Playtime Rio

Play time Rio de Janeiro

beach sports Rio Janeiro

In April of 2011 after a 20-year absence, I rediscovered the magic of Rio de Janeiro while taking in a panorama of Copacabana from a terrace in Arpoador. It was early, 7:30 in the morning, and down on the beach the scene was already busy- a military battalion in beach clothes ran in platoon formation, the body-conscious trained along the avenue Atlantica, while some other low-key Cariocas in Flamengo jerseys tried to run with dogs that wanted only to walk.                                    beach sports Rio Janeiro   

December 10, 2017, rather appropriately at sunset and at the end of my latest series of trips to Rio, I found myself in Ipanema, admiring the skill of some garota Cariocas playing “altinha”. Playing at the very edge of the ocean, they tried to get the ball a little higher — “altinha” — and not let it fall to the ground. The metaphor of this game to my time in Rio did not escape me, and I could not help but feel with some sadness that when their ball would fall to the sand, so too would my time in Rio fall to an end.

During the past six years I have visited Rio de Janeiro in all seasons of the year, and every time the different and constantly unfolding spectacles on the beach have captured my attention. From dawn to dark, the beaches of Rio’s Zona Sul (South Zone) are filled with people exercising and playing sports. Runners, cyclists, and skateboarders occupy the cycle paths; racket sports, volleyball, soccer, and slackline dominate the sands; and surfers, paddle surfers, and swimmers fill the sea. 

No matter the time of day, whether the day is sunny or not, there will always be a Carioca on the beach running or practicing some sport in Rio. Even in the torrential rains of mild Rio winter nights I have seen people in Ipanema or Copacabana exercising.

24 hours a day Rio plays, 24 hours a day the wonderful city is “Play Time Rio”

This gallery of photographs has been changing over time and getting bigger, and of all my galleries dedicated to Rio de Janeiro, this is undoubtedly the one that most fully represents the Rio spirit.

During the course of my repeated trips to Rio, I too was becoming a Carioca, taking up local habits, running along the beach every day, saying a quiet prayer for Rio when Corcovado mountain and its Christ the Redeemer statue appeared in their entirety to me from below in the city where Ipanema becomes Leblon.

One Sunday in November 2013, the striking physical perfection of a blonde Rio garota attracted my camera’s gaze to a volleyball game at the famous Ipanema Posto 9. While I was concentrating on the shots, a loud voice called from the field, “Where are those pictures going?” The voice belonged to the man who is now my friend Edson Silva, a man who perfectly embodies Rio’s culture of body devotion, exercise, and sport on the beach.

In Edson and his cousin Eugenio, who are both part of this gallery, I see the magic, the devotion, the dexterity, and the spirit of Rio. Every day they delight in devoting themselves to exercise of the body, and have the happy privilege to do it against the backdrop of this beautiful city.

beach sports Rio Janeiro

The Cariocas have bypassed many traditional sports and have audaciously created their own ways of playing on the beach:

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. Beachgoers bring the sport right to the water’s edge with a spinoff they call altinha- Portuguese for “a little higher.”

Frescobol , The fast paced racket sport 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.
Futevôlei was invented on Copacabana beach in 1965 by Octávio de Moraes. Octávio had played for Botafogo in the 1940-50s but clearly still liked a game on the beach after he retired. During the 60s there was a ban on playing football on the beach, so when the cops showed up, Octávio and his friends moved over to the volleyball courts and took their football with them.

Stand-up paddle surfing, or paddleboarding, where one stands on a surf-like board and uses a long paddle, has become an increasingly popular sport in Rio in recent years. It is used as a way for people to exercise the entire body, while staying in tune with nature.
There are various types of stand-up paddleboarding, making it suitable for nearly everyone. Stand-up paddle-rowing is the most popular type in Brazil; here, one simply stands on the board and rows small or large distances. Stand-up paddle-surfing is where one rides waves similar to surfing, but of course relies on a paddle to facilitate movement. There is also stand-up paddleboarding yoga (where yoga is practiced on the paddleboard) and stand-up paddleboard fishing.

Slacklining, the latest craze to hit Rio’s beaches, is a sport where one must maintain balance while walking on a springy line of nylon webbing that is taut between two anchor points , often between two coconut trees. Experts can also do jumps, flips and other acrobatic moves on low, tight lines ,called tricklining. Slackliners always seems to want to help one another, and the sense of community is very strong amongst participants. In Copacabana, slackliners practice by the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Rua Santa Clara. In Ipanema one of the most popular and largest groups is by Avenida Vieira Souto, close to Rua Garcia D’Avila.

Rio de Janeiro, 10th December 2017 © Pablo Munini

Video on Pablo Munini’s Youtube channel

beach sports Rio Janeiro

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