Canoe Polo Rules

How the game is played

(These rules are for players though you can find a comprehensive set of referee rules to download in the ‘Useful Docs’ page).

Aim Of Game

Score as many goals as possible.

Commencement Of Play

All players line up with the back of their boats touching the edge of the pool.

The referee blows his whistle to start play and then releases or throws the ball into the centre of the playing area.

Only 1 team member can go for the ball – all other players must be 3m away.

The Ball

If you are holding the ball or the ball is on your paddle or on the water within arm’s reach, you are deemed to be “in possession” and must get rid of it within 5 seconds.

You must not paddle along with the ball on your boat.

You may roll holding the ball, but you are still deemed to be in possession.

If you roll not holding the ball, the 5 seconds start again when you pick it up.

You may dribble it by throwing it 1m horizontally (not vertically) from your boat, paddling to it, picking it up, then throwing it again.  Each time it moves 1m away from you, the 5 seconds start again.

After a break in play, you must bring the ball back into play by “presenting” it to the referee – hold it vertically upwards at arm’s length – you then have 5 seconds to throw it at least 1m away horizontally.


Most of the rules are to ensure safety and sportsmanlike behaviour.

You will be penalised for unsafe play AND/OR unsporting behaviour so…

DON’T put your paddle within 1m of your opponent’s hand or body AT ANY TIME

DON’T put your paddle across another boat

DON’T push people over if they are within 1m of another boat or the poolside

DON’T use foul language, throw temper tantrums, throw or strike paddles

DON’T hang on to opponent’s buoyancy aids or boats

DON’T purposely paddle across the path of an opponent who is paddling to the ball – clearly you CAN get in his way if you too are paddling to the ball … and that is what you should aim to do.

In Development League, don’t capsize your opponents – though you may do so in Premier League.

In Development League, rescuers may jump in to right a capsized player, but not in Premier League.


  1. If you capsize and get out of your boat, you must get yourself and all your kit out of the playing area as quickly and safely as possible.
  2. If you and all your kit leaves over your own goal line, you or a substitute may re-enter whenever ready.
  3. If you or any part of your kit does not leave over your goal line, you or a substitute must wait for the referee to whistle a break in play before re-entering.
  4. Players may only re-enter over their own goal line.

Infringements, Signals And Sanctions

  • Lots!!!  See the website and download the separate document, “TCPC Referee Rules”.

Free Throw, Goal Line Throw, Corner Throw, Re-start Throw, Sideline Throw

Usually awarded for start infringement and when ball goes “out of play”


rule Point at sideline.Other arm showing direction of play.

Taking a sideline-throw

  1. The player takes the throw from the point of exit of the ball or the point on the sideline nearest to the point of contact of an overhead-obstacle.
  2. The player must present the ball by holding it above his head at arm’s length with the kayak stationary.  He then has 5 seconds in which to pass the ball.
  3. Free-throws, goal line-throws, corner-throws, restart throws and sideline-throws MAY NOT be direct at goal.  If a player taking a Free Throw (not a Free-Shot) attempts a direct shot at goal and the ball enters the goal mouth, either directly or having deflected off an opponent’s equipment, then a disallowed goal is signalled and a Goal-Line Throw is awarded. An attempt at goal from a free throw need not be penalised if it doesn’t result in a goal.
  4. If the player does not present the ball, the other team is awarded a free throw.

Free Shot

Usually awarded for illegal possession, ie holding for 5 secs, illegal hand tackles, illegal kayak tackles, illegal paddle tackles, illegal screening & holding


rule Arm extended, index finger pointing at goal in direction of attack. Other arm showing offence signal.
  1. A FREE SHOT means that the opposing team may have a shot at goal after presenting the ball.
  2. If the player taking the FREE SHOT does not present the ball to the Referee before throwing it, the opposing team is given a FREE THROW.

Canoe Polo rules in detail – slideshow



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