By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – When walking along Zona Sul’s (South Zone’s) beaches on a sunny day, one cannot miss the many beach volleyball games going on in the sand. Brazil is not only dominating the sport professionally, as their many Olympic Medals show, but volleyball is one of the most popular sports among amateur players, especially in Rio where a beach is never too far away.
For those looking to partake, the best way to hone beach volleyball skills is to join one of the many escolinhas de vôlei (Volleyball schools), which can be found on Rio’s beaches from Leme to Leblon. In the typical classes one practices serves and passes, while also going through physical exercises. At the end, a game is usually played.
Most schools mix different levels of volleyball players as well as men and women, so everyone can join them and improve their game. They usually have several times of classes in the mornings and evenings and to join them a monthly fee is payed.
A school to look for is the English speaking school of Pelé da Praia. To join just go to the big sign at Ipanema beach, in front of Rua Garcia d’Ávila or call: 021-9702 5794. Other schools can be found in this list.
For a more casual game, join the Brazuka Gringo Volleyball who organize fun matches in Leme on Friday and Sunday nights. They meet around 8PM at Posto 1 and play a few games and have some drinks together. The group was organized by two expats and a Brazilian shortly after Carnival this year and is expanding fast. Currently about 10 to 15 players show up for each session.
Everyone is welcome to join the games, as volleyball experience is not required. This group is all about having fun, getting to know new people and moving your body instead of hanging around in a bar on a Friday night.
“I think we thought of beach volleyball, because it’s a sport that allows mixing girls and guys and even those who don’t know how to play can join in and play… and from there on a sports meeting becomes a meeting of friends!” Rodrigo Teixeira, one of the co-founders of the group, tells The Rio Times.
The Brazuka Gringo group is also a social event and a great way to meet new people. Current players are from all around the world, so one can exchange experiences about life in Brazil or ask the Brazilians about their country. “It’s a get-together of friends, physical exercise and cultural exchange at the same time,” Rodrigo adds.
Another option for a casual game is to get hold of a net and a ball and meet with your friends at an empty court. They are found best during off-peak hours, in the later evening during the week and on not-so sunny weekends.
However, be prepared to leave your spot once the owners of the posts claim them. The posts to mount your net, which populate all beaches in Rio are rented out on a long-term basis, mostly to escolinhas which need them to hold their scheduled practice.