The Game - Beach Volleyball

About the Sport

The basic skills of Beach Volleyball are the same as for Volleyball, and the flow of play follows similar lines: one team serves, the other tries to win the rally ‑ or "side‑out" ‑ with a pattern of dig, set, spike within the requisite three touches.

Having only two players on a team leads to differences in offence and defence. There is more shot variety (with half‑speed, finesse and placement shots); blockers take more risks (deciding where to block and when to pull off the net or back‑pedal to play defence); there is greater mobility in the backcourt (players are not so bound by "positional" convention ‑ they are free to move to all areas of the court) and players need to be adept in all the basic skills. 

On the sand, there is no such thing as "calling subs" if you're having a bad day. And there are no court‑side coaches ‑ players decide tactics during time‑outs. 

  • Because of the many difficulties of playing outdoors, such as the sand, the sun and the wind, Beach Volleyball players must have outstanding ball skills and court speed. Partners must be well matched or opponents will win easy points by exploiting the weaker player.
  • For Beach Volleyball, matches are a best of three sets using the rally point system. The first two sets are played to 21 points, with the final tie‑breaker set being played to 15 points. A team must win a set by two points. There is no ceiling, so a set continues until one of the teams gains a two‑point advantage.

Click here to see the major rule changes in Beach Volleyball over the years


The entire 64 square metres of sand is shared by only two players, so teams tend to divide the court evenly and specialise in playing left or right. This gives greater consistency in receiving serve and shot selection. It's also easier to spike a ball that hasn't passed across the line of your body, which is why left‑handers like to play right side and vice versa.


One player will often take care of all the frontcourt blocking, while the better defender keeps to the backcourt making digs.


All players at the elite level carry a "bag of tricks" to help get them through every game. Teams that come out and simply blast away at every ball soon find themselves worn out in the sand and the heat, and quickly outsmarted by more experienced players. This is why you'll see such a wide range of shots.


