By Georgie Hay, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – From sunrise to dark, the beaches of Rio’s Zona Sul (South Zone) are filled with people exercising and playing sport. Runners, cyclists and skateboarders occupy the adjacent cycle paths; team ball and racket sports dominate the sands; and surfers and swimmers fill the sea.
“One of the main reasons I moved to Rio was the opportunity to play so much sport owing to the accommodating climate and the proximity to the beach where so much sporting activity takes place,” says British sporting enthusiast and Rio resident, Freddie Brunt.
Unlike the differing atmospheres that come with each posto and neighborhood between Leme and Leblon, sport isn’t necessarily divided among areas of the beach. However, there are some generalizations to note shared Brunt; “the top of the beach closer to the road in Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon is where the organized classes take place (beach tennis, futevôlei, volleyball, work-out sessions, running clubs). These classes run most mornings from 6AM-10AM) and evenings from 17PM-11PM.”
Most schools offer a mix of levels and often you can turn up and play without paying for an ‘aula experimental’, giving you a chance to try something new and sign up for future classes if it suits. The majority of classes are in Portuguese however non-Portuguese speakers are welcomed to get involved.
“In Ipamena two nights a week there are touch rugby classes,” continued Brunt. “Ipanema and Copacabana have specific areas for organized beach football matches. Near Post 4 in Copacabana is where most people play beach tennis.” Additionally, “further down the beach by the sea is where most people play altinha and frescobol.”
Altinha, a Carioca sport some say was originated on the beaches of Rio, is non-competitive, social sport whereby two or more people pass a football between each other without letting it touch the ground. It can usually be seen being played along the shoreline of Copacabana and Ipanema as the sun sets.
The fast paced racquet sport of frescobol was also reportedly created in Rio. Using wooden paddles, players hit a rubber ball between each other, trying to keep it up in the air for as long as possible. Canadian Maria Alfaro spends her free evenings playing frescobol at Arpoador,”It’s amazing because we can play with our feet in the water and it is a really good workout! Between games I go for a dip in the ocean and we always get to watch an amazing sunset.”
For surfers, the waves around Arpoador are the most consistent and popular with beginners and more experienced surfers alike. The waves are floodlight to enable surfing at dawn and dusk and are a short walk away from surf rentals and shops along Rua Francisco Otaviar. Good waves can also be found by Leme and towards Leblon if conditions are right.
Another popular water sport is Stand-up Paddle Boarding, or SUP. By Posto 6 in Copacabana, one can’t walk for an extended stretch without being offered lessons or a rental. Here the water is flatter making it easier for beginners to try it out.
With Rio hosting the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in August and September, the Zona Sul coastline will provide a backdrop for some of the events. The Beach Volleyball, a sport usually dominated by Brazil, will be held on Copacabana beach at the end of Av. Princesa Isabel and the Triathlon, Marathon Swimming and Road Cycling will all start and finish around Forte de Copacabana.
The amount of sporting opportunities on offer and the picturesque locations to play them make Rio a hugely attractive city to live in for the sport minded and those that want to keep active. “Ever since I moved to Rio from Canada my life has completely changed,” continued Alfaro. “I live a much healthier and active lifestyle!”