Sun, Sand and Sport


First Published in SportBusiness

Beaches are increasingly being built in locations as diverse as city centres, and almost every sport has looked to the sand for events that attract new fans and create new revenue streams. In the August 2014 issue of SportBusiness International magazine, Max Gabovitch and Matt Cutler looked at a selection of different sports and asked each what the challenges and opportunities are with creating a beach version.

When Marius Vizer was last year elected president of SportAccord, the umbrella organisation for Olympic and non-Olympic international sports federations, the World Beach Games was one of the first projects he announced.

For Vizer, whose aim as SportAccord president is to bring more opportunities for its members both in terms of profile and commercial revenues, the Games are a way to bring together diverse sports in a style that is considered fun and attractive to the younger demographic at a time when all sports federations are looking to broaden their following within Generation Y.

The event is also relatively cheap to host – using temporary venues and, of course, the natural resources of sand – in an environmentally-friendly way, and offers host regions an attractive proposition to promote themselves as tourist destinations.

Neither date nor host city have been announced for the first World Beach Games – although it is understood the first edition is likely to take place in 2016 – but SportAccord says sports as diverse as American football and mini-golf will be represented at the event.

Major beach events are few and far between at present – the exceptions arguably being the Asian Beach Games, organised by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) every two years, and the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, the showpiece event for the beach version of the world’s most popular sport – but that’s not to say beach versions of nearly every ‘regular’ sport that takes place on a grass or hard surface hasn’t been tried.

We have asked experts in creating elite-level beach sport exactly what the formula is to adapting to the sand.

American Football

Beach American football is at its strongest in Brazil, where it was created by teenagers looking to play the sport but without purchasing any equipment.

The variation has similar basic rules to the games you would witness in the National Football League (NFL), however instead of tackling players to the ground, a down is ended when the person carrying the ball is touched by a member of the opposition team, with either one or two hands. Because of this, passing plays are far more common than running plays in beach American football.

The full padding used in ‘regular’ American football is not required so players wear basic athletic clothing, in addition to a mouthguard, and in some cases, protective gear used in rugby.

“Beach American football has the tactics of American football and the players have to be athletic, quick and agile – you get everything you get in American football in that respect, just a lot more simplified,” Tommy Wiking, president of the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), told SportBusiness International.

In Brazil, the Caricoa Bowl was founded in 2000 under the banner ‘Championship Football on the Beach’, originally consisting of four teams from around Rio de Janeiro. The Association of American Football in Brazil (AFAB) governed it until 2009, with the Football Federation of the State of Rio de Janeiro (FeFARJ) then taking over. The league has since expanded to include 18 teams located around the Brazilian city and an equivalent league for women also exists.


Beach basketball is believed to have grown out of Alabama in the United States during the 1970s.

In the early 1990s, the World Beach Basketball Association (WBBA) was formed, based in Orange Beach, to develop grassroots interest in the sport and to govern existing groups and leagues.

Beach basketball is played on a circular court, with teams alternating shooting and defending the goal. Baskets made within the inner circle are worth two points, while baskets made from beyond the circle are worth three points. The sand playing surface doesn’t allow for dribbling, so players can travel two-and-a-half steps with the ball before passing.

The sport is particularly strong in Germany, where the DBB (German Basketball Federation) organises and governs a number of tournaments and a German championships.


Tennis is one of the few sports to be consistently played on a variety of different services – concrete, grass and clay – so why not add sand to the mix?

Beach tennis is played on a 16-metre by eight-metre court, similar in size to a beach volleyball court. The net is 1.7-metres high and players use paddle bats with no strings and low-compression ‘orange’. The game is predominantly played between doubles teams, although singles can be played on a smaller court.

The same scoring system is used as for regular tennis, except with the permanent use of no-advantage after deuce. There is also no second service and no service let. The ball does not bounce well on the sand service, so a point is won if the ball hits the ground in the opposing court or if the opponents hit the ball out or into the net.

In 2008, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) assumed responsibility for the development of beach tennis around the globe and launched the Beach Tennis Tour (BTT). The first European Beach Tennis Championships of the ITF era took place the same year in Rome, the city that would also go on to host the Beach Tennis World Championships for the first time the following year.

Two years ago, the first ITF Beach Tennis World Team Championship took place in Moscow.

This is a shortened version of a nine-page feature. For more details on subscribing to SportBusiness International, please visit

Back to listing