Ace (Pure) ‑ A served ball that lands within the playing boundaries, which is untouched by the receiving team and scores a point.
Ace (Statistical)
‑ A served ball that a player on the receiving team cannot handle or pass cleanly.
Antennae ‑ A flexible rod placed vertically above the outer edge of the sidelines to mark the outer limit of the crossing space.
Attack bit ‑ The action of directing the ball into the opponents' court. Serving is not considered an attack hit. Considered completed when the ball completely crosses the vertical plane of the net or touches a block.
Ball mark ‑ The disturbance or movement of the sand created on the court surface by the contact of the ball with the sand. This mark may be checked to determine if the ball is "in" or "out".
Ball‑mark protocol ‑ A procedure initiated by the 1st referee for establishing whether the ball has landed in or out of the court.
Between rallies
‑ The time between the whistle to end the completion of a rally and the whistle to authorize the service to start the next rally. Under normal circumstances this is a maximum of 12 seconds.
Blocking ‑ Is the action of player close to the net to intercept the ball coming from the opponent by reaching higher than the top of the net.
Bump (Pass) ‑ Technique of playing ball using forearms, hands together, to direct the ball.
Bump (Set) ‑ A forearm pass used as a set.
Carry ‑ A fault called if the ball comes to rest in the course of contact by one player.
Coin toss ‑ Action by the referees where the team's captains choose the team to serve and the starting side of the court of each team.
Contacted ball ‑ A contacted ball is one that touches or is touched by any part of a player's body or clothing.
Court ‑ The playing surface divided into two equal areas by a net. In its official form, Beach Volleyball is played on a rectangular court 16 meters (52 feet, 5.921 inches) long and 8 meters (26 feet, 2.841 inches) wide.
Court lines (boundary lines) ‑ These lines delimit the playing area. They are adjustable and made of resistant material, contrast in colour to the sand and are 5‑8 centimetres wide. The ball must physically contact the line to be considered as "in."
Court switches (side changes) ‑ The moment in which the teams change their sides of the playing court. Occurs every 7 points (Sets 1 and 2) and every 5 points (3rd Set).
Coverage ‑ Most often refers to a backing up a partner's hit when the block is up and the ball comes glancing back.
Cross‑court/cut shot
‑ An offensive hit in which a player, instead of hitting with power, slices the ball just over and nearly parallel to the net.
Crossing space ‑ The area above the net and inside the antennas (and their imaginary extension upward) through which an attacked or served ball must pass.
Default ‑ Where a team is unable to commence the match legally with its players. It forfeits the match and gains no points.
Diagonals (Long/Short)
‑ The distance diagonally across the corners of the playing court (long diagonal 17,89 metres) or across from one corner to the corner immediately under the net (short diagonal 11,31 metres).
Dig (Save) ‑ Ball brought up (saved) with any part of body, particularly from a spike attempt. Dink ‑ Ball played just over net or blocker's hands, instead of spiking and is legal as long as it is not with open fingers.
Double fault ‑ Two faults occurring at the same time. Results in a replay (the same person serving again with no point scored).
External space
‑ The imaginary space outside the antennas and also not below the bottom of the net between the net poles. Not including the crossing and lower spaces.
Extension of sideline ‑ The imaginary line extended from the two sidelines in a straight line from the corners until the edge of the free zone.
Floater ‑ A serve that follows an uneven trajectory ("floats") over the net.
Foot faults ‑ The illegal action of a player, who at the time of serving or jumping to serve, has their foot under the line, has their foot outside the extension of the sideline, or their foot, contacts the playing court (line included).
Free zone ‑ The area outside the playing court but inside the panels, signage, etc., which delimits the outer edges of the free zone.
Hard‑driven ball
‑ An attack hit that is travelling with sufficient speed (quickly) and over distance such that a defending player only has time to only play the ball in a reflexive defensive manner. In such defensive action the ball can be slightly held overhand with fingers.
Hit ball ‑ A ball that is clearly hit and does not come to rest upon contact.
Illegal server ‑ When a player serves contrary to the service order recorded on the score sheet and advice of the scorer. The other team gains the right to serve and a point.
Incidental contact ‑ Contact by a player with an opponent that did not have an effect on that player's ability to complete a subsequent play on the ball freely.
Incomplete team ‑ When a team commences but is unable to legally complete a match with its two players, Le: because of injury, the other team would the gain the match.
Injury timeout (5‑minute recovery period) ‑ The time allowed for the player to recover from an injury.
Interference ‑ When a player through physical contact or threat of contact prevents an opponent from a potential play on the ball. It may be the next shot or a subsequent shot.
Joust ‑ A classic confrontation above the net where the two opponent players simultaneously contact the ball, holding it with open fingers.
Jump serve ‑ The action of a serving player, who at the time of the service is not in contact with the ground. The action of jumping must commence legally from within the service zone but on landing may contact any part of the playing court or free zone.
Kong block ‑ A huge one hand block used by Beach Volleyball legend Randy Stoklos.
Line judges ‑ Auxiliary officials responsible for assisting the referees in determining faults esp. ball "in" "out" and "touched". Either 2 or 4 people can be used, situated at corners of the court.
Lower space under net ‑ The area below the bottom of the net between the net posts. It does not include the Crossing and External spaces.
Match format ‑ The format for FIVB competition is best of 3 sets, the first 2 being played to 21 (with 2 point advantage) and the 3rd set to 15 (with a 2 point advantage), both with no maximum score.
