Co-ed Sports in Toronto are Going Underwater: Rugby

Can underwater sports be full contact? Read on and see if you want to try for yourself

All geared up and ready to back handspring into the pool! Left to right: Kaylin and Alicia

Heyy! This is the beginning of our series about trying alternative sports, or just sports that we’re not used to. This is about getting out of our comfort zone, meeting new people, getting active, and trying new sports in Toronto that are either free or pretty cheap. Whenever you are ready to come along for the ride with us, please do join us! We chose to write about our experiences separately, because we don’t want to bias each other’s recall of our own experiences. When we come together to reach each other’s experiences, we have a total laugh, and we hope you do too! Enjoy!

Our first adventure: Underwater Rugby, downtown Toronto, on Monday November 14th, 9pm.

Alicia: Underwater Rugby or Underwater Wrestling?

If you want to know how to spend $60 on a free sport, look no further than me. My underwater rugby experience started with a trip to Winners to buy the only one piece sporty bathing suit they had in the store.

Fast forward… I met Kaylin at Castlefrank Subway station, and we both were pretty nervous! Neither of us knew what to expect — at all! We took the 30 second walk across the street to the school, walked to the change rooms, and saw a few guys mulling around, who we decided were the people we were meeting.

After changing, it was time to enter the pool area. What was before us, was a giant bucket of what I like to call scuba gear! Flippers, swimming caps, goggles, and snorkles. I immediately thought that this is going to make for a really great photo! I put on a pair of flippers that I thought were the perfect fit. I walked around, making a cacophony of loud smacking noises on the deck. One of the guys came over and notified me that those are DEFINITELY way too big and they would slip off the second I entered the water.

My biggest worry, as I presented it to everyone there, was, “Has this snorkle mouth piece been disinfected!?!?” I think that was an annoying thing to ask, because I received cheeky responses about how if I’m worried about germs/bacteria, then I probably shouldn’t be swimming in a pool in the first place. Fine! Point taken! But I still dipped my snorkle in the water before putting it in my mouth, for good measure:)

Kaylin and I glided into the pool like fish who had been missing their sea. I immediately felt a sense of calm and happy upon entering the water. Being in a pool is an amazing escape.


So, now, the guys wanted to test of can we swim and breathe out of snorkle gear. I tried to swim to the bottom of the deep end, and had ear pain about two metres down, so I came back up. After trying to equalize countless times via their advice and guidance, I was not getting any better. So they set up the game in the part of the pool where it’s not too shallow, not too deep (normally it would be in the deepest point). That was very considerate, Thank you!

When they were demonstrating how to protect yourself while you have the ball, they basically said, “fight the other person off with your hands” haha! We went through a few trial rounds, whereby Kaylin and I threw the ball around under water, and tried to rip the ball out of each other’s hold.

Then it was time to play!! We split into two teams: 2 v 3.

Usual Game Set Up:

  • Two round rimmed, laundry sized baskets (nets) at the bottom of each side of the deep end
  • Two teams (6 v 6.. or less, depending on #s)
  • Formation: attackers and defenders
  • One ball (it is round, about the size of a size 3 soccer ball, and it sinks)

We played with 5 people so we only set up one net. The game was really fun! I enjoyed it as much as I could, within the context of having ear pain, very foggy goggles, and trying to figure out the whole breathing thing. And okay: I am not a huge fan of full contact sports. I generally hate being hit by anything (like, snowballs, dodgeballs, etc), and the idea of being in this underwater mess of flippers, limbs, and grabby arms, is not typically my preference. Kaylin completely killed it! She was a total natural. I was so impressed. I was on the team of 3, and she scored like 15 buckets on us. I was quite obviously the liability of my team because I am not feisty enough.

Kaylin: I hope there are no sharks

When playing underwater rugby as a woman, the first concern is what to wear. I went with Under Armour shorts and a longer sports bra with a high-impact sports bra under it to keep everything intact. It can get a little rough/grabby. I would recommend wearing a sports bra under your bathing suit to avoid wardrobe malfunctions. Everybody is wearing goggles so they can see underwater.

When you go to underwater rugby, the gear is first on the agenda. You wear flippers, goggles, a hairnet type thing and a snorkel. I personally loved the hairnet.

I hadn’t used a snorkel in years because I refuse to go into the ocean on vacations. I’m scared of sharks and I will miss out on wonderful ocean related opportunities because of it. Anyway, I forgot how to use it but I picked it up pretty quickly. To keep your goggles from fogging up, you spit into them and rub it all around. It’s pretty gross but works like a charm.

Can I explain how underwater rugby works? No. Not really. I know you swim towards the goal at the bottom of the pool and try not to drowned. There’s also offence, defence, and a goalie. I did not attempt goalie but it looks like the least appealing position because you need to be able to hold your breath the longest. Offence I like, if I need to go up for air, I can just throw the ball away. I am good at offence. Defence requires you to attack people. I’m less good at this. It’s a lot of fun, but regardless of how hard you work, you have to practice stuff you wouldn’t normally practice to be good at it.

The bottom of the pool where the game is played is pretty deep. You have to practice getting to the bottom. I can pop my own ears at will so I didn’t have any issues there. We played in the middle of the pool because it took basically all of my energy to get to the bottom of the pool.

When you are under water and grown men are coming at you to grab a ball out of your hands, you naturally panic a little bit. When I naturally panic, I start taking deep breathes. Not a good idea. This means I’m taking in a lot of water. Lets just say I drank my eight glasses of water in that pool. You have to learn to control your impulses and relax.

The pool pretty much takes away the physical advantage certain people would have in a non-water sport. The buoyant force thing. A small person can take on an NFL linebacker (probably still lose but the fight would be much more equal). The sport is centred around being able to hold your breath and get the ball to your teammates before you have to come up for air.

Underwater rugby is hard but fun. You have to learn how to conserve energy and hold your breath. Once you get your little flippers going really fast, you get a good leg burn.


  • This game requires the same strategic/tactical elements of sports like soccer, football, rugby. Angles of support come in handy. Speed comes in handy. Attacking and defending principles come into play!
  • Great work out!! I was out of breath several times and I was not trying very hard!
  • Swimming has a very low impact on your joints.
  • Proximity to subway station
  • The group is welcoming to beginners and was encouraging when they thought I wasn’t trying or enjoying myself (which I was!!)


  • Kind of hard to suit up for. I mean, I was fine in a one piece sporty bathing suit, but had I really gotten engaged in the feisty underwater tackles, I really think I would have needed an under armour body suit t-shirt/top on
  • (For Alicia) Too Aggressive — FULL CONTACT under water!! I am more of a finesse player!
  • Change rooms are too accessible. I brought my winter coat and purse to the pool deck with me so I could have an eye on them
  • All the water swallowing if you’re not used to repeatedly plunging under with snorkle gear and then coming up for quick breathers

Overall recommendations:

  • They provide equipment, but don’t have stock of every possible size. Bringing your own stuff is best if this is going to be a continued thing.
  • We recommend you try it on a Monday for the first time. On Friday’s they have proper games going. Monday’s are more relaxing.
  • Wear the right swimming suit gear!! Have fun!

Have a story about trying a new sport? We would love to hear from you! What’s next on our agenda? Maybe…. Underwater Hockey! We will be posting all the pick-up/drop-in sports on the OpenSports app so that you can come try them with us too!

Thank you for reading,

Alicia & Kaylin