Inside The Hardcore, Full-Contact Sport Played Entirely In Boats

Everything you need to know about this week’s Canoe Polo World Championships

Image via Tuomo Sainio (cc)

For those who watch water polo and think, “That would be fun, but treading water looks excruciating,” we present the Canoe Polo World Championships, which kicked off this week in Syracuse, Italy. Canoe polo is kayak-infused water basketball, and it’s glorious.

The rules are simple: Teams of five kayakers, including one goalkeeper, face off in a 35 meters long by 23 meters wide pool or pitch. They attempt to throw a ball into a square net hanging two meters above the opposing side’s back line. Competitors can use their paddles and hands but can’t hold the ball longer than five seconds. Further, teams can’t maintain possession for longer than 60 seconds without shooting, and players must avoid such fouls as “illegal kayak tackle” and “illegal use of the paddle.”

For equipment, players compete in special lightweight kayaks with foam-protected edges, while wearing helmets and faceguards. It’s a contact sport, full of flailing arms and paddles. Boats capsize, or worse. This week’s defending champions are the French men and German women, who are part of a field of 24 nations on the men’s side and 18 on the women’s, respectively. The French are led by canoe polo legend Maxime Gohier, who is competing in the event for the final time this year, while the German women aim for their third consecutive (and sixth overall) title.

But that’s just this week in Syracuse. Canoe polo’s roots date back millennia. Inuit tribes in the Arctic Circle, who designed the world’s first single-person canoes (which Americans today call “kayaks”), used these smaller boats to hunt whales, seals, and other sea mammals. They also used kayaks to play games, incorporating weapons and targets into competitions designed to improve hunting skills.

Meanwhile, canoe-based ball sports emerged in Europe in the late 19th century, with varying rules and regulations. Great Britain typically used two-person boats, but also played a version in which competitors rode wooden barrels adorned with horse heads. Germany played a longer game on a larger pitch, while France focused on paddling skills.

Canoe Polo in the London Charivarl, October 2, 1875 (Image via JW Lester)

Canoe polo was mostly played in rivers until the ‘60s, when London started building pools in public schools. Brits brought the game indoors, forever changing the sport. The smaller playing area led to smaller plastic kayaks and new rules, which became the official version of the sport when the International Canoe Federation published polo’s first rulebook in 1986.

As the sport grew from novelty to global niche phenomenon in the ‘90s, the ICF launched the Canoe Polo World Championships, hosting 18 countries at the inaugural 1994 games in Sheffield, England. The 2014 installment in France hosted 28 countries and was streamed by six million viewers. It’s still not an Olympic sport, but Team USA and other national committees manage canoe polo teams, and the World Games added the sport in 2005. This week’s late-round matchups can be watched on YouTube.

And if a competitor capsizes and is knocked out of his/her kayak, according to the rules, “The player may not take any further part in the play and must leave the playing area immediately, with all of their equipment.” Consider yourself prepared.


"Seventy percent of the Earth is covered with water, now you camp on it!" proudly declares Smithfly on the website for its new camping boat — the Shoal Tent.

Why have we waited so long for camping equipment that actually lets us sleep on the water? Because it's an awful idea, that's why.

"The world is your waterbed," Smithfly says on its site. But the big difference is that no one has ever had to worry about falling asleep and then drowning on their waterbed.

RELATED: A ridiculous dad transformed Billie Eilish's 'Bad Guy' into a 3-minute long musical dad joke

While it is possible that one could wade into the water, unzip the tent, have a pleasant slumber, and wake up in the morning feeling safe and refreshed, there are countless things that could go terribly wrong.

The tent could float down the river and you wake up in the middle of nowhere.

You could have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

This guy.

It could spring a leak and you could drown while wrapped up in eight feet of heavy nylon.

A strong current could tip the tent-boat over.

There isn't any way to steer the darn thing.

This guy.

Mashable shared a charming video of the tent on Twitter and it was greeted with a chorus of people sharing the many ways one could die while staying the night in the Shoal Tent.

Oh yeah, it's expensive, too.

Even though the general public seems to think the Shoal Tent is a terrible idea, according to the Smithfly's website, it's currently sold out due to "popular demand" and it will be "available in 6-8 weeks." Oh, and did we mention it costs $1,999?

via zoezimmm / Imgur

There are few more perniciously dangerous conspiracy theories being shared online than the idea that vaccines cause autism.