Momentarily overhand with fingers/beach dig/beach defence ‑ A playing action (receiving a ball) that may be legally used if the ball is hard driven. Players are allowed legally to hold or carry the ball overhand slightly longer than is usually allowed. The hands must be held with fingers up, Le.: not inverted to point downwards. Net ‑ Piece of equipment that separates the opponent sides of the court, placed vertically over the axis of the centre of the court, made of small square meshes and hanging from two poles by use of one cable at the top horizontal band and one rope at the lower horizontal band.
Normal playing conditions ‑ Playing conditions which are free from external interference from weather (e.g.: wind, rain). Generally based on whether players can accurately hand set the ball.
Off‑hand side ‑ Right‑hand player, playing right side. The ball comes across the body on a set to hit.
Offensive player (attacking player) ‑ The player(s) from the team who currently have committed the last contact. The player(s) on the same side of the court as the ball.
On‑hand side ‑ Right hand player, playing left side. The ball is in front of a player on a set to hit.
Out of bounds ‑ The ball is out of bounds when it touches any surface, object or ground outside the court.
Overhand finger action ‑ The playing action of setting the ball or passing the ball with 2 hands fingers spread, contacting the ball. It is not legal to carry the ball with underhand finger action (i.e.: wrists inverted).
Perpendicular trajectory ‑ A ball that travels in a straight line from the player's shoulders either forwards or backwards. The player's position at the time of the contact determines the trajectory the ball should legally follow in the case the player completes an attack‑hit using an overhand pass.
Play over ‑ The act of putting the ball in play again without awarding a point.
Point ‑ If the serving team sends a ball that is not returned or lands in the receiving team's court, a point is then awarded to the serving team. If the receiving team returns a ball that is not returned or lands in the serving team's court, a point is an awarded to the receiving team.
Protest protocol ‑ The formal process under the control of the Delegate(s) in which the validity of a team's protest is considered. This may occur before, during or after a match.
Protocol ‑ The time from the end of the previous match to the commencement of the next match. Rally ‑ The time that the ball is legally in play, from the contact with the ball by the server, to the time of a fault by either team or when the ball hits the ground.
Replay (Tie ball replay) ‑ When the referee authorizes a service to be made again with no point or side out being made to either team. This could be as a result of simultaneous fault, incorrect decision or external interference.
Roll shot ‑ Legal technique using rigid, closed fingers in an overhead single hand action to complete an attack hit. Usually travels a short distance into the opponent's court.
Roof block (stuff block) ‑ Block that puts the ball straight down on the side of the attacking team.
Rubber booties/ sand‑shoes/ socks ‑ Personal player's equipment for protection of their feet. Usually used if sand is too hot/cold or player is injured. Requires the referee's permission before use.
Rules ‑ All players must know and abide by the "Rules of the Garne."
Sand ‑ The material composing the court surface. Must be flat, uniform, and safe for participants and at least 40 centimetres in depth.
Sand anchors ‑ The device, which secures the lines, by use of a cord, to the court, surface (50 centimetres below the ground minimum). Material must be soft and flexible.
Screen ‑ The action of preventing the player(s) receiving serve from having a clear and unobstructed view of the serving player. A screen is illegal and a screening player must move if requested to move.
Screening ‑ An attempt by a player to conceal the start of a teammate's serve by obstructing an opponent's line of sight. Screening is illegal.
Serve ‑ The act of putting the ball into play by a player who hits the ball with her hand or arm.
Service order ‑ The order in which players can legally serve. Recorded on the score sheet after the coin toss has been made (1st and 3rd set) or before the start of the set (2nd set). Must be maintained throughout the set.
Service zone ‑ The area in which the player serves the ball. Bounded by the base (back line), the extension of the two sidelines and the outside of the free zone (usually delimited by panels). Shoot ‑ Two‑handed set shot used as dink or deep placement shot.
Side bands
‑ Two colour bands, 5‑8 cm wide (same width as the court lines) and 1‑metre long, are fastened vertically to the net and placed above each sideline. They are considered part of the net.
Side out ‑ Should the team that receives the service win the rally they have scored a sideout and they win the right to now serve.
Simultaneous contact
‑ Contact of the ball made by two players at the same instant. If made by two opponents over the net and the ball remains held for a certain period of time, this is called a joust.
Six pack (facial) ‑ Refers to a player who was hit directly in the face by the ball.
Sizzling the pits ‑ A spike that sneaks by the blocker's armpits.
Sky ball ‑ A very high serve in its trajectory which is used to gain advantage from wind, sun.
Spike ‑ The play action of jumping and striking the ball with one hand as an attack hit.
Spiked ball ‑ A ball (other than a served ball) hit forcibly from a height not less than the top of the net. Also known as bury, crush, hammer, kill, put away or slam.
Technical timeout ‑ An official 30‑second interruption to the match that occurs in sets 1 and 2 when the sum of both teams' points is 21.
Three hits per side ‑ A team may contact the ball no more than three times before sending the ball over the net and into contact with either an opponent or his/her court. Successive hits or contacts by the same player are illegal unless the player blocks at the net.
Timeouts ‑ When the ball is dead, a player may request a timeout. Each team will be allowed one, 30­second timeout per set per team. Each timeout must be approved by the officials.
Tip/dink ‑ Illegal technique using open fingers (spread fingertips) to complete an attack hit.
Toss ‑ The action of releasing the ball from the player's hands in the service zone with the intention of hitting a service.
Warm‑up period (Official warm up) ‑ The time before the match officially allocated for teams to prepare on the court for the match. Commences at the whistle (signal) of the ist referee after the signing of the score sheet.
Wipeoff ‑ The attacking hit that deflects off the block of the defending team.
Wind ‑ Weather condition. Strength should be low enough to enable normal playing conditions.