Underwater Rugby Fun Facts / History

Underwater rugby (UWR) is an underwater team sport. During a match two teams try to score a negatively buoyant ball (filled with saltwater) into the opponents’ goal at the bottom of a swimming pool. It originated from within the physical fitness training regime existing in German diving clubs during the early 1960s and has little in common with rugby football except for the name. It was recognised by the Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (CMAS) in 1978 and was first played as a world championship in 1980.


Ludwig von Bersuda, from the German Underwater Club (DUC) in Cologne, came up with the idea of an underwater ball game. To make it possible, he filled the ball with saltwater until find the right salt concentration to make the ball heavy enough to go down to the bottom of the pool. Bersuda used waterpolo balls at that time.

Ludwig von Bersuda spanned the middle of the pool with a net, as in volleyball, that stopped 1 m above the pool bottom. Two teams played against each other: the offensive team had to carry the ball to the opposing field and put it into a bucket.


Under wáter Rugby was showed at German National Games.


The first underwater rugby game was played on Sunday October 4, 1964. It took place between DLRG Mülheim and DUC Duisburg.


Dr. Franz Josef Grimmeisen, a member of the German Underwater Club in Duisburg, plus other members of DUC Duisburg, organized the first underwater rugby tournament rules. At that time, teams had 8 players. The net disappeared and the game consisted of putting the ball into the opposite basket.

In November 1965 was played the first tournament In Germany and since that time until now, this tournament has been play every single year making it the oldest underwater rugby tournament.


The game was recognized as a sport by the Union of German Sport Divers (VDST), official German Championships took place in Mülheim, and the first German Champions were TSC Mülheim.


Scandinavian Countries started to show interest in Underwater Rugby. At the beginning, the goalie basket was a paint bucket with some ballast inside to try to leave them fixed at the bottom.


Also Czech was interested in the game but teams were allowed to play only against teams from other communist countries, so in 1975 Prague created a tournament that has been held annually since that time.


Underwater rugby was officially recognized by CMAS, and from 28 to 30 April 1978, the first European Championships took place in Malmö, Sweden.


The First World Championship was celebrated in Mülheim, Germany with the participation of European Countries.


The game was presented to different countries during a finswimming competition. Colombia was so interested in the game and started to play with partial information about it.

The first Colombian tournament was played in San Andrés Island, in the sea with different rules. Corals cut the players and ocean currents made the game almost impossible.


In Denmark was celebrated the 4rd Underwaterugby Championship. It was the first time that female teams participated in a World Championship with their own category. Also, it was the first time a non-European country played a World Championship- (Colombia male team).


For the first time a Underwater Rugby World Championships was played out of Europe. These championships took place in Cali, Colombia.


Colombian male players, in order to collect money to participate at the 6th Underwater Championship, made a strip tease show where more than 2.000 women attended the event. The organizers of the Championship recognized this effort making a special mention before the game Germany against Colombia.


Rules changed and now the game allows 12 players: 6 in the water and 6 in the exchange bench.

Also this year, some Colombian players that moved to Spain create the first Spain uwrugby Club in Peñafiel, in a swimming pool 20 m long with a vary depth from 1 m to 1.3 m


A new continent was added to the Underwater Rugby Community since Australia started to play thanks to Celine Steinfeld who went to Sweden for an international student exchange and knew the sport. She brought from Sweden to Australia some UWR balls and used milk crates as makeshift goals.


More countries are getting inside of the UWR community. Hong Kong, China, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Singapure have teams and we expect to see them in our next CMAS competitions.


  • 12 men’s and 9 women’s world championships have been played in 8 different countries.
  • 23 countries have participated in the male category, 18 in the female category.
  • In the men’s category, 16 teams from Europe, 5 from America, 1 from Oceania and 1 from Africa participated.
  • In the women’s category, 11 teams from Europe, 5 from America and 1 from Oceania have participated.
  • 5 countries have been titled Men’s World Champions: Sweden 5, Denmark 2, Norway 2, Finland 1 and Colombia 2.
  • 4 countries have been titled Women’s World Champions: Germany 3, Norway 3, Sweden 2 and Colombia 1.
  • 6 countries have won medals in men: Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Colombia.
  • 4 countries have won medals in women: Germany, Sweden, Norway and Colombia.
  • Colombia is the only non-European country to win a World Championship in both categories and achieve medals (2 gold and 1 bronze in male and 1 gold and 3 bronzes in female) in the World Championships of this sport.
  • Colombia is the only non-European country to host Underwater Rugby World Championships, with Cali being the only city in the world that has done it twice.
  • Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Germany are the only countries that have been present in all editions in both branches.
  • The largest participation in the men’s category was in Graz 2019 with 17 countries.