Water Volleyball Vs. Beach Volleyball – Key Differences

Over the years, volleyball has expanded its reach to billions through its different variations that allow people to enjoy this sport throughout the year. Water and beach volleyballs are the variants that are fun activities on a recreational level and professional level as well. Both these are outdoor sports with some similarities but still a lot of differences in terms of playing environment, equipment, gear, etc. In this article, we have explained those significant differences to provide good knowledge to our readers about both types. So, stick to the end and pick the one that suits your style.

As the name suggests, water volleyball is the aquatic version of volleyball that is played as a recreational activity with a different set of rules, equipment, court, and costumes. It is flexible gameplay that allows players to relax and have fun. A pro of this type is that there is less risk of injuries than in other types, and it is not very difficult. Beach volleyball, however, is quite challenging as the players need to keep pace while dealing with the sand underfoot. But practicing beach volleyball helps players boost their stamina and improve their skills as beach players are needed to excel in every skill, unlike indoor.

Court dimensions

The court for water volleyball is set up in pools but can be in lakes and ponds, etc. The court must be rectangular with a minimum length of 3 meters and a maximum length of 6 meters. The width must be between 2 and 5 meters, with the net set up in the middle of the pool along the length, dividing the pool into two parts and providing both teams with equal space. If the pool has different depths, both teams must be placed in such a way as to provide them with deep ends. The net should also be placed accordingly. The depth of the pool should be adequate so that it does not become challenging for short players to move around, which is 3.5 to 4 feet.

On the other hand, beach volleyball courts are bigger than water volleyball courts. The length of the court must be 16 m and width 8 m, surrounded by a clear space of 6 meters width on all sides as recommended by USA Volleyball and NCAA. The sand on the court surface should be leveled and free from objects that can harm players, such as rocks, broken glass pieces, or any material. The volleyball net in the beach setting is also placed in the middle along the length of the court and above the center line.

Volleyball ball

Generally, the balls used in volleyball are made of leather, either natural or synthetic. The construction is the same, having the core, outer shell, and panels. The main difference lies in the ways panels are attached. For beach volleyball, the panels of the balls are stitched together, providing a rough appearance but making it durable to withstand exposure to elements like hot sand, UV rays, etc. These balls are also lightweight and big, with a circumference between 26 and 27 inches.

The leather used in volleyballs absorbs water, making these unsuitable for water volleyball. Thus, water volleyballs are either made of water-resistance material like the rubber or have coatings over them to prevent water absorption. These are lighter in weight to prevent injuries, and it is difficult to use much strength to hit a ball while standing in water.

Net structure differences

The material used in water volleyball nets is the same as its counterparts, i.e., nylon, which is a resistant material and makes the net last longer. The length of the net is in accordance with the width of the pool so that both ends lie on the edges of the pool. The bottom part of the net should be suspended just over the water surface with a height ranging from 2.5 to 3 feet which can differ with the depth of the pool. The height and width of water volleyball nets are less than other types as it is difficult for players to move quickly and jump high in water.

The net for beach volleyball differs from water volleyball in terms of top height, length, and width. Generally, this net is 1 m wide and 9.5m to 10m in length with a square mesh structure of 10cm. The height of the net top differs for men’s and women’s teams. For men, it is 2.43m high, and for women, it is 2.24m height which can differ further for different age groups or exceptional need players.

Number of players

Water volleyball is a flexible game where the number of players can vary from two to four on each side of the net, depending on the size of the court (pool). If the size of the pool is big enough to accommodate more people without restricting free movements, teams can also have six players. With more players, the team can have the advantage of different players excelling in different skills meaning positions can be wisely decided as per the player’s set of skills.

On the other hand, beach volleyball is played in doubles, i.e., each team has only two players for official games. As there are only two players, the front-row and back-row elements do not exist. The players play from one side each and are responsible for everything, including hitting, digging, and blocking. In higher-level competitions, players can have partners with different levels of skills than them providing the benefit of expertise in the game. There are no substitutes available in beach volleyball; thus, players stay on the court till the final decision.

Gameplay and rules

Water volleyball begins with deciding which team gets to serve the ball, which can be determined in two ways, a toss or a rally. Toss is easily understandable that the team that wins the toss serves first. In a rally, a team lobs the ball to opposite teams, and the ball is played three times before counting the point for a serve. Water volleyball allows three kinds of serves, including overhand, sidearm, and underhand. The winning team in the game must have a two-point advantage with either 11, 15, or 25 scores.

Like water volleyball or any other type, beach volleyball matches have three sets/games. The team that wins two games wins the match. The game begins with a coin toss, the winner of which gets to decide whether his team will serve or receive the service, which alternates with subsequent sets. A set is won by a team scoring 21 points, but the game continues till there is a two-point advantage.

Differences in scoring

Depending on the game’s length, water volleyball games are scored on an 11, 15, 21, or 25 points basis. The points are earned when the ball touches the water on the opposite team’s side of the pool. There are specific rule violations that lead to losing points by a team. These include touching the net, out-of-bounds hits, more than one consecutive hit, and lifting, catching, and carrying the ball by the same player.

In beach volleyball, the first two sets are played to 21 points and the third to 15. One team score points at the end of each rally, i.e., hitting the ball back and forth. The primary manner of earning points in the rally is by hitting the ball in the rival team’s court. Point is also earned when the opposing team violates in different ways per set regulations.


With the introduction of water volleyball, it has become easy for people with not-so-strong joints to enjoy a variation of this popular sport. As beach and water volleyballs are variations of the same sports, there are not a lot of differences in settings and rules, but the basic structure differs. Where the aquatic version is a recreational game played with rules, beach volleyball is a professional sport accepted worldwide. With all the differences, these two are fantastic ways to enjoy summers with your friends or teammates and sharpen your skills for an actual sport.