This has led to a decline in Americans vaccinating their children, resulting in a massive increase in measles. This year has already seen over 1,200 cases of measles, a disease that was eradicated in the U.S. nearly 20 years ago.

A 2015 Pew Research study found that 83% of Americans think the measles vaccine is safe, while 9% think it's not. Another 7% are not sure. But when you look at the polls that include parents of minors, the numbers get worse, 13% believe that the measles vaccine is unsafe.

There is zero truth to the idea that vaccines cause autism. In fact, a recent study of over 650,000 children found there was no link whatsoever.

RELATED: A new study of over 650,000 children finds — once again — that vaccines don't cause autism

A great example of the lack of critical thinking shown by anti-vaxxers was a recent exchange on Facebook shared to Imgur by zoezimmm.

A parent named Kenleigh at a school in New Mexico shared a photo of a sign at reads: "Children will not be enrolled unless an immunization record is presented and immunizations are up-to-date."

This angered a Facebook user who went on a senseless tirade against vaccinations.

"That's fine, I'll just homeschool my kids," she wrote. At least they won't have to worry about getting shot up in school or being bullied, or being beat up / raped by the teachers!"

To defend her anti-vaccination argument, she used a factually incorrect claim that Amish people don't vaccinate their children. She also incorrectly claimed that the MMR vaccine is ineffective and used anecdotal evidence from her and her father to claim that vaccinations are unnecessary.

She also argued that "every human in the world is entitled to their own opinion." Which is true, but doesn't mean that wildly incorrect assumptions about health should be tolerated.

She concluded her argument with a point that proves she doesn't care about facts: "It doesn't matter what you say is not going to change my mind."

RELATED: 12 medical professionals shared their most memorable anti-vaxxer stories and you won't stop face-palming

While the anti-vaxxer was incorrect in her points, it must also be pointed out that some of the people who argued with her on Facebook were rude. That should never be tolerated in this type of discourse, but unfortunately, that's the world of social media.

Here's the entire exchange:

via zoezimmm / imgur

via zoezimmm / imgur

via zoezimmm / imgur

via zoezimmm / imgur

via zoezimmm / imgur

via zoezimmm / imgur

via zoezimmm / imgur

via zoezimmm / imgur

via zoezimmm / imgur

via zoezimmm / imgur

The post received a ton of responses on imgur. Here are just a few:

"'In my opinion...' 'I believe...' That's not how facts work."

"You're entitled to your opinion. And everyone else is entitled to call you a dumbass."

"'What I do with my children is no concern to you at all.' Most of the time, true. When your kid might give mine polio, not true."

"If my child can't bring peanut butter, your child shouldn't bring preventable diseases."

It's important to call out people who spread dangerous views, especially how they pertain to health, on social media. But people should do so with respect and civility.


He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

He risked his life to leave a "historical record of our martyrdom."

via Yad Vashem and Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007

In September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. By April 1940, the gates closed on the Lodz Ghetto, the second largest in the country after Warsaw.

Throughout the war, over 210,000 people would be imprisoned in Lodz.

Among those held captive was Henryk Ross. He was a Jewish sports photographer before the Nazi invasion and worked for the the ghetto's Department of Statistics during the war. As part of his official job, he took identification photos of the prisoners and propaganda shots of Lodz' textile and leather factories.

Keep Reading Show less
via Imgur

Every few years there's something that goes mega viral because people can't decide what it is.

There was the famous "is it blue and black, or white and gold" dress?

There was the audio recording that said either "yanny" or "Laurel."

Keep Reading Show less

Rochester NY Airport Security passing insulting notes to travelers caught on tape

Neil Strassner was just passing through airport security, something he does on a weekly basis as part of his job. That's when a contract airport security employee handed him a small piece of folded cardboard. Strassner, 40, took the paper and continued on his way. He only paused when he heard the security employee shouting back at him, "You going to open the note?"

When he unfolded the small piece of paper, Strassner was greeted with an unprompted insult. "You ugly!!!"

According to Strassner, and in newly released CCTV of the incident, the woman who handed him the note began laughing loudly.

Keep Reading Show less