You need to be able to paddle backwards. You need to have very good maneuverability. You get to practice all of those skills while you’re playing a really fun game out on the water.”

The park holds three sessions of kayak polo each Sunday during the summer, with multiple short games in each. The first period is for dedicated players who sign up in advance, the second is first-come, first-serve, with preference given to kids aged 11–17; and the third is adults-only.

The park provides the kayaks, life vests, paddles, and helmets, so participants only need to bring clothes they don’t mind getting wet. Those who have not played before should show up at least 20 minutes early for a quick tutorial on the game.

Kayak polo may not be the Park’s biggest attraction, but it has drawn a dedicated crew over the last five years that keeps coming back for more, said Potter.

“It’s more for people who’ve done it the first time and want to do it again — they want to do something a little bit more aggressive,” he said. “It isn’t the largest kayak program in the park, but I’d say it’s for people who want to take the next step.”

Kayak Polo at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 2 Dock [Furman Street between Old Dock Street and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 222–9939,]. Sundays, 11 am; 12:30 pm, and 2 pm. Free.

Updated 5:57 pm, July 9, 2018
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