Water Sports on the Adriatic Coast: Picigin in Croatia
A familiar sight on the Croatian coast is of grown men lunging into the sea in an attempt to stop a ball entering the water. An introduction to picigin.
With its 1185 islands and stunning coastline, the Adriatic Sea is a major attraction for tourists in Croatia. There is plenty of activity on the water, including sailing, kayaking and kitesurfing, but there are also other water sports which require less equipment, such as the indigenous game called picigin (pronounced pi-tsi-geen).
Water Sports in Croatia: The Rules of Picigin
Picigin is a cross between volleyball and water polo, played in shallow water near the beach. It is not a competitive sport - there are no winners, points or opposing sides - but rather a relaxing way for friends to relax and exercise.
The aim of the game is to keep the ball in the air as long as possible and, as the game grows with intensity, passing tourists are treated to the spectacle of grown men flying the air in an often vain attempt to keep a small ball in the air. The ball (balun in local dialect) is a peeled tennis ball, and players make contact with the palm of the hand.
Croatian Games: Where is Picigin Played?
The traditional homeland of picigin is one beach called Bacvice in the Dalmatian city of Split and purists maintain that picigin should not be played anywhere else. It is played all year, and there is a tradition to keep the ball out of the water on New Year's Day, whatever the weather. The classic attire for attire for a game of this popular local sport is a pair of tight Speedos.
Conceived in Split in 1908, the game has expanded elsewhere in the region, and picigin is played elsewhere on the coast, and in a more organised fashion in Medulin, Baska and Dubrovnik, as well as inland in the city of Osijek. Picigin has also extended beyond the Croatian borders, with clubs in Herceg Novi in Montenegro and Novi Sad in Serbia.
World Championships in Split
The Picigin World Championships were introduced in 2005 in the sport's home town of Split and, as the sport is non-competitive, it was decided to determine the champions on a combination of number of touches and acrobatic style. This video shows a game of picigin in action.
Bacvice is a popular spot in Split, with its family friendly beach, bars and restaurants, and picigin is an accepted part of the beach scene at the resort, a perfect spectator sport for those looking to laze away in the Dalmatian sun.