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Oh My God, Beach Volleyball Is Magnificent

1. Beach volleyball, which is currently being played at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, is an extremely intense, fast-paced sport.

Beach volleyball, which is currently being played at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, is an extremely intense, fast-paced sport.

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Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

Everyone needs to be watching beach volleyball this Olympics. Here’s why.

2. First of all, these are the, um, women’s uniforms.

3. Here are the men’s jerseys.

Technically, players can wear shorts or a bathing suit (one- or two-piece optional). Players on the same team must wear matching jerseys marked 1 and 2.

4. Beach volleyball is played by teams of two in a 16 by 8 meter court.

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The net is 2.43 meters high for the men, and 2.24 meters high for the women.

5. One of the craziest things about the sport is that it’s played barefoot in sand, a surface that basically absorbs all of your speed and energy.

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Running in sand = HARD. Vertical jumping? Even harder. Sand reduces most players’ air to just a few inches off the ground unless, of course, you’re an Olympic athlete. Add the fact that the sport is largely hosted outdoors in the hot sun, which means playing on actual hell for an hour or more.

Players can, by official rules, play with socks and/or shoes, but no one really does.

8. Because there are only two players per team, beach volleyball pros are incredibly versatile.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 06: Marleen van Iersel of the Netherlands serves during the Women’s Beach Volleyball preliminary round Pool F match against Olaya Perez Pazo and Norisbeth Agudo of Venezuela on Day 1 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Beach Volleyball Arena on August 6, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Shaun Botterill / Getty Images, Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

They can all serve, set, spike, pass, block, and – most entertaining of all – dig.

9. Players will do anything they can to save the ball. The dives, or “digs,” are EPIC.

Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

Each team gets three moves, or “contacts”, before sending the ball over the net. The players have a lot of ground to cover and usually there isn’t enough time to set up your body perfectly underneath the ball to hit it back over. So players will throw themselves on the ground in an attempt to save the ball from touching the court in what’s called a “dig.”

10. Much falling. Such elegance.

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When a ball touches the court, the opposing team gets a point.

11. “Blocking” the ball is very strategic. Players use hand signals to indicate where he or she will attempt to block the opponent’s play.

Shaun Botterill / Getty Images

This part of the game gets a little bit complicated, but basically, the signals indicate what part of the court the blocker is going to jump at the net to block the ball from coming over. This helps the other player determine where they should be as back up.

12. “Attacking” the ball typically involves “spiking” it. A player hits the ball forcefully with one hand in a downward motion.

Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

13. The venues are typically in the most beautiful locations in the world. The 2016 Rio Olympics are the first games to host beach volleyball at a natural beach since Sydney in 2000.

Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

The beach volleyball arena for the Rio games is at the famed Copacabana beach.

14. New in this Olympics is the ability to challenge official calls.

Shaun Botterill / Getty Images

The sport is introducing a video replay. Teams get two challenges per set and if the challenge is proved correct, the team maintains the number of challenges available. If not, they lose that opportunity.

15. Another fun fact: Brazil has won the most medals in beach volleyball since the sport was introduced at the 1996 Atlantic Olympics, while the US has won the most gold.

Daniel Garcia / AFP / Getty Images


17. Check out the schedule here.

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